"Synaesthesia, a strange condition in which people's senses somehow
is as least 10 times
more common than scientists thought. New surveys show that around one in
every 2000 people
hear words, letters and numbers as distinct colours. The results also show
that the condition may
be inherited." Current Work
"What is your earliest recollection of coloured hearing, and what
All 7 subjects reported that they had had synaesthesia for as long as they
certainly as far back as 4 years. They all recalled the surprise of
discovering that this was not the
case for everyone. All subjects also reported that the colours evoked were
unsuppressible, and said that they saw the colour vividly, 'inside' their
head. This was also
confirmed by the larger sample: all 212 gave this answer to this question."
Speech Perception: Is Synaesthesia What Happens When Modularity
""It's funny, its colour is just like its smell. It's like that green you
sometimes see in the heart
of a white rose. I had to see if it tasted like that..." - W. Somerset
Maugham, The Razor's Edge"
Lawrence Gerstley's Home
"When touched in specific ways, I see colors. I always have. Often, the
colors are seen bright and
luminous: azures, greens, and blues against a black background as dark and
rich as silk velvet.
The colors differ depending on what touches me. The bright piercing orange
of the dentist's drill
dissolves the black background and hurts my eyes.
The acupuncturist's needles cause colors along my legs, my arms: greens,
reds, pinks and
yellows. I can tell what points are connected to the other linked points
by the colors."
and her solo
"Synaesthetic perception is the rule, and we are unaware of it only
scientific knowledge shifts the centre of gravity of
experience, so that we
unlearn how to see, hear, and generally speaking, feel.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1962)" International
"Scriabin composed a controversial and influential work,
in 1911, which calls for a clavier luminière
in the score. It should be noted that he had experimented with
markings in an earlier score for The Third Symphony in C major - "The
Divine Poem", Op. 43.
"Lumineux de plus en plus éclatant"
(luminously and more and more flashing), is one of the markings at the
the final movement.""Aleksandr
"syn-es-the-sia n. Physiol. Sensation produced at a
point other than
or remote from the point of stimulation, as of a color
from hearing a
certain sound (fr. Gk, syn = together + aisthesis = to
there a normal phase of synesthesia in development?
"When I see equations, I see the letters in colors -- I don't know why. As
I'm talking, I see
vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde's book, with
light-tan j's, slightly
violet-bluish n's, and dark brown x's flying around. And I wonder what the
hell it must look like
to the students."
The Synaesthesia Mailing List helps synesthetes worldwide discuss
experiences. To subscribe, send a message to Sean Day, the
"Since synaesthesia can be the crossing of two or more senses, there are
a possible 31 different
combinations of senses. Most synaesthetic combinations involve two
senses only, however,
leaving 10 different pairings. In addition, the connection is typically
unidirectional, so that sound
evokes colour, but colour does not evoke sound. Therefore, there are 20
potential forms of two
sense synaesthesia possible. Bi-directional synaesthesia has been
recorded, but is regarded as
more rare than uni-directional." "Synaesthesia
- A Unity of Senses
"Synesthetes, numbering perhaps 10 persons in a million, routinely taste
see sounds or hear colors. The rest of us may filter out this part of
attempt to reproduce reality. Cultural forums that promote
experiences may serve to quench an unconscious thirst for the unification
normally fractured senses."
"Tonecolor is a resource for those
interested in the close connections
between music and visual arts. Included
are artist/musician listings and articles on
tools and ideas regarding the audio/visual
artists who are working on color music.
...is about moving media synchronized with
sound. It is multimedia, and through the ages
is how humans have tried to communicate
experience. We experience our broken senses
as a unity, so synesthestic messages
"This phenomena is particularly intriguing as
it relates to current research on neurological networking/interaction as
a critical tool in improving
assessment, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for the brain damaged
population. Efforts are
progressing on how to build optimal environments in which dendrite
is encouraged and enchanced. In this project we will utilize
individual biosignals (heart,
breathing, muscle movement, etc.) to create and drive a virtual reality
environment of graphics,
sound, etc. First, we acquire their heartbeat and then feed it back as a
recognizable sound. Then,
we switch signals (auditory
Collaborative Biosignal Experience
"Visual Music Tone Painterª is a new art form which merges sound, light,
and touch. This
exciting program converts signals from synthesizers or other MIDI
instruments into a visual
display in real time - bringing music to life by allowing the user to
paint with sound. Choosing
from a palette of gorgeously colored geometric shapes ranging from simple
spirals and waves to more complex forms such as letter forms, three
cubes, epitrochoids, and lissajous curves, the player creates mandalas of
light and sound.""
