Sonorous Chromatics

Guest Post by PARMA Intern Alycia B.

What do Franz Liszt, Geoffrey Rush, Pythagoras and Jimi Hendrix all have in common?

Click “Read More” to find out!

This seems like the perfect opportunity to insert a corny joke; alas, there’s no joke. All of these men are synesthetes. In other words, they all “suffer” from synesthesia. Synesthesia is when a person associates stimulation, such as sight, with another perception, such as color. For example, it is very common for synesthetes to associate colors with the alphabet. The letter “a” could be blue for one person, but it could also be pink for a different person.

Geoffrey Rush’s experience with synesthesia involves associating colors with days of the week.

Pythagoras associated numbers with emotions and personalities.

Jimi Hendrix and Franz Liszt perceive sound with colors. With music, it seems that specific notes may have colors for some, while others experience colors when they listen to certain keys of music. Jimi Hendrix saw/heard a specific chord as the color purple – the chord known as the Hendrix chord, the same one used in abundance in “Purple Haze.” Once Franz Liszt had begun composing, he would instruct orchestras to play sections “a little more blue” or he might ask them to play tones in a “deep violet, and not so rose!” 

Other well-known musicians with synesthesia include Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Mozart, Itzhak Perlman, Tori Amos, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Patrick Stump (of Fall Out Boy), and even Eddie Van Halen.

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