Any other Synesthetes out there ?

  • Specifically sound-to-colour synaesthesia ?

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us in our field have this neurological condition and didn’t know that the phenomenon had a name . I have had it as long as I can remember and only came across the label when researching Asperger’s Syndrome which I have too . :nerd:

Basically , if I relax in a darkened room and listen to eg. Hendrix , Weather Report or Miles Davis , I see an accompanying light show . I have also experienced it at my local meditation group when they play some Japanese flute and Koto " meditation " music before we begin .
The colours sparkle and swirl in time with the sounds . :sunglasses:

Anyone else experience this , out of interest ?

Apparently one of the Classical composers assumed everyone enjoyed it and thought that was the reason why the house lights are always dimmed at concerts . :bulb:


Hi Dave

Yes. I consider it to be an essential part of music training. Our conscious perception in any one sense is the result of the coordinated combination of it and the others. Synesthesia is the natural crosstalk between what we label as the differences between the sensory systems.

Our use of visual and kinesthetic terms, when describing music, and also of olifactory and gustatory terms, is more than metaphor. Our continual making sense of those terms in that context, and or ability to debate and achieve consensus is based on these direct intersensory connections.

Synesthesias are the stereo/bin’ocular’/multichannel perspectives, they are our leverage in our mission to generate and appreciate incresingly fine distinctions in our playing and listening.

Excersises to ‘strengthen’ the ‘synesthesia muscles’ are, though simple, some of the most fascinating in existence. Dave … Well done on being a ‘natural’ :sunglasses:

All the best

Only when I tripped once om acid during college, and then it wasn’t exactly synesthesia, but more the hallways seemed to be “electrified” and emitting “hum”

Not me, and I think I’d be alarmed if it happened…

Thanks guys for the replies .
Thankyou Glyn , and could you elaborate on the exercises which might help develop the skill ?

So thats one purple-with-a-bit-of-yellow " yes" and two “no” . :stuck_out_tongue: Any more “yes” ?
Some interesting names on the Wiki list ;
Stevie Wonder
Tori Amos
Eddie Van Halen
Duke Ellington
Rollo Armstrong…

Apparently when blind people are brain scanned their dormant visual cortex is activated when they read braille ; they literally " see " with their fingertips , so I have no doubt that Stevie Wonder sees sounds . What amazes me about him is the incredible ( musical ) memory he must have . I have trouble remembering something I came out with 16 bars ago !

To clarify ; Anaesthesia means no feeling ,
Synesthesia means inputs/feelings that spill over the normal boundaries between the different senses .
I am interested in finding out and discussing if anyone sees colours in music and if they compose / mix to suit .

For example if I lie in bed half awake and a thunderstorm is going on , there is a flash of lightning through the curtains and then a pause . But then the thundercrack has an accompanying purple/blue pulse with a burgundy fringe to it . If I recorded it I could choose to contrast it with yellow sound tailing off into gold .

I should stress that it only happens when I am relaxed and mentally quiet . If I try to analyse or focus " on " the music it doesn’t happen , but if I let it wash over me it plays like a kaleidoscope . Hendrix or Bill Evans seem to bring it out the easiest .
It is quite common in people on the autistic spectrum but it is thought that 1 in 23 of the population have some form of synesthesia , so I just wondered if anyone else here uses it as a compositional tool or whatever .
:ugeek: :slight_smile:

Hi Dave …

For now … I’m bumping, because I am down with cold and flu and my eys, lungs and nose are superglued.

I’m well enough to do blather, but I’l like to give you my best focus as I answer your question. Meanwhile, please be assured, your request is on my mind and will fulfil it when my head is clearer.

Best wishes

Thankyou again Glyn , message received emerald green in F minor . :slight_smile:

Tum-te-tum… Maybe I should add something… :confused:
Well, this is sort of relevant ;
A list of famous people thought to have autistic traits .

