B: The Note of Love

Music is composed of notes and chords, regardless of the instrument. All of them are denoted by a letter, from A to G, usually beginning with C. Each letter is about a tone away from each other - two steps of frequency in sound. One step is a semi-tone - considered the smallest differentiation between frequencies. In musical terms, one step between letters is called a 'flat' or 'sharp' - C, C#, D, D#. In terms of chords, all are made up of a combination of notes played at the same time. Each has a major and a minor - usually the difference is one note within the chord being flat or sharp.

I start with this quick explanation because I want to focus on one particular note and chord. Every frequency generate a corresponding synesthetic response, of course, and when certain notes are used together - D major and A minor, for instance - a synesthetic context and feeling is generated. B major and minor stand above all others as having a specific context of compassion and love.

That's a big statement - to love is a deep feeling - but over the last six years or so, it's been very evident to me, ever since I came across a Madness song called 'Not Home Today.' If anything in this world causes me great emotion it's my synesthetic responses to music, and the use of that note or chord in context with what's around it gives me that deep reaction.

Lyrically, that song talks about wrongful persecution and the music is understandably sombre and doom-predicting. You get a feel of someone waiting for and expecting bad news, particularly in the song's bridge. From what I've read of that chord, it was regarded as the chord of 'utter despair' in the Baroque Period, and looked at as a key not recommended for music in good taste. The song uses two minors as the main piano chords during the verses - E minor and B minor. Both are sombre-sounding.

The element that really popped out at me in the song wasn't the chords exactly, but the one lone B note played almost randomly near the end of the first verse. You can't hear it very well. It's something you wouldn't notice at all unless you knew about it and when Mike Barson, the pianist, played it. It's buried underneath all the louder instruments, heard for perhaps hardly a millisecond. I discovered it after removing the centre channel extractor while listening to the song (a trick that removes the vocals, bass, drums and other dominant instruments). Immediately I saw a present deepness, or emotion. A present love of sort.

I've since noticed and elevated it in other songs. There's a musical bit during the song 'Wouldn't it be Good' by Nik Kershaw including a keyboard synth, bass, drums, and an underlying mellower synth. It plays B major while the bass and mellow synth plays E. Instant euphoria thanks to that feeling of passion or togetherness. That bit of music is hardly a second long. Interestingly, most of the songs these moments appear in are negative or almost depressing songs.

I've connected it to real life. Automatically, when I've had real deep feelings for someone, they show up in my thoughts, like a presence, when I hear an obvious B in a song. It's like they relate. Like I connect what I hear as an auditory love to an actual person I feel the same way for. This has happened only once.

I can't explain very definitely why I feel this way or synesthetically translate that sound, that frequency, that note, chord, into those feelings, but it's a very constant aspect of how I think and feel. If one thing in life makes me feel euphoria, it's synesthetic meshing or simply that way of thinking itself at work. My outlook on life or past experiences may have influence, and experiences with my paternal family definitely do, but in many ways - this is one of life's big, welcoming, enjoyable mysteries.

A larger, in-depth explanation of this (and my working it out) can be found on my blog.


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Justin Scott Campbell (born June 22nd, 1991) is a writer & photographer from Ottawa, Canada. He holds a diploma in Photography and is completing one in writing. His interests particularly include writing songs both lyrically and musically, archiving and taking aerial photos, keeping records, and sometimes researching human attraction. He was diagnosed at the age of twelve as high-functioning with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder, and was born with Synesthesia. He is an only child, left-handed, hates math and loves uniqueness, or originality.

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