the colour of taste

so, this whole chain of thought started with no, not a blue strawberry but some cheese I bought the other day - one of my current favourite suppers being a salad made with delicious salady-type-leaves (watercress, or young spinach, or some kind of crunchy lettuce), cheese, pear, beetroot, walnuts and gallons of salad dressing. . . and the cheese I like in this salad is the following, the strapline of which is a bit odd. .
"rich blue taste"
see what I mean? YUK!
I remember an episode of Tomorrow's World from many many years back (I know, I know, the phrase "more than I care to remember" comes to mind. . .) about how we're conditioned not to go for blue food. . .
(which reminded me of my mother's icing colouring set. . .
such sweet little bottles)

and that made me think, "what would green taste like?" which for some reason reminded me of the Girl Guide's favourite, swarfega:
(in which case,
green would taste TOTALLY vile)
anyhoo, so all of that kind of got me thinking about synesthesia. . .

you know, where one's senses are linked in unusual ways. . . such that letters have a colour, words can have a smell, music can taste. . .
ok, perhaps we'll go with a more scientificky explanation here: "synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway" (still with me?) (up for some more of the scientificky stuff?)

where anesthesia means “no sensation”, synesthesia means “joined sensation” (Greek syn = together, + aisthesis = perception) (I put that bit in for Christopher and Z and Dave); two or more senses are coupled such that a voice, for example, is not only heard, but also felt, seen, or tasted; individuals who experience these “joined sensations” are called synesthetes. . .
one might think that this is confusing for a person, but synesthetes are never confused - for them, perceptual elements combine without losing their individual qualities

idiopathic (or developmental) synesthesia arises naturally, with no influence from an external agent and no brain abnormality - so, medically speaking, there is nothing to "treat"; some scientists think that synesthesia may actually be a normal brain process that simply fails to reach consciousness in most individuals. . .

five clinical features define idiopathic synesthesia, being that it is: (1) involuntary and automatic, (2) spatially extended, (3) durable and generic, (4) memorable, and (5) affect-laden (ooh! this is taking me back to my not-quite PhD days!!)

there are many many different types of synesthesia, and it goes beyond a simple combination of senses

out of 365 synesthetes, a study found that 66.8% experienced coloured graphemes (a language's written units: letters/numbers) - but only 9.6% coloured phonemes. . . (see, the Speech Scientist in me does wonder why there isn't a greater phoneme issue, I mean a written "s" can sound like a spoken "z", and what about the combination of "t+h" which equals two different pronunciations of "th" [confused? think about the different ways you can pronounce "the"]; which brings to mind the science of linguistics and psycholinguistics, but that's a whole other kettle of fish)
anyhoo, back to the colour of letters and numbers. . . not every synesthete will see the same colour. . .

66.8% experienced coloured time units, including: hours in a day. . .
days in a week:

months in a year. . .

coloured musical sounds affected 14.5% and coloured musical notes 10.4%. . .

the stats go on and on about all the various combinations: coloured general sounds, 12.1%; coloured personalities, 4.4%; coloured tastes (which is what got me started in all this!) 6.3%; coloured pain (ouch!) 4.4%; colored odours, 5.8%; coloured temperature, 2.2%; coloured touch, 1.9%; sound to touch, 2.7%; sound to taste, 2.7%; sound to smell, 1.1%; sound to temperature, 0.5%; taste to hearing, 0.3%; taste to touch, 1.1%; touch to taste, 0.5%, touch to smell, 0.3%; touch to hearing, 0.5%; vision to taste, 1.9%; vision to hearing, 1.1%; vision to smell, 1.1%; vision to touch, 0.8%; smell to sound, 0.3%; smell to touch, 1.1%. . .

can you image if someone's touch smelt like grilled kippers. . . or the smell of vanilla sounded like a kettle drum. . . or the sound of a guitar riff was cold. . . a great cup of coffee makes me smile - but I don't think I'm a synesthete!

this is one lecture I'd liked to have gone to:


Dave said...

Lots of things I like are red. Oh, and green. Nice gentle classical music is green.

I, Like The View said...

I can see how Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending would be green (and blue, a mid summer sky), but are all of Vivaldi's Seasons green for you? and what about Rimsky Korsakov's Sheherazade. . . for me that would be blues/purples/sparkly and glittery

(and red reminds me that I still have two as-yet-unmade- cushions here for you. . .)

Dave said...

Ah, but those pieces aren't entirely gentle, are they?

I only said that because I was playing some Mozart Cds whilst sat indoors trapped by the snow.

Christopher said...

