Seeing the Sounds of Iceland

A Synaesthetic Exploration of My Temporary Home

Seeing the Sounds of Iceland, Collective Still Digital Artwork by Carrie C Firman
Still image combining forms from sound-to-color/motion/shape synesthesia below.

During the summer of 2017, I lived in two very different parts of Iceland. First, as a resident at Listhús in north central Iceland, I was in a small working class village, accessible only by mountain tunnels. In July, I moved to a suburb of the capital in the southwest and lived in the commercial harbor front at Hafnarborg Centre for Culture and Fine Art. Having also spent six weeks in a little southern, inland village at Gullkistan Center for Creativity in 2015, I've spent over four months living in Iceland altogether.

In 2017, I came to realize that besides the visual, tactile, olfactory, and taste memories that were collecting in this unique place, my auditory experience and my synesthetic reaction to it would create a meaningful project.

I captured the color, shape, and motion of my mind's eye as it revealed its consistent, automatic responses to a selection of sounds that have become part of the experience of living in Iceland for me: grumpy arctic terns and playful snipe in the air, rain on abundant metal rooftops, the ocean hitting cold black sand beaches, a myriad of tiny streams running from mountain snow to river, young lambs bleating, the traditional three-stringed langspil instrument, a cappella folk songs, a ship’s dull horn near a harbor, and more.

This project represents a new chapter in my contribution as a synesthetic artist, bringing together themes from one of my first experiments, my Synesthetic Library (2009-10), and my first self-published book, Belfast in My Colours: A Synaesthetic Exploration of My Temporary Home (2011-12). Taking advantage of the opportunity that travel provides to be out of one’s element, explore, and learn about a new place also lets me experience my synesthesia with a fresh mind’s eye as I take in new sensory information.

Ducks

Little Lamb

Two Langspils

Langspils are simple 3-stringed small wooden instruments that can be played with a short bow or with the fingers. Recorded live at the Icelandic Folk Music Centre in Siglufjördur, and special thanks to Erik Higgins.

Fjörd, The North Atlantic

Rain on a Corrugated Metal Roof

River at the Base of Mountains

Large Ship's Horn

Common Snipe Drumming its Wings

A Tiny Stream

An Icelandic Horse at the Tölt

The tölt is a gait unique to the purebred horses all over Iceland. It is a coincidence that my visualization somewhat looks like partial hoofprints. Many hollow noises, like these steel-shod hooves on a road, have partial circles or similar forms.

A Cappella Folk Song

This is a short clip of a "quint," in which the two-part harmony is either in unison or in a fifth interval. Recorded during a rehearsal at the Icelandic Folk Music Centre in Siglufjördur.