I just did a class focused on one song, Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” I’ve assigned them a paper where they have to write about only one song, and, because students always err on the side of generality in their papers, I wanted them to pay attention to the little details of Dylan’s song and performance, to see the universe in a grain of sand, etc. One of my students pointed out how the whole of his vocal style in this song seems concentrated on a single word, “meal,” at the end of the first verse: “Now you don’t talk so loud/Now you don’t seem so proud/About having to be scrounging for your next meeeeaaalllll.” We digitally slowed it down (I use a computer program called Transcribe! for that) so you could hear every nuance of contempt Dylan packs into that one word. And another student, in thinking through what those nuances are, exactly, made this indescribable face that somehow seemed to capture exactly that meaning in some weird synaesthetic way — the sound transformed into physiognomy. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I thought it was cool. Sounds really do sometimes seem to turn into other things; or at least when we start trying to say what a sound means to us, we often find ourselves understanding it in terms of some completely other sense organ than the ear.
My daughter has to take this inhaler medicine for her asthma, and apparently it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Last week she took her medicine and protested, “This tastes like . . . Bob Dylan!” On further questioning, she clarified that it tasted like Bob Dylan in his brown suit.