9.21.2011

Do You Hear Music In Color?

It's amazing how sharing a simple conversation about one person opens up a whole new realization about life and how we experience it.

So, I ask if you hear music in color. I know, you think it's a typo. It's not. In fact, if you ever had a conversation with Peter about what it was like for him to write and hear music, he'd say it was a colorful experience. And for him, when he heard music notes or visualized them, he actually saw different colors that coordinated with different notes. In fact, the way Peter's mind worked is a bit unusual. It's a condition called Synesthesia or referred to as Disambiguation.



Peter's sister, Pat mentioned her conversations with Peter about music and colors the other night when we were at dinner. She told me how Peter explained that when he hears music, each of the notes have their own color. So,  he'd see a colorful burst with each note played right before his eyes. And then he thought about those notes, he thought about the colors that were represented. Pat also explained that for her, when she envisions the days of the week or months in a year, those words are floating around her  ... That's when a spark went off in my head ... because it was exactly how I see words. I just assumed it was the "normal" way of visualizing. Apparently, not everyone does. As it turns out, Synesthesia takes on various forms ... these are just two of them.

Synesthesia, from the ancient Greek (syn) "together," and (aisth─ôsis) "sensation," is a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.  Synesthesia has been revealed to be a mis-firing or an abnormal joining of neural connectivity whereby the occasion of one sense is accompanied by a perception within another sense. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.

Psychological research has demonstrated that synesthetic experiences can have measurable behavioral consequences, while functional neuroimaging studies have identified differences in patterns of brain activation. Many people with synesthesia use their experiences to aid in their creative process (and many non-synesthetes have attempted to create works of art that may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia). Psychologists and neuroscientists study synesthesia not only for its inherent interest, but also for the insights it may give into cognitive and perceptual processes that occur in synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike, and research can help with other neural connectivity problems, such as autism & ADD.

In addition to being involuntary, this additional perception is regarded by the synesthete as real, often outside the body, instead of imagined in the mind's eye, It also has some other interesting features that clearly separate it from artistic fancy; its reality and vividness are what make synesthesia so interesting in its violation of conventional perception. Synesthesia is also fascinating because logically it should not be a product of the human brain, where the evolutionary trend has been for increasing separation of function anatomically.

Thank you Karla Collins for allowing me to share this beauty with our community !


I wonder if this is why Peter was so artistic visually as he was creative musically?

Want to find out if you have Synesthesia? Think there is a connection between how you think and your creativity? Check this out:


Take the test: The Synesthesia Battery … ://synesthete.org
Check out books … //www.mixsig.net
PBS NOVA Series, Secret Life of Scientiests,
Steffie Tomson, Researcher; //pbs.com
... More Tomorrow on this interesting subject of how Peter envisioned music. I invite you to share your own experiences with Synesthesia.

21 comments:

  1. wow that is very interesting..you are so lucky and blessed to have such a special gift and lucky to have it shared with Peter. I have never heard of that until now. I know in my family we have ADD,asbergers syndrome,depression, and a bit of bi polar.I'll have to read up on this subject a bit more.if my learning disablilty will let me. somedays things just dont compute brain wise. which can be frusterating as hell at times.have alot of what I call dumb blonde moments..lol. but Im not a blonde. its amazing what the brain can do and does. wondering how you all found out about it.was Peter tested as a child or later on in life? this is like so unique..goes to show ya learn something new everyday.
    thanks for sharing that.Im gonna check into it more.
    ya all take good care over there.stay safe too. till the next blog....

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  2. oh and I love that beautiful art peice of Peter.hope its ok to share that on facebook.it is beautiful and fits with the month also.
    thanks for sharing that too.
    everybody take care and have a good rest of week.

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  3. VERY VERY interesting and proves my theory Peter was a Genius!

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  4. Wow, this is very interesting! The line about having synesthesia can result in measurable behavorial consequences really caught my eye. Creative people tend to be some most self destructive, makes me wonder if alot of artists if not most have this? A creative mind is a gift and a curse at the same time it seems in alot of cases. I'm really looking forward to reading the comments on this one, this is great post...a thinker! Thanks again. (-)

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  5. WOW...This is amazing ..Wonderful post and very interesting! Thank you for sharing :)

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  6. Thank you for sharing! It's amazing to know how Peter's mind worked!

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  7. I watched a special on this, I think on 60 Minutes where they were showing children who experienced "burst of color" with music and also with taste..different foods associated with color...my sister in law used to work with autistic children years ago and she said alot of those children were like this. She said they were brilliant. My cousin was like this and he couldn't keep up with his mind..thus the drugs and alcohol consumed him.

