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What Is Sound-To-Color Synesthesia?


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Synesthesia occurs when the stimulation of one cognitive sense causes the involuntary simulation of another cognitive sense. For example, you might see patterns of color after hearing particular sounds. The technical name for this type of synesthesia is chromesthesia. In this case, your sense of sound triggers your sense of sight. Chromesthesia is rare, but it is a significant phenomenon. Here are some interesting facts about it.


Chromesthesia: Diagnostic Criteria

Richard Cytowic, a world-renowned neurologist, came up with diagnostic criteria for this phenomenon. These criteria are useful when it comes to determining whether you are exhibiting chromesthesia. Cytowic’s first criterion was that your synesthetic experience should be memorable. He also stated that it should be involuntary. More specifically, the act of seeing color after you hear a sound should be unintentional. Trying to see it is a sign that you are not experiencing chromesthesia. Moreover, this experience should be consistent over time. You do not have chromesthesia if it rarely happens.


Chromesthesia through the Eyes of Synesthetes

The scientific name for people who go through synesthesia is synesthetes. These individuals report their experiences as pleasant. Only a few of them term synesthesia as neutral or negative. Interestingly, synesthetes often think that such experiences are normal until they talk to someone about it. At this point, they realize that what they see after hearing music is unique. Finally, most synesthetes have a particular talent related to the kind of synesthesia they are experiencing.


Duke Ellington: The Synesthete Pianist

Born on 29 April 1899, Duke Ellington was an American pianist, composer, and bandleader. His career spanned over fifty years. Duke died on 24 May 1974, but he won a Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1999 for his contribution to jazz music. Many people do not know that Duke was a synesthete. In fact, Duke once stated that each note played by a member of his band appeared to him as one color. However, the same note would turn into a different color when played by a different member of his band.


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