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Synesthesia in Art and Science

What is does it mean to hear music in colors, to taste voices, to see each letter of the alphabet as a different color? These uncommon sensory experiences are examples of synesthesia, when two or more senses cooperate in perception. Once dismissed as imagination or delusion, metaphor or drug-induced hallucination, the experience of synesthesia has now been documented by scans of synesthetes' brains that show "crosstalk" between areas of the brain that do not normally communicate.

Economy and Cultural Form

A decade ago, the customizable ringtone was ubiquitous. Almost any crowd of cell phone owners could produce a carillon of tinkly, beeping, synthy, musicalized ringer signals. Ringtones quickly became a multi-billion-dollar global industry and almost as quickly faded away. In The Ringtone Dialectic, Sumanth Gopinath charts the rise and fall of the ringtone economy and assesses its effect on cultural production.

A Mysterious Relationship

This book explores the relationships between language, music, and the brain by pursuing four key themes and the crosstalk among them: song and dance as a bridge between music and language; multiple levels of structure from brain to behavior to culture; the semantics of internal and external worlds and the role of emotion; and the evolution and development of language. The book offers specially commissioned expositions of current research accessible both to experts across disciplines and to non-experts.

A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games

In Playing with Sound, Karen Collins examines video game sound from the player’s perspective. She explores the many ways that players interact with a game’s sonic aspects—which include not only music but also sound effects, ambient sound, dialogue, and interface sounds—both within and outside of the game. She investigates the ways that meaning is found, embodied, created, evoked, hacked, remixed, negotiated, and renegotiated by players in the space of interactive sound in games.

Musical Experiments, Experimental Sounds, 1840-1910

In the middle of the nineteenth century, German and Austrian concertgoers began to hear new rhythms and harmonies as non-Western musical ensembles began to make their way to European cities and classical music introduced new compositional trends. At the same time, leading physicists, physiologists, and psychologists were preoccupied with understanding the sensory perception of sound from a psychophysical perspective, seeking a direct and measurable relationship between physical stimulation and physical sensation.

Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear

Sound can be deployed to produce discomfort, express a threat, or create an ambience of fear or dread--to produce a bad vibe. Sonic weapons of this sort include the “psychoacoustic correction” aimed at Panama strongman Manuel Noriega by the U.S. Army and at the Branch Davidians in Waco by the FBI, sonic booms (or “sound bombs”) over the Gaza Strip, and high-frequency rat repellants used against teenagers in malls. At the same time, artists and musicians generate intense frequencies in the search for new aesthetic experiences and new ways of mobilizing bodies in rhythm.

Meaning, Ontology, and Emotion

How human musical experience emerges from the audition of organized tones is a riddle of long standing. In The Musical Representation, Charles Nussbaum offers a philosophical naturalist's solution. Nussbaum founds his naturalistic theory of musical representation on the collusion between the physics of sound and the organization of the human mind-brain.

Edited by Julia Robinson

John Cage (1912–1992) defined a radical practice of composition that changed the course of modern music and shaped a new conceptual horizon for postwar art. Famous for his use of chance and “silence” in musical works, a pioneer in electronic music and the nonstandard use of instruments, Cage was one of the most influential composers of the last century. This volume traces a trajectory of writings on the artist, from the earliest critical reactions to the scholarship of today.

In Operatic Afterlives, Michal Grover-Friedlander examines the implications of opera’s founding myth—the story of Orpheus and Eurydice: Orpheus’s attempt to revive the dead Eurydice with the power of singing. Grover-Friedlander examines instances in which opera portrays an existence beyond death, a revival of the dead, or a simultaneous presence of life and death.

Edited by Caleb Kelly

The "sonic turn" in recent art reflects a wider cultural awareness that sight no longer dominates our perception or understanding of contemporary reality. The background buzz of myriad mechanically reproduced sounds increasingly mediates our lives. Tuning into this incessant auditory stimulus, some of our most influential artists have investigated the corporeal, cultural, and political resonance of sound.

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