Now this is very interesting. I think the colour/musical notes may need to involve pitch, because I think it's unlikely that a significant number would assign the same colour to, say, the note A (green in your diagram) at 32cps as 440cps (standard pitch) or 4400cps. On the other hand synaesthesists - or synaesthetes, a higher form of hedonists - might well assign consistent colouring or taste (bitter....sweet) to the different keys represented by the full octave in your diagram. Some composers certainly felt individual keys had a definite colour, G and A (interestingly) being green for Mozart, B flat minor being purple for Beethoven, if I remember right. Then there's the question of the modes - major and minor, tho' there are several others that we hardly ever hear today but which the early church used extensively, my own Lydian among them. I think you should undertake an extensive study of the correlation between keys, modes, cheese (our favourite blue is Roquefort) and coffee and for a little spice throw in erogenous zones.

Mel said...

*pulls up a comfy chair to absorb all the information*


Mel said...

Here's a llama, there's a llama and another little llama; fuzzy llama; funny llama; llama llama; duck; llama llama; cheesecake; llama; tablet; brick; potato; llama; llama llama; mushroom; llama llama llama; duck...lalala

(k.....might not absorb so well if I'm humming the llama llama duck song.....) (sorry!)

dinahmow said...

So....what colour is a llama song?
I like Christopher's response, but then I'm one of the "weird" folk who see music and numbers in colour.The chart for coloured months is reversed for me, probably because I associate cool-warm colours with southern hemisphere seasons.
We should get Ziggi to tell us more about her psychedelic dreams when she was in the hospital. There must be a goldmine of stuff in her head!

Christopher said...

Toodle llama llama
Toodle llama llama
Toodle aye-eh:
Any umberellas
Any umberellas
To fix today?

He'll fix your umbrella
And go on his way,
Toodle llama llama
Toodle llama llama...

or something like that. But nobody sings The Umbrella Man now. It ought to have had starred in the The Singing Detective (we saw the bill briefly in the Pantomime) but I believe copyright restrictions prevented it.

Mel said...

Uh oh.

That mighta been the songsheets the penguin ate? Wild guess.

Shoulda been Toodle penguin penguin maybe....

Mel said...

But--it wasn't, so......

Here's a llama, there's a llama and another little llama; fuzzy llama; funny llama; llama llama; duck; llama llama; cheesecake; llama; tablet; brick; potato; llama; llama llama; mushroom; llama llama llama; duck...lalala


I, Like The View said...

Mel you're making Mini-Teen very very happy!

Christopher do you know, I am gutted because I bought The Singing Detective soundtrack on tape (more years ago now than I care to etc etc) and tried in vain to find it on CD (since I no longer have my original Sony Walkman tape player). . . and couldn't - but that was a number of years ago now, so perhaps I'll try again. . .

one day I will tell you the tale of my original Sony Walkman (or Walkwoman, in my case)

in the meantime, you've inspired me to start humming a new tune (not the lllllllamamamamamamam one)

dinah I'd imagine it to be a kind of cool grass green, with flashes of bright blue and perhaps some oatmeal - but, if you're one of those - not weird, but gifted! - people, perhaps you might tell me!

ZigZ's dreamlike state was a bit odd, poor thing. . . hopefully she's recovering

Mel step away from the lalalalalalllllllamamamam!!

Christopher I borrowed that image from a musical synesthete. . . I'm sure it's a very personal thing

I was trying to teach Mini-Teen (12) notes and chords on a keyboard yesterday (one of those tiny portable ones, with lots of buttons for percussive options) and realised that I've done her a great disfavour by not having her learn piano from the age of 7 with an hour's practice as I was

however, I'll happily persue research into cheese, coffee and spice (but possibly/probably not all mixed up together)

Dave ah! yes. . . now I understand. . . and now I'm humming one of my favourite pieces of music, which I haven't thought of for a long time - not Mozart, but thank you anyhow

Mel said...

Oh nooooooo no no noooooooo--Mini Teen has made ME a happy woman.

Everyone around me, however, is laughing and sending me away--but that's okay with me!

Cuz....Here's a llama, there's a llama and another little llama; fuzzy llama; funny llama; llama llama; duck; llama llama; cheesecake; llama; tablet; brick; potato; llama; llama llama; mushroom; llama llama llama; duck... JUST about have the first part down pat!

Only several more parts to go! hahahahahahahaha!!

mig said...

Coffee's nice with a touch of cardamon.

I used to hear music at the back of my throat and on my tongue. (As well as in my ears that is).
And sometimes it's shades of black and white and sometimes it's coloured.

I, Like The View said...

mig really?? (coffee with cardamon. . . I like whole pods in curries, but in coffee. . . perhaps I'll try it one day)

really!! (so, you're a synesthete then!)

Mel keep working on it. . . could be a good crowd control device!