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January 07, 2008


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I'd say that I've associated certain albums or bands with certain colors, but that it had more to do with the colors on the album covers. Nothing like what it sounds like you're describing.

You, friend, sound like you have synesthesia. It's not usual, but it's common enough.

Inasmuch as the word is used in the Sacks quote,I guess that isn't exactly a revelation to you. Anyway, vivid, specific color associations like that are not part of the normal listening experience.

I have a friend for whom reading is all colors: words have colors, and so do letters.

I think I first heard of the word in connection with Nabokov...

well THAT sounds cool, but the only time I ever experienced synesthesia was with mushrooms. The sky changed color according to the notes.

Wow. I really had no idea this was unique! I thought it was as common as seeing colors when you close your eyes. I honestly expected you all to comment saying you couldn't believe my wife didn't picture anything when she listened to music.

I will say two more things about it: it is more visceral when listening to jazz or classical, in which case the colors move like an abstract disney cartoon - each color/shape corresponding to different instruments; however, my associations are nowhere near as intense as the painter described in Sacks's book.

Surely listening to music must stimulate some kind of mental pictures for you all? If not abstract colors, then memories? any kind of mental pictures? What does your mind do when you're listening to jazz or classical or ambient music?

Hey, Scott, I read somewhere that being able to make cross-sensual/cross-genre references is actually a sign of heightened creativity and imagination. So please don't feel like you're strange.

I don't often see colors when I listen to music, but I can see tones of color. For instance sometimes I'll hear a song and think "this sounds shiny" or "ouch, this is too bright." And then sometimes a song will call up whole experiences, like, "this sounds like walking around Paris in the rain."

Hope that helps.

After reading this I tried two things. First, I thought of colors and bands names came to mind. Then I thought of bands, and the colors that I associated were much more complex. For example, thinking of simple Crayola blue summoned Pavement (probably thanks to Wowee Zowee), but when I thought of George Harrison, I thought of this dingy purple / lavender color, with splotches of brownish yellow, green and orange. Maybe the experience is different when approached from different directions. In any event, it's definitely something I've experienced, though perhaps quite subconsciously.

When discussing music, however, I definitely use visual descriptions quite frequently. I love using words like bright, dim, dull, harsh, dismal, fluorescent, kaleidoscopic, etc. I'm not sure that every time I use a word like that I'm actually visualizing, though. I think that over time I've just found that when trying to verbalize or write about something aural, it's useful and generally helpful to bridge some gap between an internal experience and the physical world, even if just through adjectives.

real synaethesia is not just connected to music or sound. i know people who associate a specific color with every letter of the alphabet as well as certain numbers - and it's a set thing, where Z is always yellow and Q is always purple, for that person. they tend to see colors related to a number of different sensations and situations - and for them it doesn't change. like that first low record would always be the same color. it's somehow coded in their brain. there are also "general" colors for each musical note, related to various strains of research and regarding symbolic relationships between color and musical notes, rather than intuitive ones. weirdly enough, while i use a lot of these systems as reference for my own works, i don't see colors when i hear music at all. there was an interesting interview with sacks regarding the book on music in the la times a week or so ago.

Yeah, you folks were getting me all worked up. I did a little research into synesthesia last night and I don't have it. As said in the comment above, it's more hardwired than I what I do. I'm just a boring "visual person" I think.

I don't know what I see is too severe or not, but I find myself having the need to come back to reality when I listen to music. It comes to the point where I close my eyes and loose myself in whatever i'm listening to. It also brings up certain shapes in certain colours. Base brings up deep orange and browns, while symbols lighten whatever colour i'm actually seeing. I listen to mostly rock/alternative, and need to find some more orchestra orientated music to test. But when I listen to "Tool", my mind goes nuts. I open my eyes and the colours and shapes I see, mold themselves into whatever i'm viewing.
I also think it's the leading cause of most of my head aches. I thought I was the only who associated colours and music on such a deep base. It's not a certain song that comes with colour, but notes and pitch. One whole song is like watching an absract t.v. into piccossos[wrong spelling] head or something. Expecially when I become intoxicated, and listen to music I am almost incoherant. My mind just explodes with this...visions and colours, with different textures. *shrug* I hope someone can comment and their thoughts, only told 2 other people about this.

what sroden describes for people with letters i have with numbers.

6 is always brown (the same brown), 4 is always green (the same green), and odd numbers have better...texture than even numbers.

sometimes multi-digit numbers' colors are directly correlative to the colors of their single digit components, sometimes they are (seemingly) unrelated.

words have shapes but not color. in some strange way i've always taken the shape of a word in consideration when i write and honestly the best writing i've done (and the times i've felt best about writing--both the doing it and the end product) uses words whose shapes either fit comfortably, work in concert, or create a pleasing...internal pattern for me.

but i also have the same sort of thing when i listen to music, but more in the way that you describe it, and it's always felt different than the colors and texture of numbers and the shapes of words.

also, i have dreams that are nothing but music/sounds coupled with colors/shapes and the only other person i've ever met that also has these dreams (that i know of--i am sure it's far more common than i suspect) is my father.

i know it must seem like i'm all up in yr grill today, scott, but your sites are so fun to read, i can't help myself.

i deeply hope it's not creepy but flattering. ok--at the very least, i really hope it's not creepy.

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