To my knowledge at the time of posting this page Sérgio R. Basbaum's article, SYNESTHESIA AND DIGITAL PERCEPTION, is the only work available that clarifies the historical and conceptual foundation for visual music. Sérgio, a Brazilian artist/researcher, is a longtime contributor to discussions on the Metaesthetics List so I thought it appropriate here to include my post to the METALIST after I'd studied the article for the first time. A link to the article follows my post.

From: Ron Pellegrino <>
Subject: Re: METALIST: synesthetic experience: things we speak of
Date: May 6, 2003


Finally read your piece which is outstanding in every way--the research, the long line, the direction, the observations, and the conclusions.

"Acoustic space" is a wonderful metaphor for probing the depths of synesthesia. It's the sort of handle that'll probably feel comfortable for most people working with technology and the arts today. It refers to a form of fluid dynamics that most people associated with the arts would find far more comfortable than the play of weather systems or a dip in the ocean although it's difficult to get more immersive than the weather or the ocean.

But I have to admit that since I started working with computers in the 60s I've always had a problem with an emphasis on "digital anything" including "digital perception." My experience has always been that digital is the delivery vehicle and what it attempts (more or usually less)to deliver is whole, analog, and undivided. The digital language is based on the digital word which is for the most part, in a definitely arbritrary fashion, twice or more removed from the experience that's it's signifying unless of course it's self referential. It's often like a finger pointing to a mirror which may be reflecting another mirror. As a language "digital" does not convey the inherent power of spoken language that evolved intuitively especially early on in the evolution of humanity. After the development of the printing press language became less intuitive and more rational which served to divorce it from the more organic and spiritual processes of life and biased it more toward the mechanical which is where mainstream western culture is mired today. The most powerful mantras go back many thousands of years when the word was more closely connected to the Word.

I write the paragraphic above after spending almost two weeks working on upgrading my web site (long overdue) and the past week devoted completely to exploring combinations of digital compressors for increasing the size and improving the fidelity of the video and audio on my site. Strange to say but I avoid this sort of activity as much as possible but when I get involved in it I love doing it. There is no substitute for that kind of activity if you want to understand the insides of "digital perception" specifically which digital words convey best the experience that gave rise to the material you created and that you want to present to others so they're as close as possible to the original experience. Without going into detail I have to say that the mechanical spins of digital words are driven by very limited minds and that's usually on purpose. I doubt I'm adding to anyone's store of digital knowledge but the MO in 2003 remains either invent work-arounds for digital limitations or shelve the material for the time being ;-)

Ron Pellegrino

If you are at all interested in visual music you'll want to study Sérgio's article. The following link will take you to a page where you can download the article in the pdf format:

SYNESTHESIA AND DIGITAL PERCEPTION Sérgio R. Basbaum - Pontificia Universidade Católica, São Paulo (PUC-SP)

Abstract: Perceptual habits of western culture since Greece operated through a synesthetical approach to reality that lasts until 18th century. Modernism separated the senses, and modern art has operated through this logic. But contemporary digital culture seems to be again turning into those older models of perception, largely synesthetical. This article tries to define some aspects of the synesthetic experience, briefly traces some cultural historical references, and then proposes a concept of digital perception, the kind of contemporary experience supported by digital technological apparatuses.

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