When we were born, our senses intermingle and we experience a synesthetic confusion. We see as we hear, as we taste, as we feel – altogether a kaleidoscopic experience. Most of us grow to gain independent, separate senses in order to make sense of the world around us. A rare group of people sustain the cross-activation of senses past the first months of birth.
They may perceive letters as having their own colours, colours as having their own smell and music having its own taste. Some even perceive days with topography such as Tuesday with a terrain ascending and turning to the right. Some are enveloped in different forms of light, like seeing little circles or vertical bars getting brighter and whiter with higher pitches of music.
Jacques Lesseyran recounts beautifully and tragically after his loss of sight:
I had no sooner made a sound on the A string, or D or G or C, then I no longer heard it. I looked at it. Tones, chords, melodies, rhythms, each was immediately transformed into pictures, curves, lines, shapes, landscapes, and most of all colours… At concerts, for me, the orchestra was like a painter. It flooded me with all the colours of the rainbow. If the violin came in by itself, I was suddenly filled with gold and fire, and with red so bright that I could not remember having seen it on any object. When it was the oboe’s turn, a clear green ran all through me, so cool that I seemed to feel the breath of night…I saw music too much to be able to speak its language.
It is remarkable how some can be so different and live so differently, silently in our midst. Do we want to experience life as they do? How interesting it will be to taste and see music!