The Dark Side of the Rainbow

You, at some point, have probably heard about “The Dark Side of the Rainbow,” even if you don’t recognize the name. Surely, at some point in your life, some bleary-eyed aquaintance wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt has told you that if you play Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album over the video for “The Wizard of Oz,” the two synch up perfectly. He might have then gone on to tell you that it was intentional on the part of Pink Floyd, as part of some grand cosmic mind-fuck, because didn’t musicians from the ’70s get up to some wild stuff? This same fellow might then have gone on to mumble about George Washington’s weed-growing alien cult, but that is neither here nor there.

The dazed ruminations of hemp-heads aside, even a non-partial observer will have to admit that, at least at certain points, Pink Floyd’s music seems eerily well-matched to the film. There are multiple sites on line where you can view the entire thing, but who has time for that (what with Twitter and all)? Here is the scene where the tornado hits the Gale farmstead, with the accompaniment of “The Great Gig in the Sky;” of all the bits in the movie, this is the one that I personally find to be most fitting. In fact, I prefer it to the original soundtrack from this scene.

Hair-raising, no?

The truth is, though, there is no real synchronicity, here. It is pretty easy to verify that the band had no intention of creating a Morricone-on-LSD soundtrack to a (then) 34-year-old film. In multiple interviews, they have denied any such action on their part. Even if you think they are lying, examining the supposed correlation in it entirety reveals that they did a pretty terrible job if that IS what they were trying to do. As Alan Parsons, one of the producer-engineers for Pink Floyd during the recording of the album, noted, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” connection

“… is complete load of eyewash. I tried it for the first time about two years ago … I was very disappointed … One of the things any audio professional will tell you is that the scope for the drift between the video and the record is enormous; it could be anything up to 20 seconds by the time the record’s finished. And anyway, if you play any record with the sound turned down on the TV, you will find things that work.”

Of course, he is right. Which is why I hesitate to use the word “coincidence” when referring to “The Dark Side of the Rainbow.” It has to do with the way our brain is wired. Evolutionarily speaking, your brain does not understand the difference between modern civilization and our ancestral half-monkeys grunting in a cave. Our brain is trained to use all of our senses to evaluate the world around us; it cannot correctly comprehend a disconnect between visual and auditory stimulus. Your brain tries to integrate them sensibly, and subconscious draws arbitrary connections. Combine this with random chance (over the course of an hour of random video and an hour of random audio, odds are some sections will line up fairly well), and you detect a synchronicity.

In fact, this group of enthusiasts list 55 examples of various films synchronizing with different Pink Floyd albums. The reasons for the mass popularity of “The Dark Side of the Rainbow” are unclear, but are probably related with both the album and the movie enduring lasting fame in pop culture and the psychedelic associations with both.

Here is a brief collection of videos with foreign audio added on top for you to enjoy and see for yourself. Some will seem to work better than others, but those are just the random fluctuations of chance. Compare them with “Dark Side of the Rainbow,” and try to decide for yourself whether you think its apparent synchronicity is any more convincing than the rest. You can also use the web service TubeDubber to create your own.

A scene from the James Bond movie “Die Another Day” dubbed with “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock.

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