Visual Music Tone Painter
The MIT Media
Lab's synesthesia page
which does not appear to be online at all
times, whatever that means.
perceptual richness of words is for me not just pedantry.
unique, and saliently so. They all have different shapes and
And even though each letter of a word is colored
word's color isn't simply made up of the colors of its
letters. The shades combine, bleed into each other, change
depending on their neighbors. A word's color is more
by the colors of its initial letters than the colors of its
Speech researchers should not find this surprising: we have
known that the beginning of a word is more important than
end for storage and access.""
interactive demonstration simulates some aspects of synesthesia,
specifically, colored letters. Nothing's quite the same as
having it yourself, but
the web and multimedia make close approximations
"I came back from college on a semester break, and was sitting
with my family around the dinner table, and --
I don't know
why I said it -- but I said, "The number five
is yellow." There
was a pause, and my father said, "No, it's
my mother and my brother looked at us like,
'this is a new
game, would you share the rules with us?'"
about her synesthesia - text and optional sound files
"I was telling Carol that it's kind of like figuring out that you
have a belly-button. You know, at some point
you just notice,
and start playing with it! [laughs] Then, for a
while, you get
*really* into it: "Wow, a belly-button! Ooh,
this is cool!" And
after a while you get bored with it, because,
after all, it's still
there, and then you realize everyone has one.
Except that not
everyone has synesthesia."
Karen Chenuazky talking about her synesthesia - text and optional sound
"Imagine a world of salty visions, purple odours, square tastes and green
Although only ten people in a million experience the world in this manner
- the result of a
condition called synesthesia that has baffled scientists for over two
centuries - neurologist
Richard Cytowic demonstrates that by understanding the workings of this
peculiar state we can
gain surprising insights into how all human minds function.""
on "The Man Who Tasted Shapes"
"The name of the phenomenom is synesthesia or synaesthesia.
It seems not to be a disease but a fusion of senses which occurs in about
ten of every million people.
All the sensations (sound, taste, shape) can be interested by this
- summary of responses on
"A simple geometric shape (triangle, square, pentagon, etc.), called the
Geometric Sound Mixer
(GSM), is used to mix sounds. Timbre is represented as color within the
GSM; the relative
amount of each sound source is represented as a mix of colors, each one
associated with a unique
timber. A static representation of any dynamic sound mix (as it evolves
over time) can be viewed
on the Mix Time Line (see figure below), where relative moment-to-moment
audio levels control
the brightness as the sounds play in real time. Perceptually linear audio
and color mixes are
achieved using psychophysical functions. The result is an environment that
allows for complex
manipulations of sound in a highly simplified, structured environment."
R. Thorisson's Synthetic Synesthesia System
"Although medicine has known of synesthesia for three centuries, it keeps
forgetting that it
knows. After decades of neglect, a revival of inquiry is under way.
Neuroscience is particularly
curious because of what synesthesia might tell us about consciousness, the
nature of reality, and
the relationship between reason and emotion." Lists the kinds of
synesthesia - idiopathic or acquired.
"Involuntary, but elicited. Synesthesia happens to people, and the
stimulus that sets it off is
Projected--experienced not in the mind's eye but outside the body. The
exception is in those in whom synesthesia consists only of colored letters
Durable--a given synesthete's associations remaining the same over a
Generic--radially symmetric, scintillating, or wavy shapes:
agreeable or disagreeable tastes; elementary tactile sensations.
Synesthesia is NEVER pictorial,
elaborate, or a fully complete object.
Memorable. While comments like, "she had a green name," are common, it
is the sensation
(green), and not the attached meaning (the name) that is vividly
remembered for decades.
Emotional and noetic--synesthetic experience is accompanied by a sense
of certitude, or even a
"eureka" feeling. They seem not just state of perception, but of
"Some people say they "see red" when angry, or they talk about
"sharp" cheese, "cool" jazz, or
"loud" ties. But do you see pink triangles on hearing music, or feel
yourself on a prickly bed of
nails when eating cherry pie? Do ordinary words, names, and voices have
peculiar shapes--even distinctive flavors?"
Tasting Shapes, Hearing
[The Brain's Own Virtual Reality]