Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Color of Music?

Have you ever come across someone who could, or who claims to be able to see the color of words, or the color of sounds? Or what if the person claimed to be able to smell the sound of words? What if they said they could perceive the smell of colors? Or taste on their tongues different tastes for different numbers? Would you find that absolutely incredible?

As a matter of fact, this condition is real and is being studied actively by neurologists. It is known as synesthesia. It is a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sensory organ or pathway leads to an involuntary and automatic sensation by another sensory organ or pathway. I find this condition very interesting to explore. Can you even imagine the ramifications of this condition? It means that every sensory input to the brain is layered on top of other sensations. Thus most sensory data becomes melded with other sensory data and becomes more impactful than they ordinarily would have been. When one hears phrases like ‘bitter wind’, ‘ salty reply’, ‘red rage’, ‘dark nine’ etc, we may not just be talking of some fanciful or rather poetic use of language. We might actually be talking about synesthesia.

If you hear the sound of good music, and at the same time see a flicker of gracious and alluring colors blending into each other rhythmically and disappearing softly as the music fades or as the sounds waned, mark my words, that is likely to vastly increase your appreciation of that music more than a lay listener. What if hearing some crude and insulting language leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth? Can you even imagine how forcefully or viscerally such a synesthete would react to such words? The same would go for all the other sensory information that happens to become intertwined with other sensory information—the end result is a world of far deeper meaning, of grander perception, of weightier sensations.

There are far more interesting things out there than we know or can possibly know. It is refreshing to note that as the days go by, we keep uncovering things and ideas that were hitherto unknown to us. Some may consider synesthesia to be some kind of abnormality or defect, but I prefer to think of all the amazing things we are beginning to discover from a deeper study of brain, neural pathways and consciousness.

Personally, I know I want to see the color of music. Ok, I want to see the color of The Sound of Music.

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