Seeking synesthesia

22 05 2010

I’ve always gloried in the sounds of words. Onomatopoetic words for me, like hippopotamus, cello, gawping, grape, babbling, seasoning, purple, smudge, puce, mucus, bog. Words that effortlessly sound out what I feel and see when I hear them – silk eases through my lips like a scarf around my neck, glop insinuates pudding dropping on a countertop, ooze is that same pudding easing through a sieve, cheep is the sound my birds make, feather is light as their touch. Not all words have this magical link to their meaning, but the ones that do enrich reading and fill the readers’ minds with visions and sounds.

Lately, synesthesia has been in the news, and is a theme of Joanne Harris’ very creepy and excellent new book, blueeyedboy. I have to say I am filled with envy of those who have colours assigned to words, or music, or sensations. Truth be told, I think we all sometimes feel these sensations, when a wire is crossed or memories tangle in the back rooms of our minds, where they tumble about together.  I can’t hear the Moonlight Sonata without smelling toast, hearing the rustle of newspaper – my father tried for years to learn the piece fully through and he would practice on Saturday mornings, when we’d all be awash in the newspaper and breakfast while he played. It still also relaxes me.  Saturday mornings were happy times in my childhood, and the contentment of these times eases through with the comfortable music.

Beethoven’s Symphonies (I believe the 5th, especially) sends shivers down my spine and pushes the chill smell of early winter through my sinuses – I studied one Beethoven’s Birthday at Queen’s with my residence window wide open to the chill and Beethoven charging forward on my stereo.  The brisk, urgent smells and feelings return when I listen to it now, even in the warmth of my apartment.

But I long for more more more – I want the sound of Malbec to be less acidic, more like the wine. I wish celebrating smelled like fireworks, or that caramel not only mimicked how your mouth has to go when you eat one but also tasted like it does when you do.

I can’t help but think that paying more attention to these things would help link words with flavours and colours, link music with colours and tastes, link colours with music and words. Would practice help?

I’m off to evaluate the colour of Gin and Tonic.  I see it as lime green or acid blue….with an undercurrent of steamy summer jazz….

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One response

22 05 2010
Robi

I wish I were synesthetic, but all I have is one overactive imagination. I can imagine what Synesthesia is like. A lot of my metaphors are synesthetic, I suppose. But I’ll never see colors when I read about something.

Unfortunate. Still, I just posted a horror story that is somewhat about Synesthesia.

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