For the longest time I thought every person felt the same about music as I do; that everyone had certain musical pieces that were strong enough to call up a vivid image, or a smell, taste, or texture. I have always had a long list of songs, albums, and bands that create a sensory experience beyond the auditory realm. These experiences, in the past, have been of such strength that I am primally urged to act or live in ways that I have never considered before. In this world of exploration and growth, that sounds like a good thing, or at least an interesting thing. But I mean this literally — there have been songs that have suddenly “without reason” had me on the edge of living in tunnels under a city because the images associated with the soundwaves were so strong.
This near-constant occurrence was always simultaneously interesting and confusing. When in the depths of one of these experiences, I could not have told you what my life in reality had been like to that point unless you were to completely cease the music and introduce a number of mundane, atmospheric sounds like lawnmowers and the cycling of a furnace. For years I have chalked it up to the fact that I was always just a weird-ass kid, with an IQ of 148 and too much time in her mind.
But a few months ago, a friend of mine told me about a physiological condition called synesthesia after I had casually mentioned that every song I listen to has a color scheme. Synesthesia is when synapses in the sensory-processing area of the brain cross and intersect, and when this happens, additional sensory input is assigned to be referenced alongside the input of another sense. Moderate synesthetes such as myself will have any range of sensory combinations. My trigger is always auditory. I am a music brain to the core. Different soundwaves or combinations thereof will instantly trigger images, colors, symbols, smells, and tastes alongside all learned connotations and denotations. Additionally, the alphabet (in my mind) follows a specifically-shaped curve; numbers up to 1000 follow a specific 3D geometric plane, and the months of the year roll in a clockwise circle tilted horizontally at 35 degrees to the right. Other types of synesthetes will assign colors, tastes, and smells to words. Some will ascribe a “positive” or “negative” aspect to letters. The combinations and affectations are endless.
I am especially intrigued and astounded at the depth and documentation of this phenomenon. It explains much to me and allows me a completely different view of the world around me. I finally have an accurate description of why music is so important to me as a visual artist. It may be strange to tell a musician that I find them visually inspiring, but there is no better way to say it. If you find this interesting, or if you can relate, there are a number of sites that document synesthetic experience. Hope I expanded someone’s brain tonight. :)
1. Keeping the Blade - Coheed and Cambria 2. Always and Never - Coheed and Cambria 3. Up at Night - Terrible Things 4. Shotgun - Earl Greyhound 5. Wheel in the Sky - Journey 6. Fascination Street - The Cure 7. The New Year - Death Cab for Cutie 8. In Fear and Faith - Circa Survive 9. Welcome to the Machine - Pink Floyd 10. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth - Coheed and Cambria 11. Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin 12. Astro Zombies - Misfits 13. Would? - Alice in Chains 14. Invalid Litter Dept. - At the Drive-In 15. Battery - Metallica 16. The End Complete III - Coheed and Cambria 17. Shadow Play - 3 18. Cornflake Girl - Tori Amos 19. Distant Radio - Devics 20. Thieves - Davenport Cabinet 21. Monday Monday Monday - Tegan and Sara 22. The Missing McCloud Boys - Prize Fighter Inferno 23. The Final Cut (acoustic) - Coheed and Cambria 24. Your Love (cover) - Claudio Sanchez 25. The Black Rainbow - Coheed and Cambria
Most of you, my friends, are Coheed fans — but perhaps not everyone is completely familiar with The Amory Wars. The Amory Wars is an intensive multipart saga that accompanies/complements every album that Coheed has released to date. Although the story has only been partially revealed so far, there is still a huge amount of material available in the form of comic books, graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and one 352-page prose novel. Many hardcore Coheed fans are partial to collecting each cover, and so far the Amory Wars spans over 30 covers (excluding Kill Audio, a “Coheed-related” series by Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert, illustrated by Sheldon Vella).
The Amory Wars is the story of a galaxy called Heaven’s Fence. Heaven’s Fence is made of 78 planets aligned in a triangular formation and held together by beams of energy called the Keywork. Upon these worlds takes place a complex and archetypal sci-fi/fantasy epic of creation, destruction, love, loss, redemption and power struggles. The two central characters Coheed and Cambria (after whom the band is named) learn that they are not normal humans, but creations designed to overthrow the evil dictator of Heaven’s Fence, the Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan. They learn eventually that they have been manipulated into serving merely as tools for Wilhelm Ryan’s ascent to ultimate power… but not before they were convinced to kill their children to prevent the spread of a world-ending virus. But their eldest son escapes, and it is he who is the fate of the Fence in the form of a messianic figure named The Crowing.
If you’d like to start looking into this, I suggest you read the Year of the Black Rainbow novel first. YOBR tells the origin story of Coheed and Cambria and offers intensive backstory into Heaven’s Fence and Ryan’s rise to power. No, you don’t have to be an expert on the story to appreciate the music of Coheed and Cambria, but it is a hugely beneficial complement. Claudio Sanchez began writing this story over fifteen years ago, and over the years it has morphed into five albums (so far) and countless comics to tell the tale. The entire story of their first album, Second Stage Turbine Blade, has been told in comic form. We’re currently halfway-ish through their second album, In Keeping Secrets, and the sixth comic in that series is slated for release on November 24. Check with your local comic store to set up a pull list.
Passion is more than motivation; it is fuel. It is the bright, eternal torch burning in your gut. If you have a true passion for anything, then chances are you remember the day and perhaps even the minute when that fire kindled within and allowed you to look at even the most mundane events with resolve and optimism. You guard that fire and its cause with your life. Whatever its cause may be, you know that you have devoted all you have to give. You have given your time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears. You have given perhaps more than what should be humanly possible and know that when called upon you will give twice as much as before. And you know that the work itself is your reward. You feel the fire warding off the cold and stupor; you watch it burn the fog from your vision. The flame is yours and you will defend. This is passion, and without it we are robots.