Monday, July 12, 2004


Blue sound of flute
So childish tenderly little
Dull beat of drum
Triumphantly scarlet sounding of kettle-drum.

These verses are written by Russian poet Balmont early in this century. The ability to compare, to confront visual and auditory impressions is called "synesthesia." In the case the coloristic aspect of visual impressions is emphasized, or, more specifically, when visible component of the association is limited with color, they usually use another, more vivid and possibly lightly embarrassing term "colour hearing."
--editor's preface to the book "Children Draw Music" by I.Vanechkina, I.Trofimova. - Kazan: FAN, 2000, in Russian.

I mostly see music as shapes and textures in my mind's eye with color being secondary--which doesn't really qualify as synesthesia. Most people who truly have the condition (or ability) see colors, shapes and images projected outside of themselves. I can still sort of identify with this experience though. Usually when I hear music I really love, I will not only describe the actual tones of notes, but their shapes. There are certain notes in pieces that are distinctly round and some that are quite square or pointed, glassy, rough, curved, metal, wood, warm, cold, fluid, still, vibrating, expanding, contracting, exploding, dissipating, regenerating, etc. It's more than a sensory description, but a physical image of the sound that pops into my head. I've often thought about painting "sounds" to see what kind of composition would come out.

I also get hung up on the visual and musical qualities of words. Sometimes it slows my reading to a crawl. I can read quickly, but I really don't enjoy it. I like to munch on words and repeat their "sing-song" qualities in my head. Unfortunately it's a great way to lose track of the plot and who begat who and all that stuff. Anyone else "see" or "visually experience" music or words?

p.s. Thanks for all the hairy compliments! I haven't regretted the big "locks-off" yet!


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