The music section includes some discussion-worthy names ;
-Bob Dylan
-James Taylor
-Gary Numan

Also,( but not in the music section ) ;
-Albert Einstein ( played violin and piano )
-Woody Allen ( plays clarinet )
-Bill Gates ( heard he plays guitar )

I guess they are all likely to have synesthesia too .
:nerd: :neutral_face:

I suppose I fancy myself an aesthete, because I’m drawn to art and beauty and right brain activities,
but I don’t believe I’ve experienced sounds as colors as clearly as you describe.
I do make other associations with sounds and pieces of music. I usually see -places- when I write music.
Either a place I’m frequently at around the time that I’m writing the song, or a place that’s close to my heart
which I’ll visualize while I’m writing - and once I’ve done this, that place (in all it’s vague, dreamlike detail) will forever be associated with that song in my mind.
In any case, I’m fascinated by the topic and I’m interested to hear whatever else you gentlemen have to say about it.

I “see” a year in my mind – it has a definite shape: downward over Jan thru April, and then curving upward across May and June, the back upward thru July to September, and the a gradual slant across the Fall and early Winter months.

I have no idea or theory why this is.

Anybody else have this?

Also, like many people, I have strong emotional/mental associations that result from experiencing certain smells, mostly in connection past events. The entire first book of Proust’s “A la recherche du temps perdu” deals with this subject

Yes. Often my trousers will curve upwards in the warmer months, depending on my proximity to the fairer sex,
and as night follows the day, I get the same, sad downward slant as the season fades. :wink:

Hi Doug

What similarities and differences are there when its spread left to right as distinct from when it it is going more directly ahead?

Were there any years or periods of weeks and months when different curve-characteristics occurred?

How would a year FEEL differently if, just for three minutes, you reverse the curve so its up to fall and down toward summer?

How would it feel if you contemplate the time toward your next goal as sloping downward?
And how, if sloping upward?


And a general thought to extend what I’ve said to Doug and to honour my promise to Dave:

FIRST … Dave and others … I’m using the ‘ramble’ style. Earlier, I was too deep into a feverish trance … you know where thoughts are apparenlty random though in reality deeply connects but you’re the last one to know … until you Wake Up - but NOT YET, it always the way, down in the cold and flu which can be comfortably uncomfortable … Like Sleeping … Half Asleep and sometimes, you almost wake up but Not yet, because your Dreaming and it’s important so you don’t want to wake yet …

But I’m beginning to come part of the way out … now only half confused and half dreaming … just enough to hang onto those feelings which do make better sense when rambling, because Dave, you make full sense which applies in So many Ways, as synaesthesia is, as I have said, a place where we experience tips of iceburgs for what they are … whilst knowing the icebergs themselves will always be out of the grasp, sight or earshot of any one sense.

We have just completed a brief exploration of our senses as they relate to our experience of time, space and meaning. That was the Trailer

Here is the Film … and it will start just as we expect, as we Plunge Now into the action, with a Deeep voice-over, to wash over you in dark and glowing movements and sensations:

"IN a World …
Where Years are what we Make them …
a World …
Where What we make may Not Only be of Years …
But also of our Dreams, our Hopes, our Ambitions
A World …
Where we transform the Iron of our Intent into Steel …

Think of projects which are important to you.
Choose one.
Think of the period between that project’s inception and completion. Think of it as the notes on your paper, or the chart on on your wall, as you walk toward that chart and either point at that spot on the wall or walk boldy THROUGH the chart, stp by setp, in your imagination, through the stages of the project, maybe talking yourself through it as you do so, and maybe that chart is no longer on the wall, but half folded, in your hand, like a map …

My first question to you is: How do you characterize your project? What are it’s qualities? Colours? Gradients? Textures? Sounds? Sensations? Some of all of these qualities may apply to your way.
People ARE different, and Qualities of Year, and Qualities of Project affect slope characteristics differently for different people.

Musical pitch often associates physical height and light with notes of short wavelength/rapid frequency, and physical lowness and darkness with notes of long wavelength/slow frequency
Metaphor of height is what sometimes constitutes part of people’s problems when ‘trying’ to sing notes of short wavelength. Sometimes darkening the feel of a note cloaks it in some of the qualities of 'low’ness and makes it easier to achieve.