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  8. I recall very clearly an interview in which Pete referred to this..if I am remembering correctly he said he realized when young that not everyone experienced this. I remember wondering when I read it if he was having a bit of fun with the interviewer as he liked to do at times..nice to know it was part of his actual perception and creativity... Sue

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  9. Hi Everyone,

    I have heard of synesthesia before in classical musician Helene Grimaud who I was also fortunate enough to meet a few times. It does not surprise me that Peter had this ability. I myself can see the colors and get the feelings through each of his notes in his songs. He was a truly special and gifted person.
    Great work Karen on the September Sun art piece.
    Thanks----Jessica (Black Number 1)

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  10. I too am a synesthetes. I had no idea that Peter had this gift as well. It gives me a greater understanding of the man and His music.

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  11. Whenever I listen to Type O Negative, Carnivore, or even side-projects... I can see what Pete is playing. Not musically, but... what's the word. Not emotionally, but... what's the word! I don't think there is one. All I can say is, I get 'it'. Speaking of which, Dead Again era, I'm happy to know Pete will be at the pearly gates to say yay or nay to getting into heaven. I am more than ready for Halloween in Heaven. It makes me look forward to death, but that will be awhile. Thank you for posting this blog, you're awesome.

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  12. Hi gang--

    I don't know if I've ever heard of this. I guess this explains why I often taste something and it smells like something else, or vice versa. Or I'll smell something and I'll get a strange taste in my mouth. Guess I'll have to go to the site to see if I'm a synesthete.
    Also, I know there is a Classical piece of music (the name of the piece and composer escape me--I can't for the LIFE of me remember either! :( ) in which the composer interprets what each color sounds like to him. So, there is a different piece of music for each color.
    (Rimsky-Korsakov??)
    This is interesting. I'll have to add it to my list of books to look into and read up on it.
    Thanks, Darcie, for another informative (and educational) post.
    Love & Gratitude--Patty P

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  13. hey guys..this might be a bit on a different subject but hoping its ok to post..theres this project from this band Enigma that I like and that I think Peter might have liked if he was still alive..its a project for world peace that they are trying to get support for to do a concert for world peace...I so thought of Peter when reading about this and while watching the video and hearing their song for this project.its a beautiful song and video. how they have the color streaming through the world in it..reminded me of Peter and how he saw colors in music and thought he might have liked this project.dont really know though cause didnt know him as much as you all did..anyways heres a link to it to check it out.

    http://www.projectpeaceonearth.org/endorsements/enigma-social-song/

    dont know if Peter liked this kind of music but its good colorful music for the mind and body kind of stuff. I know this might be a bit innappropiate but thought Id share on this project anyways.hope thats ok.

    thanks for sharing so much of Peter and your family with us. its so amazing on how special he was and you all are over there.keep up the good blogging and maybe in Peters honor or memory of, go for world peace too.just a thought Id share.
    anyways...everybody take care and stay safe. god bless and forever peace to you.

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  14. Thanks so much for this very interesting piece about Peter. I know that he was left-handed too (same as me) & that, in itself, affects how the brain functions, artistically and otherwise.
    At college, one of my assignments was on left/right handedness, and the test results were intriguing, as most who know themselves as left-handers, still did some things right-hand dominant. I was one of those who did everything left-handed and i must say that, for me, I really do believe being a full lefty (thus, right-brain dominant) affects my cognitive functioning, understanding of the world and influences my (prolific, to the point of driving me mad) creative thoughts/skills.
    I would have loved to know the extent of Peter's left-hand dominance, and how it may have made him think/see differently to others.
    Now that you have mentioned that he was a synesthete, listening to his music now is gonna be very intriguing for me. Bless his mind and soul <3
    The nearest I come to this kind of state, is that music often "paints" a picture in my mind, a scene, that may develop/alter along with the mood and direction of the music itself... is this the case for anyone else?
    The psychology of music (and dance) fascinate me. When we hear music that really speaks to us, associating/creating in us a sense of comfort, euphoria, despair etc... it's ability to tangibly produce emotion, sudden need for spontaneous physical movement (dance) and the sense of wanting others to experience the same... it blows my mind haha
    Another weird thing for me, is that I used to wake up with a song in my head (not happened for ages) I wasn't just thinking it, but like literally hearing the actual recording playing in my head as I woke up. I wonder how common that is...
    Sorry for waffling, I don't post here much, and now you know why haha
    Karla, your pic is absolutely stunning! So too was Mare's the other day... i love everyone's Peter artwork
    Thanks to all fans for their great contributions, and the blog for sharing everything.
    Love and Respect, as always <3

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  15. Very interesting, this probably explains why Peters music touches us so deeply. He obviously wrote his music from such a different place than the usual. What an exceptional man. Love the picture Karla, really beautiful blending. It actually makes me sad...but thats good, it shows the picture has depth and soul to it.

