Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Arabic numbers were based on the numbers of angles in each shape.


In 'Vowels' Artur Rimbaud, the French enfant terrible, wrote about synesthesia, that is, the involuntary commingling of one sense with that of another:


A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:
A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
which buzz around cruel smells,

Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;
I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
in anger or in the raptures of penitence;

U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
the peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows
which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
silences crossed by [Worlds and by Angels]:
O the Omega! the violet ray of [His] Eyes!

. . .


A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Golfes d'ombre;
E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des [Mondes et des Anges]:
O l'Oméga, rayon violet de [Ses] Yeux!

My friend, Claire, is synaesthetic. Here is an example of her experience:

Grass smells like a bright yellow lumpy piece of gelatinous rubber. Like a cartoon cloud in shape, the texture of very soft rubber, but fluid.

Sugar is a smooth, oval stone, grey and about 6 inches across, flat-ish.

Marzipan smells like a brand-new conker fresh from its shell, all lined and wood-grainy, shiny and smooth.

Oil-seed rape flowers have a scent that feels like a really rough, cheap house-brick, the sort that they make car parks out of, all holey and sharp, but it's orange. Bright orange.

There's a drink called club soda that my friends used to drink. I couldn't be in the same room because it smells of tiny, tiny sticky blue bubbles, so sticky that they cover my hands and it was so uncomfortable to be around. Made me itch. A vanillary smell.

The smell of someone coming in from outdoors is like a shard of white glass, triangular, pointy, about the size of the palm of my hand.

My dog has three smells with different colours. One's the warm, grey dust smell that isn't particularly unpleasant. His feet, when they're dry, smell like that! Fine grey dust, maybe graphite, but pale grey. That's one of the smells that's almost onomatopoeic, but for smells, where the smell looks like it smells, if that makes sense.

Finally, there's a perfume called 'Angel' and it is the most gorgeous, bright cerise suede. Really soft, but coarse suede, not like chamois or anything, or sheepskin, and deep, bright, rich pink.

Thanks Claire!

This is a good thing, I think. Lots of artists share this condition - including David Hockney and Aphex Twin. I'm all for blending and blurring things.

Completely unexpectedly, while watching a performance by Prince at the weekend, I wept uncontrollably. He recently described how he suffered from epilepsy as a child, until an angel told him not to worry about it anymore. In this, he has something in common with Neil Young, who also suffered from epilepsy as a child but found a way to control it. Young also suffered from Polio, like his fellow-Canadian Joni Mitchell. Hank Williams suffered from excruciating back pain all his life. Woody Guthrie suffered from Huntingdon's Corea. Blind Willie McTell was blind. In fact, the only great artists I can think of who were not in some way disabled, are Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson. If poetry is 'displaced pain,' then art must be some way of dealing with pain, expressing pain or compensating for something that is lost. Perhaps drug-use is a way of deliberately displacing oneself so that one can have that experience.

Since we're talking about mingling senses, how about mingling sexes? Here's Prince performing If I Was Your Girlfriend in which he envies the close relationship between his girlfriend and her sister, and longs for the intimacy shared between women, without sex getting in the way.

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