Similarly with goals … changing quality of appearance can change perception of achievability.
NOT to be confused with the weightlifter’s training method where the trainer secretly puts a label with a lower figure on weights which will break the athlete’s personal best. That is a simple fooling of expectation. It is a con, and though effective sometimes, in the long term unecological.

SOME parts of your future are rosy, and some aren’t. DAVE … notice part of your future which is rosy and beam Into, Focus on [or energetically DEfocus on] the qualities of rosiness … where on the red/blue spectrum it it? is it plain sensum or variegated? has it visible surface qualities, like a sense of moistness or dryness? if so, how much and make special effort to notice the difference between the visual qualities of moistness and dryness, and your ‘internal’ memory based sense of moistness and dryness.

Synaesthesia is about blending, therefore this extended Synaesthesia Exercise goes to the root, and works directly on our capacity to blend, shift, and transform … between colours, senses, concepts, values. I am shaking up our sensory bases by grabbing higher order handles, moving them, then coming back down to notice how the senses and combinations are shifting.

Why, there are times when our ability to shift and blend between seemingly separate things means that we can go somewhere else entirely, and it will make, perhaps, even more sense according to your specific interests … for instance, take chocolate cake …

CHOCOLATE CAKE … see it now … Fresh chocolate cake and Stale chocolate Cake … NOTICE the difference in moistness and dryness now. The Stale chocolate cake HAS to be older than the Fresh chocolate cake. Add Nearly Fresh chocolate cake, and Nearly but not quite Stale chocolate cake. You’ve got Four slices of chocolate cake. Have another … which is half way between Fresh and Stale. Put them in order in front of you.
How or how far apart you put them is up to you.
How do YOU feel when the Cake is Fresh … as you’re looking at it NOW, how do you feel?

HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN A PROJECT IS FRESH? Maybe a song you are working on?
How does your sense of the project LOOK when it is fresh, as distinct from when it’s got a bit stale?
Chocolate cake is not your project, but if when it were stale, it began to travel backwards in time, until sooner than you’d believe possible, it is as if it is but ONE hour out of the oven, It would be attractive.

A very light brushing of oil does the same thing … especially in a photographer’s studio under the hot lights. give it ‘just’ that ‘gleam’ … it is not a shiny cake … it is just Obviously a Moist cake.
Similarly with projects, except that with projects, It and US are the same thing. We project our workload on the combination of equipment and materials. 90% or our workload is our attitude.

But … we were talking about your ROSY FUTURE, weren’t we? … what happens when we Spread the sense of Rosiness a little … ONLY a little to the left and the right of the naturally rosy bit? ONLY a little above and below it, too.
What happens if we accidentally splash a bit of that ROSiness over our left or right shoulder, painting the past, because let’s face it, in a Janus Way, sunrise and sunset are about the same Sun as much as the Morning Star and the Evening Star are about Venus.
What if we SEE our music, Dave, and there are rosy sections and we move our sense of them slightly BLUER … would we wonder about playing them differently?

We’re not saying a 20 stone weight is only 19 stone, and then expecting you to lift it. YOU made the future look that way to begin with, and I’m only asking you to really change the colours a bit and then to change them back and notice what really happens. Then for yuo to only change it the way you really want and like.

You ever been with Gloomy People? They paint the world the colours of Gloom?
Obviously, the world was not that way until they painted it thus … let’s hope they don’t get you to forget that the world had ever been different, cos that’s what they need to do in order to really sell you the idea.
What they’ve done is to have compellingly offered you a set of colours through which to see the world.
When you realise this, you know you can put the colours back the way they were … if you can remember.

Some band members and ‘project partners’ have been known to do this kind of stuff.

Heck … WE do it to ourselves! Obviously, we take different positions at different stages of a project … there are times we’re being positive, threr are times we’re being negative, and there are times when we’re just plain confused

… our sense of a ROSY Future at the BEginning of a project, is something which sometimes varies as we look at the future from different stages WITHIN the project? That’s something we can’t see on that chart, though we know it as we walk through or when we relive past projects in order to make important learnings.
How are we distinguishing between when we are seeing the Rosy future of the life of the composer? The Rosy future of the song as we are increasingly confident what we will complete it to a good standard? And the Rosy THEMES WITHIN the song?
What about when a DARK song has a BRIGHT Future.
What happens when we consciously attend to noticing these distinctions, and make the same effort to AVOID Unwanted Crosstalk as we do when setting up Microphones? Or choosing Multitrack A/D converters?

