Synaesthetic Review of Peter McVeigh’s “Song for Winter.” feat. Ciara O’Neill.


This, as you can see, is one of those occasions when I decide to offer up something of a non-fictional nature for your perusal. My friend and consummate musician & songwriter Peter has just realised his new single; he contacted me asking if I would do a review of his song (which is outstanding) from the point of view of a synaesthete.

What follows is thus a moment by moment commentary of how I view the song in terms of the hallucinations it produces when my (neurologically unconventional) brain processes the sounds. The commentary will probably seem bizarre to anyone who doesn’t have the condition or who has never taken a hallucinogen. (For the record I’m a teetotal and I don’t do drugs…after reading the commentary you’ll realise that I clearly don’t need to!) The thoughts I’m about to write down are purely what I’m experiencing. I don’t like to give myself time to think about these things as it might affect the outcome, I want it to be as natural an indication as possible. These are things I see on a daily basis when I hear sounds, words, smell perfume, eat food, feel pain, feel emotions, touch fabrics–I have become used to it, and I often have no idea why certain sensual stimuli provoke particular hallucinations. They sometimes vary, but usually I’ll see/smell the same things when confronted with the same sensory event.

So…to prepare, I’ve dimmed the lights and put on headphones to keep other distractions to a minimum…here we go!

The piano is making me see bubbles and stairs, blues and greens but pale. Pete’s voice is like matches striking, but with cough syrup. I can also see the lyrics as they flash past, again in pale aquamarines. The brushes on the snare drum make monotone scratches across my mind’s eye, Ciara’s voice has come in, it’s like very fine gold leaf or metallic foil, though when she holds notes it becomes a clear white. The strings are faintly visible, in very pale green. When the two voices merge for the harmonies I can see a pattern of colours not unlike a box of fancy macaroons. Jewell colours all sandwiched together and a sweet taste. As the strings become more prominent they appear as a richer more forrest green, and take on the texture of velvet. The smell of leather armchairs comes to mind as the strings take over the track and a deep russet red creeps in amongst them. Sometimes the words will provoke images, (I guess this happens for ‘normal’ people too?) such as stars falling on my head, dragons flying about (when the song mentions stars and legends). All the sounds happen in my mind’s eye, spatially, where they appear in the track. So instruments that are panned left or right, appear left or right to me in symbol form. There’s a lilac which drifts in for “winter boats, I make my way home” during the repeating piano motif. The final string notes are a mixture of gold and that rich red.

There you have it! I wrote this down as I was listening. Sometime pausing, but only so as I could finish the sentence. Like I said this may sound strange and perhaps a little farcical, but it’s what I experience.Sometimes I’ll be overwhelmed by all the images and they will start to blend and become confused, like colours running on a wet water colour painting.

It was a pleasure to record my hallucinations for such a great song. It helps immensely that I love how it sounds. I am yet to work out if the vividness and pleasing aesthetic of the hallucinations influences my feelings of certain tracks, or whether the fact that I like them makes them look more interesting…who knows!

Either way, the beautiful, emotive voices (Ciara’s heartbreakingly sweet and Peter’s rough textured, but melodic) blend perfectly together, combined with gorgeous lyrical imagery. It was a delight to experience!

I recommend you have a listen for yourself and find out how it inspires you too. The video is stunning, and makes a lot more sense than my crazy images…

Big thanks to Pete for suggesting I review this. It’s been fun! (and colourful)