Nope. I don’t have it. But Frederica Mathewes-Green does.

Some people have more of an instinctive capacity for synesthesia than others, and the most common way for it to manifest is to associate colors with letters and numbers. I have this kind of synesthesia. I thought everybody did—I thought it was obvious that A is red, B is blue, C is yellow, and so on. I didn’t really realize that other people don’t have the same associations until I read Rimbaud’s poem, “The Vowels,” in a college French class. The other students thought it was trippy; I thought it was annoying. To deliberately mix up the colors and say that A is black, for example — that’s a pretty cheap basis for a poem.

Do check out her essay!

I used to wish I had synesthesia. It just seems so cool to me. (Of course mostly I just wish I could make a good oboe reed!)

But I also wonder … and perhaps Frederica Mathewes-Green will answer here … do different timbres have a color too? Is oboe a different color than flute which is a different color than clarinet?

As I’m typing this out I am eating an orange. Do flavors have colors? Is an orange orange?

(Credit where credit is due — since I’m sort of bugged when I’m not given credit I’d better make sure I credit others, yes?! — I found Mathewes-Green’s essay via GretchensPianos.)

1 Comment

  1. That’s a fascinating question. I get things crossing and leaking with my own synesthesia (which is entirely different and doesn’t involve color), so perhaps it does extend in other directions for some people with visual synesthesia. I know a young woman with sound->color synesthesia; I’ll have to ask her if it leaks into other things as well.

    The thing I find interesting about her is that she has absolute pitch because she knows what color she sees when she hears a note. She doesn’t actually hear the distinctiveness of each note — the dullness of an A, or the twang of an F#. Fascinating stuff.