When Life Imitates Art: Synchronicity and Synesthesia

Last year, while putting together WHY Music in Schools - a Social and Emotional Learning program taught through music, movement, art and storytelling, I befriended a fascinating 12 year old boy. Luke (as we will refer to him for this article) was a talented 6th grader who experienced life a little differently than most of us. For one, he had synesthesia, a condition whereby a person’s sensory experiences in one modality take place in another sensory modality at the same time. For Luke, the link was between color and sound. For each note of music he heard, he visualized a different color in his head. i.e. - He “saw” sound. Although he had been labeled as emotionally challenged based on his autism, Luke had learned to use this connection to manage and shape his emotions through color and music.

The emotional link between sound and image for me, though experienced slightly different than it was for Luke, became fundamental to my life’s work. Their marriage was essential to my development as a artist, and my ability to connect more deeply to the worlds around and within me. When I was studying music composition for film, my teacher would tell us to study the characteristics of classic paintings, for they shared the same properties as great musical works.

Art, like music and dance, was an essential tool for helping Luke and the other 6th graders in our program express their ideas and emotions, tap into their own creativity, and find an inner source of strength, joy and equanimity. Integrating the modalities helped the students to feel more engaged and connected.

In my latest soundtrack for Bring It On: Worldwide - a global film for youth, music and art were central themes once again - and a foundation for the relationship between the main characters (Blake - a street muralist, and Destiny - a dancer and champion cheerleader). I resonated with that theme, and was inspired to write their love theme, a song now titled “Call On Me”.

From the moment I started writing “Call on Me”, or should I say: ‘The song started writing me,’ It became clear I was going on a journey to places unknown, led by a guide much wiser than I.

Along the path, I was guided to record an artist whom I had just recently met, named MJ Ultra. When MJ showed up at the studio, the reason for the connection unveiled itself. MJ had just returned from his hometown Pittsburgh, where he, along with his family and a city-wide community of visual artists and musicians had been celebrating the work and life of one of the city’s most respected street muralists, his brother-in-law Donnie (aka DOK), who was shot dead a few days earlier.

Still raw with emotion, MJ shared the story, and expressed how his passion for music and the artwork of muralists like DOK were so critical to him and his friends growing up in South Pittsburg. When I shared the music, clips from the film, my mission, and theme that connected the main characters, we were both taken by the resonance and synchronicity of the moment. From that deep connection of love, art and music, the lyric to “Call On Me” was born.

Watch the “Call On Me” behind the scenes interview here.

Read more about the story behind the song here.

Learn more about the author here.

Learn more about EarthTones here.

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About the Author: In addition to creating original music and films, Frank Fitzpatrick speaks around the world, and consults leaders and organizations, on the Technologies of Emotion; the Power of Music, creating social impact; and leveraging media and technology for good. More at FrankFitzpatrick.com and EarthTones.org

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