This is something to understand through doing … the instructions of this exercise are clear, clear enough to occasionally get mistaken for ‘explanation’ or ‘argument’ … believe me, they explain nothing, they just take you on a journey, and you simply and comfortably change. There are things being pointed ‘at’, but there are no points being made …

Like when you are on a walk with a tour guide. If you feel your feed firmly on the ground and walk through slowly enough to smell the flowers and to feel their petals, all you’ll know is that you’ve been somewhere, and what you’ll wake with you will be new choices about where to return to or where to revisit differently.

SEEING COLOURS is one part of synaesthesia.

ORGANIZING into different conscious streams the different ‘Perspectives of perception’ … be they visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory or gustatory, are essential steps not only in bringing to full sense the components of the sensory combinations in which we live in our external ‘perceiving’ and our internal ‘conceptualisation’, but also in giving us more points of effective Contact. In giving us more levers and handles with which to mould the fabric of reality to our Will.

We Think NOW of our future and it is ‘just’ the future.

We SEE, like Doug, a sense of shape … a metaphor of space and solidity with some of the laws of time/space and voila … Time has Height, and movement through Time is a Journey along Gradient. We all know what it is like to go on a long walk.

Some of us like when we are climbing to see stuff from high places.
Some of us like when we are going into deep valleys, even potholing.

All of us can Reach with your inner hand NOW and Touch your time line … your personal timeline … whether you mainly see it rolling out straight in front of you, like you’re riding along it, or whether you see lit like it’s drawn left to right in front of you, so you can trace it with your finger, or whether you DO BOTH AS IS APPROPRIATE … flicking between each, as and when best or most fun. Either way, you are touching it.

YANK IT … PULL IT a bit … what if you push or pull a LOW time slightly HIGHER, then bring it back to where it was. What if you do the same now with thoughts of a high old time you might have at some point? What’s the difference? When is that a difference You Want to Keep? and when is that a difference you want to Put Back As You Found It? Or not, now?

Some people have dips, and they see the future in front of them … up it goes, then it DIPS TOO FAR so it’s out of sight and all they see is the final 2/3rds of the climb to the next peak. IF they pull that sag up Just enough, then the future will still be a mystery, but it will feel different as it is approached. Pull some of your sags up and notice the difference. If you’ve got no sags and dips, then go ahead and make some … press some of the ground in the mid distance low enough so, as a valley, it disappears ONLY long enough for you to get a sense of the Feeling, and Put It Back the way you found it. That’s important … It’s like re-setting your prefs. You can always choose later, whether to do it permanently. My purpose is only that you will, through fully exploring and identifying how you manage your synaesthesias, gain previously unimagined control over your appreciation and projects, rather than messing up familiar defaults by screwing with the controls willy-nilly.

Some people do this ‘Sagging’ with parts of projects they worry they are about to get lost in. Other people do this with parts of projects in which they explicitly and specifically wish to get lost. Others do it for entirely different reasons. For example …they may have a perfectly visible gradient up to … oh … say the completion of initial tracking of main riffs, the end of the beginning.

START OF THE PROJECT, the beginning of the beginning … The Future was ROSY in the initial heat of those main riffs … so the future was also well illuminates AND with a great colour! EVERYTHING working well and together.

THEN … ??? some parts of a project are like groping in the dark DARK … in our language and our experience, we have moved into metaphor of SIGHT to describe quality of a project we might be doing in a well lit room. Things might be looking black, but then again, it is always darkest before dawn and soon there’ll be the light at the end of the tunnel?? … ??? Alternatively some parts are like exploring the Milky way and firmament of multi colours stars, glittering … Scintillating, but cannot be seen in the daylight. We need them to be in the dark, or a least into the shade of a valley, away from direct sunlight.??? … ??? and other variations??? …

