Famous people with synesthesia
8.21. Marilyn Monroe
Normal Mailers bio of her, "she has a displacement of the senses that others take drugs to find".
8.42. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix trusted his synesthesia. He liked to describe chords and harmonies as colors. He called the chord E7#9—often referred to by guitarists as the Hendrix chord—as "the purple chord," and used it to help form the verse of his song, Purple Haze.
8.43. Edgar Degas
The discrepancy in the precision of his brushstrokes from his early and middle career to his late career (for example, this painting from 1895 and a painting of the same subject from 1905) is striking. Because of the deterioration of his vision, he eventually gave up painting and focused solely on sculpture, and later, poetry. Also due to his inability to see clearly, he began re-ascribing power to color: he imbued colors with feeling and emotional properties. It is widely acknowledged that Degas suffered from synesthesia, but can we truly call it suffering? It seems like a gift to be so intuitive to make connections between the senses that otherwise seem unlikely; like living life in a super-cross-sensory metaphor.
8.44. Edvard Munch
About 'The Scream', Munch wrote: "I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
7.15. Tilda Swinton
Tilda Swinton thinks in food.
Since she was a child the 'I Am Love' actress has always associated a different edible item with the words she uses, though she is unsure why.
She explained: 'The word 'word' is a sort of gravy. 'Table' is a slightly dry cake. 'Tomato' is not actually tomato, it's lemony.'
96. W.A. Mozart
Some musicians and composers have a form of synesthesia that allows them to hear music as colors. Mozart is said to have had this form of synesthesia. He said that the key of D Major had a warm "orangey" sound to it, while B flat minor was blackish. A major was a rainbow of colors to him. This may explain why he wrote some of his music using different colors for different music notes. Also, why much of his music is in more major keys.
7.67. Stevie Wonder
Sound → color
68. John Mayer
sound to color
"Each number had its own personality—masculine or feminine, perfect or incomplete, beautiful or ugly. This feeling modern mathematics has deliberately eliminated, but we still find overtones of it in fiction and poetry. Ten was the very best number ..." (see Brumbaugh 1981: 35).
011. Stephanie Carswell
Lexeme → color
"Monday is yellow; Tuesday is quite a deep red; Wednesday is sort of a grass green; Thursday is a much darker green but still quite bright; Friday has always confused me, it’s either a very dark purple, blue or grey; Saturday is white; and Sunday is sort of a light peach colour. For anyone who doesn’t understand what’s happening here, I have a neurological condition called synesthesia which means that I ‘see’ words in colours."
7.712. Stephanie Morgenstern
Graphemes → color; musical notes → color
"A few years ago, I mentioned to a friend that I remembered phone numbers by their colour. He said "So you're a synesthete!" I hadn't heard of synesthesia (which means something close to sense-fusion') – I only knew that numbers seemed naturally to have colours: five is blue, two is green, three is red… And music has colours too: the key of C# minor is a sharp, tangy yellow, F major is a warm brown..."
1013. Joachim Raff
Timbre → color
In 1855, the composer Joachim Raff "declared that the sounds of instruments produced color impressions of various kinds. Thus the sound of a flute produced the sensation of intense azure blue; of the hautboy [oboe], yellow; cornet, green; trumpet, scarlet; the French horn, purple; and the flageolet [bassoon], grey. The clearest and most distinct shades were those evoked by the high notes" (Krohn 1892 : 22). It is unknown whether Raff was a synaesthete; he may well have been, but this small set of colored timbres does not provide enough information, without more direct claims as to where the correspondences originate from
8.414. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Musical keys → color.
Composer Rimsky-Korsakov synesthetically experienced colors for musical keys (musical keys →color). For example, for him, the key of C major was white, and the key of B major was a gloomy dark blue with a steel shine.
8.815. Patrick Stump
grapheme → color
"So this isn't really news but it's come to my attention that I have a common form of synesthesia known as grapheme to color synesthesia. It is (according to Wikipedia....who are always right...right?) 'A neurologically-based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in secondary sensory or cognitive pathway.' The shorthand is basically that your senses are crossed. Like some synthetics can 'Taste' colors or 'See' sounds. In the case of graphame to color synthetics it basically means that one interprets written information as 'Colored.' For instance the letter 'F' for me is green. When I see it written in black I obviously still notice that it is black but it 'Feels' green. Or 'S' is red. Most of the alphabet and numbers from 1-10 have some sort of associated color to me. It's ultimately totally trivial but I found it fascinating that this is a documented phenomenon and not just me being a weirdo."
– Patrick Stump's blog entry, August 18, 2008
7.816. Jean Sibelius
Sound → color.
"For him there existed a strange, mysterious connection between sound and color, between the most secret perceptions of the eye and ear. Everything he saw produced a corresponding impression on his ear – every impression of sound was transferred and fixed as color on the retina of his eye and thence to his memory. And this he thought as natural, with as good reason as those who did not possess this faculty called him crazy or affectedly original."
"For this reason he only spoke of this in the strictest confidence and under a pledge of silence. 'For otherwise they will make fun of me!'"
– From Karl Ekman, pp. 41-42
6.517. Tori Amos
Music → color
"The song appears as light filament once I've cracked it. As long as I've been doing this, which is more than thirty-five years, I've never seen a duplicate song structure. I've never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns, but try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever."
– From the autobiography, "Piece by Piece"
7.718. Duke Ellington
"I hear a note by one of the fellows in the band and it’s one color. I hear the same note played by someone else and it’s a different color. When I hear sustained musical tones, I see just about the same colors that you do, but I see them in textures. If Harry Carney is playing, D is dark blue burlap. If Johnny Hodges is playing, G becomes light blue satin."
– Ellington, as quoted in Don George, p. 226.
8.219. Vladimir Nabokov
According to biographer Brian Boyd and others, Nabokov was a self-described synesthete, who at a young age equated the number five with the color red.
For some synesthetes, letters are not simply associated with certain colours, they are themselves coloured. Nabokov frequently endowed his protagonists with a similar gift. In Bend Sinister Krug comments on his perception of the word "loyalty" as being like a golden fork lying out in the sun. In The Defense, Nabokov mentioned briefly how the main character's father, a writer, found he was unable to complete a novel that he planned to write, becoming lost in the fabricated storyline by "starting with colours." Many other subtle references are made in Nabokov's writing that can be traced back to his synesthesia. Many of his characters have a distinct "sensory appetite" reminiscent of synesthesia
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