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Observations placeholder

Ficino, Marsilio - Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus - On harmony and synaesthesia



Type of Spiritual Experience


A bonus........................

Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2014;32(2):247-57. doi: 10.3233/RNN-130338.  EyeMusic: Introducing a "visual" colorful experience for the blind using auditory sensory substitution.  Abboud S1, Hanassy S1, Levy-Tzedek S2, Maidenbaum S1, Amedi A3.

PURPOSE:Sensory-substitution devices (SSDs) provide auditory or tactile representations of visual information. These devices often generate unpleasant sensations and mostly lack color information. We present here a novel SSD aimed at addressing these issues.

METHODS:  We developed the EyeMusic, a novel visual-to-auditory SSD for the blind, providing both shape and color information. Our design uses musical notes on a pentatonic scale generated by natural instruments to convey the visual information in a pleasant manner. A short behavioral protocol was utilized to train the blind to extract shape and color information, and test their acquired abilities. Finally, we conducted a survey and a comparison task to assess the pleasantness of the generated auditory stimuli.

RESULTS:  We show that basic shape and color information can be decoded from the generated auditory stimuli. High performance levels were achieved by all participants following as little as 2-3 hours of training. Furthermore, we show that users indeed found the stimuli pleasant and potentially tolerable for prolonged use.

CONCLUSIONS:  The novel EyeMusic algorithm provides an intuitive and relatively pleasant way for the blind to extract shape and color information. We suggest that this might help facilitating visual rehabilitation because of the added functionality and enhanced pleasantness.

PMID:  24398719

A description of the experience

Ficino, Marsilio - Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus

On harmony and synaesthesia

….the body, which is naturally composed of the four elements, the four elemental qualities combine into one essence, which some call the quintessence, being subordinate to the special power issuing from heaven by secret means, so numerous voices properly commingled produce together a resonance which is the basis of a new and wonderful power.

For if from a sounding lyre something immediately resonates in another similarly tuned lyre; and if from a plucked string a similar vibration at once passes into another string equally tensioned, there can be no doubt that from numerous notes sounding in a certain proportion one note is immediately produced which is like a form common to them all and through which the many are one, and for this reason they are perceived as one by sense and they conjoin to give a single effect.

The same thing is evident in sense-pleasure, in which, since a single form arises from many, full delight arises from a single form which is likewise produced harmoniously from many. Hence it comes about that hearing unison for too long is wearisome, for in it equality is heard without any inequality. It also comes about that a dissonant sound offends, for in it the differences do not accord together in one.

For the same reason many things are clearly discerned by sense and are, as it were, tasted by it as many. I say 'tasted' because it experiences the mixture of notes just as taste experiences the mixture of flavours.

Hence the words of the prophet: 'O Lord, thy words are sweeter than honey to my mouth.'

Finally, if the low sounds absorb the high ones, or if the high sounds overpower the low ones, there is no delight, and yet some sort of unity is sought everywhere. But since neither the absorbing nor the overpowering sort of unity pleases, the only unity that pleases is one that is new, effective, and tempered by a certain harmony. Hence, therefore, harmony is defined as a mixture of sounds high and low reaching the ears uniformly and sweetly.

Now this mixture is similar to that in flavours which gives satisfaction to the taste: a very sweet full flavour is likened to a very relaxed, deep note, while a very sharp flavour is compared to a very high note.

But a sweet flavour mixed with a bitter flavour suggests a moderately low note, whereas when mixed with salt or sharpness it seems to represent a moderately high note. But finally, when a compound mixture fills the sense it is not perceived as manifold, but appears as uniform.

The physicians maintain that sound reaches the ears after being gradually expanded by many circles into a spherical shape, just like the circles which grow towards the shore after a stone has been thrown into a pond from on high. But we think that harmony, compounded of low notes and high notes, falls upon the ears like a single round, or rather, oval shape, in which the eighth note, as if continuing for itself the breadth of the first note through its sharper vertex, now makes a single note from itself and the first; and just as the eye sees an ovate roundness as a single shape, although it is greater in one dimension and less in another, so the hearing draws, as it were, a single note resulting from the deep note and the eighth and arising gradually and sweetly from the full deep sound as if into restrained loftiness, like the shape of an egg.

Hence we believe it comes about that nature has bestowed a shape like this upon the instrument of hearing and a similar shape upon the instrument of speaking, while art has contrived to produce a similar shape for musical instruments: the closer these are to the oval shape, the more harmonious they are.

The source of the experience

Ficino, Marsilio

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