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CHROMESTHESIA: Feeling Music in Colors

By
Ibaez, Rheezel Kim S.
BSA 1-29

English 1023
Prof. Fe Lina M. Salting
January 19, 2016

Chromesthesia: Feeling Music in Colors


I.

Introduction
Chromesthesia is the sense of sound influencing vision and/or emotion. It is a form of

synesthesia described

as

color

hearing..

A case

study revealed

that

person

with chromesthesia will have a visual color experience as well as an auditory sensation when
they hear a certain tone. In other words, the person will see sound as color. This occurrence is
common for many artists and for them hearing the music and visualizing the associated
colors are essential to their creative process.
This research is a summary of an article written by Alyson Camus in February 11,
2015 on Rock NYC Live and Recorded Website (http://rocknycliveandrecorded.com/notwith-the-band-i-wish-i-had-chromesthesia.html)
II.

Chromesthesia: Feeling Music in Colors


Some people are able to see colors when they hear sounds, its chromesthesia

as synesthesia is a wider phenomenon which messes up with all senses and allow people to
see words and numbers in colors or even associate a taste with words.
But back to chromesthesia, someone with the condition posted a video on Vimeo a
few days ago to illustrate what it means to experience it, not only there are colors but shapes
are involved too. Honestly, how many people experience this insane fireworks in their head
when they listen to music? A recent scientific study by researchers of the San Diego
University (David Brang, V. S. Ramachandran) shows that this condition affects about 4% of
the general population and that it involves several genes. But why do people have this? What

could be the genetic advantage to have such condition? Researchers think it is due to an
excess of neural connections, an increased connectivity in precise parts of the brain and the
fact that hallucinogenic drugs can cause synesthesia-like experiences confirms that the
mechanism is present in everybody but suppressed in most of us. Interestingly, if this
condition has any hidden agenda, it is probably linked to creativity, as studies show an
increased incidence of synesthesia among artists, while synesthetes report spending more
time engaged in creative activities. Researchers have noticed an enhanced memory, an
increased processing of color information, a more accurate processing of rhythmic visual
stimuli in synesthetes, and concluded that this condition may aid in the detection, processing,
and retention of critical stimuli in the world, and may have been retained by evolution
because of many benefits to cognitive processing. Duke Ellington, Pharrell Williams, Kanye
West and Frank Ocean all have some degree of synesthesia, as well as Stevie Wonder, Billy
Joel, Mary J. Blige, Dev Hynes, Charli XCX.
The cases of Syd Barrett, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer and Bob Dylan are still under
review. This is a lot of people but nevertheless this is not a condition to be creative, as a lot of
talented artists dont have it. There is certainly a level of coolness associated with
synesthesia, its now perceived like a superpower or something, and Carol Steen, the cofounder of the American Synesthesia Association, says shes heard rumors about Beyonce.
The synesthetic perception is unbelievable and almost overwhelming. Its hard for me
to listen to this song and do much of anything else. Some persons even described unpleasant
experiences during performances but the thing with this synesthesia is that if the musician is
even a little out of tune the line shatters uncomfortably. An excellent performance can evoke

euphoria but even a good performance with minor tuning problems can be almost physically
painful. Everything has textures, colors and shapes and it can be very unpleasant sometimes.
II.

Conclusion
Chromesthesia is sound-to-colour synesthesia. People with chromesthesia hear

sounds and these automatically and unintentionally make them experience colors. To
someone who doesnt experience this, it sounds weird or distracting, that youd suddenly
start seeing colors while listening to music, but to synesthetes who have grown up with this,
its just their normal, everyday, experience. The variety thats been found even within this
one type of synesthesia is mind-boggling. Some of those with chromesthesia find the colors
are projected into space in front of them; others see it in their minds eye. Some only get the
chromesthesia for spoken words, which are influenced by the voices accent, pitch and
intonation; others just for music. For the non-synesthete, like myself, reading about
synesthesia, the experience of synesthesia will probably always remain a mystery, fascinating
as it is to try and imagine.

Reference:
Camus, Alyson (2015, February) "Not With The Band: I Wish I Had
Chromesthesia". Retrieved January 9, 2016 from (http://rocknycliveandrecorded.com/notwith-the-band-i-wish-i-had-chromesthesia.html)