nervousRobot – Synesthesia

Janie Cannarella / April 21, 2016



nervousRobot, the moniker for Philadelphia musician Eric Zrinsky, has undertaken a multimedia exploration of the neurological phenomenon synesthesia and created an album where the music speaks in color.

For the uninitiated, synesthesia is defined by our friends at Merriam Webster as, “a concomitant sensation; especially:  a subjective sensation or image of a sense (as of color) other than the one (as of sound) being stimulated; and “the condition marked by the experience of such sensations.” This is a fancy way of saying that Zrinsky can see colors in music, and has created an album that reflects this sensory connection.

Zrinsky, who discovered that he was a synesthete in college, along with photographer Cana Sarnes combine their artistic talents in the Synesthesia project, which marries images and music. The album attempts to create something that transcends the generally established idea of mixed-media. The two approach the collaboration in an organic manner where sometimes the music was developed in response to an image and others the photograph was inspired by the music. The end result is spine tingling-ly awesome, both visually and musically.

The resulting songs are a mélange of spacey sounds, lucid musical dreamscapes, and highly emotive pieces. Perhaps a result of his background in making music for haunted houses and films, the individual songs when played after one another present like a film’s score mixed with old Disney haunted sounds records. Sometimes glaringly obvious in their intent, such as with the song “Rain,” or hauntingly lonesome like in “Creeps,” the album is direct and finely woven together.

Often reflective, and only occasionally bordering on repetitive, the songs feed off one another and, despite the contrasting styles, are mixed in a cohesive and complimentary way.  Playful and nostalgic 8-bit tunes, like “Dawn,” find their home on the same album with more classically composed songs such as, “Bones.” But the frantic nature of one is intrinsically balanced with the more subtle nature of the other.  In the song, “Breath,” the even and gentle guitar line along with the use of the e-piano has a corporeal feel. Melancholy and rich, the song feels expansive despite its brevity. Together, one after the other, the music presents as an auditory cabinet of curiosity.

Each piece on Synesthesia is dense with meaning, no matter how impish some of the tunes may be and how wistful others are. nervousRobot creates music that is a vivid physical depiction of the colors that come with the notes. And the musical description of the provided photographs makes every instrument implemented and every note chosen purposeful.

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