Hearing in color

A few months ago I shared an image on a few social media sites that I thought would lead to an interesting discussion. It’s a sketch I did while having a conversation about time. I asked everyone what colors they saw when they thought about a certain time. All I received were blank stares. So I drew this sketch of what I meant. Not the most vivid colors I know, I don’t get to pick them. And they are always the same. 1 o’clock is always white, while 2 o’clock is always yellow. If I have an appointment then the color will change. It makes it easy for me to remember what I have going on. When I have that feeling that I know I have to be doing something it’s because the color is different than it should be.

Synesthesia sketch

Again, I put this on facebook and instagram and asked people what color they saw for certain times. All I received in reply was crickets chirping.

I was honestly shocked that no one else had any idea what I was talking about.

A friend said that maybe I had Synesthesia. The more I researched it the more I believed that I did.

A quick run down of synesthesia is that basically a percentage of the population has a brain that has some wires crossed. I knew I had some form of brain damage! With these crossed wires a synesthete will experience more than one sense for a certain stimulation. Some people, like me,ds see time as color. Others may see numbers or letters as a certain color. This does help with performing math because you can visualize the answer as opposed to whatever those that can’t see numbers as colors do.

Another effect is that I am able to see music. I hear in color. What brought this all back to my attention is I ran across an artist, Stephen Malinowski, who is a musician as well as a software engineer. In combining these areas of interest he has created some videos that visually represent music in color. While watching them I was struck with such a strange feeling that I was finally able to see what was usually just in my head.

Here is a great example of what I am talking about.

Before I saw this video I had a very tough time explaining how the color comes across. But as you see in the video, each sound has a distinct color and placement. I can easily separate instruments and voices out of a choir because they not only sound different but represent a different color and placement in my mind.

Anyway, the more I read about it the more fascinated I am with the brain and all the interesting things that go on. Especially when the wiring in my brain was so serendipitously messed up.

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Franco Vallejos

Franco Vallejos

I am the founder of ExamRefresh. A site dedicated to furthering the education of medical professionals. Education is my passion. I am the husband of 1 and the father of 4. We are transplants to Washington state but we call it home.

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  • Suzy Garza Higley

    That’s really interesting! I want to learn more about it now. The brain IS so amazing! I know my son with autism sees more than we do. He has layers to everything he hears and sees. I’m fascinated watching him observe our world. Not saying you have autism, lol… But I think our brains are capable of more and some of us notice it and some don’t. How cool to hear in color!!! I sometimes have moments of that with music that really moves me. A color washes over it. But less often for me as it used to. Great post.

  • Becca Lingley

    Very cool stuff.

  • Franco

    I just read a couple days ago that people with autism have a 25x chance of synesthesia. I believe it said that 100% of autistic savants have it.

  • Jergrif73

    My youngest daughter has this. Just found out last year when she was talking to me about music and colors. I just shared a post from NPR where music producer Pharrel Williams talks about it.