Giant Steps

2 minutes

Ladies and gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen

44 minutes

The secret language of trees

5 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Tarikat

17 minutes

Why did the Mexican jumping bean jump?

4 minutes

Step into synaesthesia’s visual soundscape, built with the music of John Coltrane

The Israeli animator and artist Michal Levy is among the roughly 3 per cent of people who experience synaesthesia – a neurological condition in which people have a recurring sensory overlap, such as ‘tasting’ words or envisioning letters and numbers each with their own inherent colour. Levy possesses one of the most common forms of the condition, chromaesthesia, in which sounds and music provoke visuals. For her short film Giant Steps, Levy set out to convey her audiovisual experience of the John Coltrane composition ‘Giant Steps’ (1959). The resulting short animation is at once an intriguing window into the sensory world of a person with synaesthesia and an audiovisual delight, as Coltrane’s rollicking notes elicit a kinetic, cascading cityscape built from colourful blocks of sound.

To read more about synaesthesia, visit visit Aeon’s sister site, Psyche, a new digital magazine that illuminates the human condition through three prisms: mental health; the perennial question of ‘how to live’; and the artistic and transcendent facets of life.

Director: Michal Levy

A trip to Montreal with Leonard Cohen in 1965 is a glimpse into a singular poetic mind

In 1965, the celebrated Canadian writer Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) took a trip from Greece, where he then lived, to his home city of Montreal. There, he visited friends and family, gave readings at a series of engagements and, more generally, renewed his ‘neurotic affiliations’. The Canadian directors Donald Brittain and Don Owen chronicled Cohen’s visit for their documentary Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr Leonard Cohen. The film finds Cohen – who, at just 30, is already an established and celebrated literary voice – drifting between live performances, snowy streets, bistros and the cheap hotels where he takes refuge. With their informal and engaging portrait, Brittain and Owen provide a riveting glimpse into Cohen’s life as an artist, centred on channelling ‘hypersensitivity and an enormous curiosity’ into witty, penetrating and often enigmatic poetry and prose.

Directors: Donald Brittain, Don Owen

Website: National Film Board of Canada

The incredible – and still quite mysterious – way trees trade information via their roots

While researching her doctoral thesis, Suzanne Simard, now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, made an astounding discovery – trees in forests seem to possess complex information superhighways in their root systems that allow them to share information. Her 1995 doctoral thesis on the topic has been part of a revolution in how scientists view plants, leading many to suggest that they possess cognitive abilities, and even intelligence. This animation from TED-Ed details the symbiotic relationship – between tree roots and fungi called mycorrhizae – that serves as the foundation of these intricate intra-tree communication networks, allowing them to trade news on topics such as drought and insect attacks, and even detect if an incoming message has been sent by a close relative.

Video by TED Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writers: Camille Defrenne, Suzanne Simard

Dissolve into the immersive, entrancing rhythms of a Sufi chant

A ritual at the heart of Sufism, the dhikr is a demonstration of devotion in which worshippers share in a meditation on Allah via synchronised group chants, rhythmic movements and, in some instances, the spinning dances of whirling dervishes. The Dutch-Chinese-American filmmaker Jasmijn Schrofer drops viewers into the rhythms of the dhikr in her short film Tarikat (‘The Path’). Through the ritual of sound and movement, the individuals seem to dissolve into a unified whole, even as Schrofer often lingers on the close-up expressions of each one. The result is an intimate and immersive viewing experience in which viewers might just find themselves lost in a trance alongside the faithful.

Director: Jasmijn Schrofer

Producer: Rianne Ebeling

How moth larvae carve out cozy, mobile homes inside Mexican jumping beans

You might know that moth larvae are the hidden creatures that make Mexican jumping beans jump. You might also know that Mexican jumping beans aren’t ‘beans’ at all, but seed pods – those of a shrub native to the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the border of Mexico, Arizona and California. But, as this video from the science documentary series Deep Look explores, burrowing further into the lives of Mexican jumping bean inhabitants still makes for highly fascinating viewing. Captured in stunning 4K resolution, this short film documents the months that a jumping bean moth larva spends hollowing out, residing inside, and manually repairing and relocating its 10mm home, before ultimately emerging in its mature form.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Mike Seely

Narrator and Writer: Laura Klivans

Cinematographer: Kevin Collins

Step into synaesthesia’s visual soundscape, built with the music of John Coltrane

The Israeli animator and artist Michal Levy is among the roughly 3 per cent of people who experience synaesthesia – a neurological condition in which people have a recurring sensory overlap, such as ‘tasting’ words or envisioning letters and numbers each with their own inherent colour. Levy possesses one of the most common forms of the condition, chromaesthesia, in which sounds and music provoke visuals. For her short film Giant Steps, Levy set out to convey her audiovisual experience of the John Coltrane composition ‘Giant Steps’ (1959). The resulting short animation is at once an intriguing window into the sensory world of a person with synaesthesia and an audiovisual delight, as Coltrane’s rollicking notes elicit a kinetic, cascading cityscape built from colourful blocks of sound.

To read more about synaesthesia, visit visit Aeon’s sister site, Psyche, a new digital magazine that illuminates the human condition through three prisms: mental health; the perennial question of ‘how to live’; and the artistic and transcendent facets of life.

Director: Michal Levy

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Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 1982. Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Mathematics
Mathematics for gamblers

If philosophers and mathematicians struggle with probability, can gamblers really hope to grasp their losing game?

Catalin Barboianu