Coloured hearing

"The song appears as light filament once I have cracked it. As long as I´ve been doing this, which is more than thirty-five years, I´ve never seen a duplicated 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."

(Tori Amos about music, from: Powers/Amos (2005), Piece by Piece)


 One of the most common types of synesthesia is, when the colour area of the brain (V4 area) is affected. That type is called coloured hearing and is one of the most intense types. Music and sound involuntarily evoke colours, often combined with shapes, textures and movement.  And there are prominent representatives among synesthetes today: Pharrell Williams describes his song Happy as "yellow, with accents of mustard and sherbet orange", and Lady Gaga is describing her song Poker Face as "wall of yellow"


Apart from the colours, which partly seem to be beyond any spectrum at all, it´s Heinrich Klüvers form constants that can be used to help to describe what shapes and movements can be seen through a synesthete inner eye when listening to music. In 1926 Klüver demystified the secret of human visual perception during a ground breaking experiment. He took reports about visual effects produced by a drug and categorized these effects into 4 main categories: (I) tunnels, (II) spirals, (III) lattices, (IV) cobwebs. Klüvers work was later extended, effects like scintillation and extrusion, rotation, grids, central radiation, waves have been added. All reported effects seem to have similar structure.


But still, trying to describe what he actually and simultaneously sees when listening to a piece of music can make a synesthete quickly running out of words.

Coloured hearing is a constant changing, never-ending dream, or to put it with Amos´words:




For more information visit KALEIDOSCOPE MUSIC.