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"Synesthesia," a Short Film

Posted by Josh Rothman  May 17, 2011 06:52 AM

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Jason Kottke reminded me of this old-but-great short film, "Synesthesia," by the music-vide-directing duo Terri Timely (Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey).

Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which your sensory circuits are connected: numbers might have colors associated with them, tastes might have words, sounds might have textures. Experiences in one sense modality borrow the qualities of other modalities. This wacky little film gives you an (exaggerated, Japanese) idea of what it's like. Famous synesthetes includes Vladimir Nabokov (colored letters), Olivier Messiaen (colored chords), Richard Feynman (colored equations), and David Hockney (colored, geometric musical notes).

Nabokov, from his memoir, Speak, Memory:

The long ‘a’ of the English alphabet... has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French 'a' evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard ‘g’ (vulcanized rubber) and ‘r’ (a sooty rag being ripped). Oatmeal ‘n’, noodle-limp ‘l’, and the ivory-backed hand-mirror of ‘o’ take care of the white.... Passing on to the blue group, there is steely ‘x’, thundercloud ‘z’ and huckleberry ‘h’. Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape, I see ‘q’ as browner than ‘k’, while ‘s’ is not the light blue of ‘c’, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl.
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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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