A few days ago I was having a discussion at Richton Perk, my inspirational coffee shop. The person I was talking with was listing her favorite sounds. All of them were colors. She called her condition Synaesthesia, a mixing up of the senses. Some people with this condition can hear smells, see sounds, notice that every number they say has a different visual image that is nothing to do with the digits. In American books the first ‘a’ is usually missed out, in case you are a dictionary person.
We went on from there to discuss the different effect of sentences with rhymes on the colors. Very interesting. We were having a ball making recipes of sounds that produced different colors. I found myself thinking in rhymes as soon as she started talking. It’s as easy for me to write in verse as it is in prose and I really hadn’t connected this fact of life with synaesthesia before. Apparently most other people don’t do that, or haven't tried.
By the time we had finished our coffee I had several verses floating in my head. Notice that I did NOT say poetry. I said VERSE. Not at all the same. Just for kicks here is the set of verses that our conversation produced. The rhyming pattern in my head came from an old English song that starts...I wish I were a bushman/For a bushman's brains are small/Or perhaps a politician/ With scarcely brains at all.....
I often sit and wonder
How different life would be
If it were colors I could hear
And sounds that I could see.
And if the senses that I use
Were turned around a lot,
So blue became my favorite sound
And bottom C was hot.
The orchestra would paint in sounds
While I was sitting there
A blazing mix of rainbows
And colors in the air.
And Bach would be the artist
Famous for his blues;
Beethoven’s palette would consist
Of mostly somber hues.
And then I’d see a concert
Of Cezanne’s music free
The audience would make quite sure
Their clothes were all in key.
But who would be the poet
In this new world of mine?
Perhaps a lovely little house
Would be a sonnet fine.
The cities would be named for those
Whose buildings lined their streets.
And I might live in Shakespeare
Perhaps commute to Keats.
And those who spend a lot of time
In dissing art and song
Would in my world be under ground,
As rocks, where they belong.
You might find it interesting to contemplate what kind of difference this would make to your dreams, if you had one or more of the set of synaesthetic mix ups of the senses. What difference would there be in the movie The Matrix if the producer and art directors shared the same symptoms of synaesthesia? How about the Harry Potter movies?