FIVE DAYS BEFORE PUBLICATION OR POSTING ON THIS FORUM … the future May or May not be as rosy, but sure as heck, it is not dipping out of sight … you can even ‘see’ the markers … they even transform into readable Lists “get required loudness and check for unacceptable clipping, render to mp3, check mp3 against playing masterbus output, adjust to balance mp3 shortfalls, upload to Bandcamp, do photo of self and photoshop it, compose modest but not too apologetic text for the post, and POST”

I BET that for different people posting their music, there are very different ‘Slopes’ and ‘Colours’ for your sense of Future. For SOME, this might be the point where the sense of Future DIPS into a valley … out of sight … because it acknowledges the innate unpredictability of others’ responses. For Others, this might be a peak, because, whilst there is the ravine of other’s potential responses, this bit of time is a ‘High Point’ … because one is on the Summit of Achievement.

Dave, I have borne in mind COLOURS, because you specified those modalities of the sense of sight. Hear>See. You Know that by adjusting sound, you can influence what you see. My post has been working more with See/Feel, because that that is my primary sympathetic direction, and I am therefore more articulate in those terms. The principles of transformation and control are the same.

Cold, flu and feverish trances are especially effective naturalistic ways of reducing and in some cases removing the boundaries between modes of experience. So is alcohol. LSD too. Their beauty is that they merely lift the veil from what we used to do all the time as little children, and point the way to what we may recapture of our original infant potential, as we organize our adult experience to recomaim what we were trained to forget.

When you wake up NOW from such trances, or comeback from memories of when you were in them, some will remain available, and the rest will emerge as it will, either when you revisit, or in other ways feel the need to check again this post from time to times of greater leisure. It is well worth the effort to put right Huxley’s error of 1954, when, with his work ‘the Doors of Perception’, he fathered a generation of explorers but gave them, as legacy, the working metaphor that perception had walls in the first place. He had caught glimpses of the Post-Einstein world, but, viewing it with the eyes of Newton, was as the caterpillar describes the butterfly.

That’s the end of the Tour, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
Tea is available in the tent on your left. Mind the dip in the grass.
The exit is on your right. To take the tour again you will always find something new that you want.

Best wishes

I’ve always had a mental picture of the year as the round dial of a ‘normal’ 12hr clock, January being 12.00 - 01.00 and December between 11.00 - 12.00 e.t.c., but I don’t think that has anything to do with synaesthesia.

And talking about smells/odours, every time I open a new packet of ground coffee I flash back to when I was under ten years of age, had just come back from the shops and mum opened the new packet of coffee…man that’s still one my favourite memories :slight_smile: !


Interesting topic!

For as long as I can remember I associate letters and numbers with colors.
Some family members do it too, some don’t.

I don’t have the same association with sounds, but when I arrange a song I do think in terms of colors.

I also have the smell-memories connection, like Doug. It can be very strong at times.
Sometimes even colors can bring back memories.

Funny how our brains work that way!

Thanks Glyn and everyone .
Your Hermann Hesse tour led me straight back to Green Dolphin Street !

Last night I tried an experiment ; I decided to sit at the piano in the dark and picture a colour first and then try to find the chord to match . Not much success .
Then I tried letting the fingers go where they want and just watch the results . More colours , but more old predictable changes .
Okay , I thought , " push the rock in the direction it wants to go " , so I thought I’d play something in the dark that I knew so well I wouldn’t have to think about it and try to remember which voicings and changes create which colours . Chose " Misty " . Had to stop pretty soon because it was making me cry . :laughing: Put the lights on after that .

Reminds me that Errol Garner said he wrote it ( Misty ) in an aircraft seat . As the 'plane was starting to descend they passed over a waterfall which had a cloud of mist over it and the resultant circular rainbow . He said the tune came to him there and then so he worked it out by " playing " on his knees so he tells everyone that the old lady sitting in the seat next to him was the first to hear " Misty " .

I’m getting new respect for the stuff George Shearing did with his Quintet . He got guitar and vibraphone in to augment the trio so that he could have a wider " tone colour palette " . :bulb:

Plenty stuff on YouTube on synesthesia for the curious …


That’s really ones best bet.

Being trapped in sensation keeps one locked in the Astral when there are still a number of more refined layers that “even” humankind can be within.