The Colours of Sounds, the Textures of Accents

Being synaesthetic, I find it difficult to decide whether I am more visual, auditory or tactile, as one sense often triggers another: colours move, have temperatures and sometimes smell, and sounds evoke all sorts of colours and textures.

La toilette

Goethe’s theory of colour introduced the notion that colours relate to temperatures and emotions. For me, colours can also suggest smells. For instance, ice blue has a medical smell, like surgical spirit or even vodka; soft dark red has the cosy smell of a wood fire; while pink can smell sickly sweet at best or just dirty, as in – ironically – Bonnard’s painting La toilette, in which a woman is seen washing. To me, this painting smells like the woman has not washed for a week!

When I listen to music, I see layers or waves of colours for each instrument on a black background, with warm colours at the bottom for the bass and the drums, and blue and purple at the top for the melody. High-pitch electro sounds add sparkles over the top lines. The rhythm creates the patterns of the waves, giving them texture too. Industrial music has no colours in my visual mind, however, due to the lack of melody. Instead, each line in the music shows metallic shapes, complex textures and some vague movement somehow flowing around these, keeping the whole together, giving coherence to the chaos and smoothness to the angles.

The BeanLanguages and accents offer all sorts of amazing sounds to our ears – and different textures to my inner eyes. For example, Arabic sounds like satin, fine sand paper and marbles; German is made of strong, perfectly polished steel (think of some of Anish Kapoor’s sculptures) and has amazing depth; Chinese, with its lack of clear consonants, feels like gooey jelly and melted marshmallows and is two-dimensional (no depth); the Glaswegian accent is like pine wood and wool; languages from India sound like a happy brook making loads of bubbles as it rushes over pebbles.

Do your senses talk to each other? What do sounds look like or how do colours feel to you? What accents do you like and why?


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