February 11, 2009

Hearing Colors

CNN.com had an article today about synesthesia, a condition in which people associate colors with sounds, words, numbers and letters. If interested, you can read the article here.

I've always seen different letters, numbers, and sounds with different colors. For example, the letter A is always yellow, the letter N is green. Sounds that are bright and sharp, like trumpets, are yellow or orange, while the sound of a bass or bassoon is dark brown. The number 11 (today's date) is pale yellow.

For a long time, I assumed that everyone associated numbers with colors. I remember once hearing a musician say he wanted his music to sound more "orange," and I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn't until recently that I learned that most people don't associate colors with sounds, letters, or numbers.

Some people, on the other hand, actually see the colors. Literally. For me, it's just an association in my mind. In the CNN article, a man recalls going to the symphony with his parents. He assumed that when the lights went down at the start of the concert, it was so everyone could see the colors better. I've never actually seen the colors like that--but if you were to ask me what color the sounds were, I'd know.


Anonymous said...

Hmm...could this explain why I'm such a visual person? I understand and retain things sooo much better if I can see them or read them. I don't have any experience with colorful music though. Just numbers and letters.

Julian said...

Humans can only see a small amount of the light, and hear a small amount of the sounds that are really out there. It seems reasonable that some people would be more attuned to these things than others. I wish I was one of them!

sue said...