Posts Tagged ‘colors’

I love music. But unlike many people, I am very particular about the type of music I will listen to on a regular basis. Many people don’t care for some of the lyrics of today’s music (I being one of those people), but my tastes and preferences in music go beyond just the quality of the lyrics.

I am a synesthete. For those unfamiliar with this word, let me explain. Synesthesia is a cross-wiring of the sensory pathways in the brain. During development and growth, regular neural pathways connect at an alarming rate – dendrite to neuron and so forth. It happens millions of times a day, all deep within the amazing, marvelous brain.

But for some of us,  the rapid connections can often get misdirected or misguided to other senses during this transmission. And, that’s when synesthesia occurs.

My synesthesia (or more accurately “chromasthesia”) was discovered when I started teaching. I was working with the kids on a poetry journal, and we were just about to start working on the covers of the journal — made out of various pieces of colored construction paper– when I said something that made the students question my intelligence and me question my sanity:

“Students, when you choose the color of your poetry journal, make sure you choose the color that best represents the mood or tones of your poetry. You know — green for fresh, blue for calm…” Twenty seven pairs of eyes just stared back at me with the blankest of expressions, as if to say “What in the WORLD is she talking about? Colors of poetry?”

After offering a few more suggestions, and getting nothing more than continual blank stares, I finally said “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?” Everyone relaxed. I, however, had a quick light bulb moment: they don’t see the colors like I do.

I knew I was onto something, but wasn’t sure what. After a few quick searches, I discovered the exact thing I was looking for, but this time it was assigned a name: synesthesia. Okay, that proves I’m not crazy.

My synesthesia is really “chromosthesia”. I associate colors with music. When I listen to music, it shows up in my head in various colors. Some see pictures, but I only “see” colors. I have a wide range of colors but if I had to choose a starting place by looking at the Middle C of a piano, I would see it as forest green. The colors move up the scale in the following manner:

forest green, dark red, red, burnt orange, orange, yellow-orange, dark yellow, lemon yellow, buttery yellow, silver, white (with varying degrees and shades between them)

Down the scale goes like this:

light blue, blue, navy blue, midnight blue, mauve, light purple, purple, deep purple, indigo, brown, dark brown, brown-black, black, pitch black

Now hang on tight, because this is were it starts to get weird (if it hasn’t already). I judge my musical tastes based on the range of colors the songs give me. If I don’t care for the color palette that shows up in my head, I will turn the song off instantly, because it has created an almost visceral and unpleasant experience for me.

Because of this affliction, I have particular tastes in music/artists. I love music that gives me colors from purple up through yellow, with varying shades between. But, I also can’t stand to listen to music that blends awful colors together. Example: any country music that is twangy and nasally comes to me as a greenish, yellow mustardy mess. It also tastes (yes, I get tastes too at times) bitter or metallic. The bands Rush, Yes and Steely Dan also evoke horrible colors and tend to taste like gun metal. My favorite songs are ones that  have been written in 3/4 time signature: they come to me as soft, plush, velvety pink or rose blush, and taste like cotton candy or pink bubblegum. I am instantly soothed and calmed by them, as if I were being rocked in a chair. Entangled, by Genesis, is one such example. Change Partners, by Crosby, Stills and Nash is another one.

A few months back, I went to see Brit Floyd, a Pink Floyd cover band. They do a great job mixing their Veri light colors with their music. But, just for grins and because I wanted to test out my synesthesia, I closed my eyes and let the colors come to me in my head. I saw a swirling kaleidoscope of colors dancing and moving before me. From time to time, I would say “Oooh dark purple now, with just a tinge of dark red in the upper right hand corner — Oooh, now it’s bright red and turning orange!” And that’s when something strange happened. I came to find out that, as I was “calling out the colors” of the music, the stage lights were changing to those exact same colors. The lead guitarist’s guitar was spotlighted with a bright red/orange hue, just as I was sharing what was going on in my head. It was so cool.

As I’ve stated, I love music. I love the artistry that goes into crafting quality notes and tones and putting them together. I love poetic lyrics filled with imagery, voice, tone, etc. I love the back stories of some of the songs I listen to (If you want to know what Genesis’ Cinema Show is REALLY about, let me know, I will gladly fill you in 🙂 )

But for me, music is more than just what the latest and greatest pop star threw together and auto tuned. It is a whole body experience of sight, sound, color and taste — that never ceases to bore me.

I just wish others could experience the unique gift that music brings me – a world of swirling, dancing colors before my very eyes. All without having to drop acid first.


A single rose pinned to a pale, linen coat
Sunlight peeking through clouded days,
Birds chirping on highest boughs,
New shoes squeaking down polished hallways,
Ice cream cones melting on scorching summer days,
Children skipping through sprinklers,
High notes on pianos before the recital ends.

A single star pinned to a heavy, woolen coat,
Long rides locked inside wooden cattle cars,
Empty shoes stacked high against restraining fences,
Smoke tendrils curling upwards from brick chimneys,
Forced marches of weary feet towards unknown fates,
Bulldozed, naked bodies buried in mass graves,
Disease, illness and starvation inside forced labor camps.