When most of us describe color we talk about the green hue of the grass and the bright blue tint of the sky. But for a small portion of the population, they see color in letters of the alphabet, numbers and music. For some, the number seven will always be green and for others Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” will always be seen as yellow with accents of mustard and orange sherbet.
The condition is known as synesthesia, which loosely translates in Greek to the “mingling of the senses,” and often provides multi-sensory experiences for people who live with this condition. Chromesthesia is specific type of synesthesia that is known as color hearing. For example, each octave has its own color and a fast chord progressions looks like an explosion of fireworks. The closest comparison we can think of is seeing multi-colored toy xylophone and associating each sound with the color on the panel.
Some people who have synesthesia complain their multi-sensory perceptions become so intense that they lose their train of thought. Others find they have a hard time determining their left hand from their right and struggle with numbers. Still, they are many benefits including superior memory skills and the ability to be more creative and original that those who do not have synesthesia.
It’s not surprising that many successful musicians have chromesthesia and synesthesia. You can discover some of the artists who have it here.
Singer and producer Williams is another artist living with chromesthesia and cannot imagine creating music without this condition. He told Psychology Today: “The ability to see and feel (this way) was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I’m not sure that I could make music. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. I wouldn’t have a measure to understand.”
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