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  16. Wow – this is an interesting subject - for more reasons (Darcie – in my mind also a spark went off when reading this)
    1) For getting an insight to Pete’s mind – it’s clear to see why he was interested also in the subject ‚ how the brain works‘ (if I remember one of your earlier posts with the list of Pete’s interests). For getting an impression how making music was like for him which is truly amazing. It was always clear to me that Pete is briliant with his lyrics and sound structures but to know this (to me new) fact now makes it even more interesting.
    2) For learning about Synesthesia – though I am interested in the subject ‚how the brain works‘ too I cannot remember that I have heard this term before. I also got a good insight to ADD, autism, Asperger syndrome, bi-polarity etc. thru friends that are working with affected people which is very interesting.
    3) For clearing a few things to myself (seeing colors in relation to certain days, months, digits is something I also know from myself) – will check out the site with the test very soon – thx for posting the link. I mean I never made some investigations about it since I thought this could be related to if either the right half or left half of the brain is dominating / used more intensive than the other one …
    I mean I was always more ‚with my head in the clouds‘ – over the years it has changed thru several experiences – I still feel convenient with my head in the clouds but I know now that it is important to stay with my feet on the ground :-)
    4) For asking myself things like: Do I see colors in relation to music ? Yes - I mean I don’t see notes in different colors (learned them all when I was practicing playing the clarinet when I was a child) but in connection with some songs various images arise in my mind like different landscapes, the colors of a sunrise/sunset, the colors on a winter’s day / a day in fall, the ocean, the colors of sky & clouds, the colors of a leave, a green meadow and in accordance to this of course several feelings are being triggered. Okay this might also be conditioned since I am driving a lot in my car and listening to music but if I think back on my childhood and my first impressions by music I can also remember that colors appeared to me in relation to some songs (and this happened long before the MTV era and all these brilliant, high-definition, beautiful drawn videoclips appeared) .
    Thank you for this great blog – you are a very special family.
    Take good care all of you.
    Love, Respect & Peace
    -Sabine-

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  17. Sorry - but I forgot to add: Thank you Karla for this breathtaking art work & beautiful pic. Watching this creates many emotions - as Gayle said ... but that's good, it shows the picture has depth and soul to it.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Much love & respect to all of you
    -Sabine-

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  18. ....@scratchNsniff--That's happened to me quite a few times, though not in a while. I would wake up and hear a song in my head and I thought it was somebody's radio. I remember once, around sunrise one summer morning, I heard an Elvis song in my head (don't remember which one). I thought for sure it was somebody playing the radio. I got up, went to the window, opened the back door, ran all over the house. Nothing. I heard it clear as a bell in my head, so I thought somebody must be playing it somewhere. But it was ONLY in my head. And it faded just like the record would until there was silence. I'm not sure what that's all about either, but it's one of those things that I don't discuss with people. They'll probably think I'm more weird than they already do! :)
    And thanks to Karla for the awesome picture and artwork.
    Love & Gratitude--Patty P

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  19. Very interesting to read, thanks Darcie!
    Took the test and scored in the 1.75 with a score of 1.0 being synesthesiac and a score of 2.0 being non-synesthesiac. I would be very interested to know the percentage of lefty's among Pete's fans and whether or not there is a parallel between lefthandedness and synesthesia. I hadn't known Pete was lefty, but it does make a great deal of sense. Pete was a rarity in so many ways. It must've been quite something to be close to him.
    Population demograpics worldwide: Left-handed males-8%, left-handed females-2%.
    Wonder if being a female lefty has anything to do with my tendency to see music as having 3 dimensional shape rather than color.
    Creativity definitely has an upside and downside. It can be difficult to understand and accept from the viewpoint of those who are creative, but nonetheless true.
    Fascinating reading! Thank you!

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  20. I have an incense that I swear smells blue! If the color blue was to ever have a scent, that would be it! http://liquidblue.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/incense.detail/code/80553/fantasy-incense-crypt-of-souls.html

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  21. I'm not sure if I have synesthesia, but every word has a color. It doesn't matter if I know the meaning of the word, even letters by themselves have colors, though this can be a bit comfusing. For example, "e" is orange, but it's also brown. It depends. "Know" is blue-grey but "knee" is orange. There's a bit of black in "know" too. Some words have one color (like "Monday", which is red OR blue) but most are multi-colored (like "pen", which is white AND brown). It has nothing to do with length.

    I'm a writer, by the way, though I try to avoid picturing the colors of every word I write!

    Stella A. A.

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