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Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synaesthesia
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The Perfect World >> Geek Subjects >> Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synaesthesia

Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synaesthesia

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 10:55:14 PM

Are 2's always blue to you? When you hear a C flat do you inexplicably taste coffee? Here's the corner of the sideshow reserved for synaesthetes and those who want to learn more about this condition.

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Marya -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 10:57:24 PM -- 1 of 194
You are the Proust of TPW, and we all prefer J.K. Rowling. -j. ross

So when did you realize not everyone saw letters in terms of color, artie? Or that you did?

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 10:57:46 PM -- 2 of 194
Live from New York!

Hi, I'm rtb . That's red+black+purple, to me.

For those who are really confused right now, synaesthesia is a condition that results when a child's developing brain doesn't close off pathways that in a regular person do get closed off. It's a neurological anomaly in adults but if I recall correctly everyone has it at the earliest stages of life. It allows your brain, in processing things, to use certain senses interchangably. When a person's brain never closes these doors between the senses, he or she will end up associating certain numbers with certain colors, or certain sounds with certain tastes, or otherwise mixing up things most people's brains keep separate. Many artists tend to have this condition--for example, the painter Kandinsky who did colorful abstract paintings of music.

JennyD -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:00:04 PM -- 3 of 194

Here is the book Artie mentioned, from Amazon:

Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens

Jillian PlicPlic -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:00:23 PM -- 4 of 194
Hey, I'm flossing here! You don't fuck with flossing - that's a safety issue.

TELL US MORE, OH SYNAESTHETE!

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:02:39 PM -- 5 of 194
Live from New York!

So when did you realize not everyone saw letters in terms of color, artie? Or that you did?

One late summer day in the living room at my grandmother's summer house, watching tennis on TV. Some match had a score of 6-0, 7-6, and I thought how perfect it was that a tennis match would have that score since Wimbledon's colors (this must have been the USOpen but I was pretty young and associated all pro tennis with Wimbledon) were green and purple and you have to wear white while playing there. My 6's are green, 7's are purple, and 0's are white.

I don't know when I realized not everyone's 6's are green, 7's purple, and 0's white, let alone that not everyone's numbers were colored. Not until much later.

VanPear -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:15:03 PM -- 6 of 194

Hello, thread of whose name I am not familiar and cannot pronounce.

Fascinating, though!

Dina -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:16:42 PM -- 7 of 194

I'm a synaesthete (awful word, the texture is very bad like gravel, I want to spit it out) too. Words have textures and colors to me. I have a hard time describing what I feel/see when I look at words (seems to be more words/less letters for me) and I want to flap my arms around.

I don't remember not knowing about it but I do remember telling a friend in grade school about it and she laughed at me, I thought everyone thought about stuff that way.

Dina to me is very soft and bouncy and dark pink.

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:17:12 PM -- 8 of 194
Live from New York!

In terms of the pronunciation, Van, think of a person getting stinking drunk to numb their pain. It's a combination of sin and anaesthesia.

Okay, here comes fight number one. DINA IS NOT PINK!!!!!

I love that your words have textures. Mine don't. Although when you said 'rtb' had a velvety texture that did feel right to me, not for 'rtb' but for Rebecca.

Jillian PlicPlic -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:22:36 PM -- 9 of 194
Hey, I'm flossing here! You don't fuck with flossing - that's a safety issue.

God, I love the brain. This is so fascinating. It makes me not a small amount jealous.

VanPear -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:22:57 PM -- 10 of 194

Dina is not pink, eh?

Can you do VW for me? Even though I took the Pear's last name and switched my maiden name to middle, I will always identify most with those two letters.

Dina -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:25:35 PM -- 11 of 194

I love that your words have textures.

I hate it, I feel most of them in my mouth and it freaks me out if I think about it too much.

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:26:26 PM -- 12 of 194
Live from New York!

Hm. W is easy, that's one of my blacks which are all strong associations. For V I get a weaker, pastel green vibe. Somewhere between the cool seafoam green of J and the tart lemon yellow of I. It's a nice combo, like the pale pink/black combo of a Chanel suit. Sophisticated.

VanPear -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:27:06 PM -- 13 of 194

Huh. Hmmm. Huh.

Dina -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:27:08 PM -- 14 of 194

VW is pleasantly bumpy to me, silver and yellow.

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:30:11 PM -- 15 of 194
Live from New York!

Now that you've mentioned texture, I'm wondering if something else I do is related to synaesthesia, Dina. When I'm walking past rowhouse buildings in NYC I can feel a gritty texture as if I'm lying face down on the sidewalk or feeling a cat's tongue. It's a pleasant sensation for me. I sometimes have to fight the impulse to spread my arms wide and stick out my tongue so I can 'feel' it all over, like I'm hugging the buildings.

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:37:50 PM -- 16 of 194
Live from New York!

Famous Synaesthetes in the Arts.

Kandinsky, Nabokov, Rimbaud, and Baudelaire, to name a few.

The author Vladimir Nabokov interviewed in The Listener (1962), recounts his "rather freakish gift of seeing letters in colour". Interestingly, he states that his wife and son have the gift of colour hearing and that their son's colours sometimes appear to be a mix of those of his parents. For example the letter M, for Nabokov was pink and to his wife it was blue and in their son (Dmitri) they found it to be purple, which, as Nabokov suggests, is as if "genes were painting in aquarelle". Dmitri Nabokov recently testified to the status of his synaesthesia in a television documentary by BBC's "Horizon". Nabokov also went on to discuss the nature of his mother's synaesthesia as well as his own in his autobiography "Speak, Memory" (1966).

That bold part is wild and freaks me out a bit. My mother doesn't have this, and I don't think my dad does either, but my sister does and our colors are different.

Nancy T. -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:38:42 PM -- 17 of 194
We bloviate on a whole lot of different subjects. We might as well bloviate on this.

This is fascinating. (It's also reminding me of the WINC people from A Mighty Wind. But I believe that your perceptions are real! I'm just intrigued while at the same time amused.)

Dina -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:40:13 PM -- 18 of 194

I'm trying to think if I have any texture sensations related to places, if my sheets get tangled and wrinkled I have nightmares about sand dunes.

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:46:02 PM -- 19 of 194
Live from New York!

Through googling I'm reminded that there are more permutations. Some people have specific "shapes" for things. For example, my friend whose 2's are blue also sees consecutive numbers (iow 12345678910 and so on) as going along horizontally until they get to 20, at which point they begin to curve upwards.

I also remembered people tend to have specific colors for days of the week and other sets of words that are independent of their colors for letters. For me Monday=red, Tuesday=yellow, Wednesday=green, Thursday=orangey brown, Friday=blue, and Saturday=a multicolored plaid of pastels, mostly white and pink. I don't really have a color for Sunday. Maybe a steel gray green, but it's not as obvious as the others.

rtb -- Friday, March 04, 2005 -- 11:52:19 PM -- 20 of 194
Live from New York!

Sorry for the serial posting, but as I think about this texture aspect more things keep coming back to me. When I was a little kid I experienced the taste of hot dogs and the feel of velvet in the same way, and I couldn't stand either. I remember trying to explain to my mother why I couldn't eat hot dogs, namely because they tasted the way velvet felt, and gave me shivers up and down my spine.

I don't eat hot dogs now so I don't know if it's still true, but I can still only touch velvet if my hands have lotion on them. If my skin's dry I still get the shivers.

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The Perfect World >> Geek Subjects >> Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synaesthesia