Category Archives: Synesthesia

Annual Synesthesia Conference

Because I’m a member of the American Synesthesia Association and love all things synesthetic, I got an email about their annual conference coming up in October.

Funny thing to tell you before I give you the conference details, though. Every day in the shower, I see my organic facial cleanser that proudly proclaims, “no synthetic chemicals — ever!”  And every day I think it says “no synesthetic chemicals — ever!”  Then my mind goes twirling and tripping around, imagining all the possibilities of synesthetic chemicals and I forget to wash my hair.

Yes. Every day.

So, conference details …

This will be our 8th Annual National Conference and will take place October 1 – 3 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. The conference will be hosted by Randolph Blake of the Department of Psychology and Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, as well as by Edward M. Hubbard of the Department of Psychology and Human Development. The following Board Members of the ASA further make the conference possible: Sean Day, Lawrence E. Marks, and Carol Steen. We also thank the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for providing partial support for this year’s meeting.

Additionally, we have the privilege of announcing that our Keynote Speaker will be Dr. Jools Simner, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh.

Conference plans are well underway and we are delighted that we can share them with you now. Please check our website for further information. You will notice that we are being given an unusually low rate at the Hampton Inn Vanderbilt West End — $119/ night + taxes. Group rates are also available at the Embassy Suites Nashville at Vanderbilt — $144.00/ night + tax and a surcharge. Group rates will only be available through August 30, so please make your reservations early.

We look very forward to seeing you in Nashville!

Barbara Beard Stephan, Ph.D.

asamembership@gmail.com

Membership Chair

American Synesthesia Association

Some day I WILL go to this conference, but once again, the dates don’t work out for me. Would you want to go to the American Synesthesia Association conference? Have you gone in the past? Are you going to this one? Would you report back to me?

First Person Synesthesia

This is why synesthesia fascinates me. I LOVE hearing from ‘synnies’ around the world, and I thought I’d share this with you. Read more comments following my blog post What Color is Your Alphabet. (There’s also a synesthesia category on my sidebar with everything I’ve posted about syn if you’re interested.)

Here’s a recent comment I got from a synesthete ….

I have Synesthesia, I have for all my life as far as I can remember.

The first time I can remember being aware of it acutely, rather than subconsciously, was when I was in first grade or kindergarten trying to explain to a friend that 5 is maroon and flat, 50 is darker and deeper in the middle, like a shallow well or wading pool filled with…umm, red; 500 is ripply, and 5,000 is like n undulating wavy ocean made of blood-red velvet–but 2 was gold-ish, 20 was like a yellow fuzzy hill, 200 was like a field, and so on (but not as eloquently, I was about 6 at the time). After a few minutes I gave up on it and dropped the subject.

Then about 10 years later I read ‘A Mango Shaped Space’ and I was completely floored.

I have ‘associative’ Synesthesia — as I’m reading I don’t see them in any different colors, but I’m aware in the back of my head what colors they are, the same way you know what an elephant is, for example-it’s big, it’s a mammal, it has a trunk, and its name is light green-blue.

Numbers and letters also have personalities.

They also have ‘group dynamics’-for example, 8 and 4 don’t work together well because then 3 will get jealous and 5 and 7 and 9 don’t get along well at all. The letters seem to form cliques based on colors-J, K, H, and L are friends-J/K/H are all shades of pink. L is yellow but it likes to hang out with pinks because the other ones closer to its shade-Y and 7 and F-are all kind of elitist. Z and X are also pink, but they’re snobs who would rather do their thing than hang out with those losers farther up in the alphabet. A’s overly friendly and likes to hang out with b, C, and G, but A’s kind of clingy and her friends would rather be left alone.

I wish I had more spacial syn than I do-I know someone who sees concepts as little floating auras that change color and shape depending on what she’s going to do, and grow smaller or larger depending.

I only have time set up in a ring-like a floating belt about a foot from my waist, or a skirt. Whatever time it currently is is at about 11, if you’re standing in the center of the clock and facing 12. They’re in little bands, and every ‘measure’ of time, like an hour or a month, have the same length as all the others in it’s group, but distinct colors. They’re arranged in a band with seconds on top, then hours, days, weeks, months, and so on. Seconds are about a quarter inch thick and all of them are silver/blue, minutes are about an inch thick and turn darker and redder the farther they get from 6 AM, then hours all have tints and are about 3 inches thick, days are about a foot thick and colored distinctly, and years are about 4 inches and the color changes with the year but I only see 1 year at once. They tick like the second hand of a clock. They’re not always there but when I think about the time it’s always like that.

Isn’t that a remarkable way to experience life? Are you synesthetic? Know anyone who is? Wish you were?

What Happens When YOU Poke A Pomegranate?

I wish I wish I wish I was synesthetic. For those of you who haven’t heard me yak about it incessantly, it’s a condition where your senses get crossed. Like if you saw music or tasted emotions. There are a zillion ways to be syn, however. All equally fascinating. Look in my sidebar and archives for more info about it.

Here’s a weirdly fun video illustration of synesthesia by Terri Timely.

This is one of the comments afterward ….

“Did you see all three S’s at the beginning? Most likely all you saw was a screen of 5’s. I see fives as the colour blue and my S’s are a pale orange. I detected the S’s before they appeared highlighted in yellow. Some people taste words, and hear colour.”

I admit I had to go back and see what they were talking about. Clearly, my senses are boring!

If you are synesthetic, please email me at AmpersandPress (at) aol (dot) com. Put “Synesthesia” in the subject line. I want you in my posse. My work-in-progress deals with syn and I want to hear lots of syn stories.

If you’re not synesthetic, what do you think about this movie?

The Taste of Music

The yummy Professor Funk illustrates — to his great peril — what it’s like to have a form of synesthesia where you taste music.

For those of you new to BeckyLand or for those of you who ignore me when I start talking about synesthesia … you know who you are … synesthesia is a mixing up of your senses. Like tasting music or seeing a colored alphabet. If you want more info about the fascinating world of synesthesia, there’s a link under Stuff to Learn in my sidebar (which sounds painful but isn’t really) and just below it, some other BeckyLand posts about synesthesia.

But today you can watch how The Imperial March from Star Wars tastes.

WOW! That’s a great synesthetic sentence!

What song would you like to taste? If you make a YouTube video of your own Taste of Music, I will be honored (I think) to post it here. Just send me the link!

This Is Only A Test

My email subscription service, Feedburner, has recently been bought by Google. Now, of course, I’m having problems with it. It seems it’s not advising my subscribers of new posts. Since I post every weekday, this is quite annoying. I’ve done a couple of things in there to see if it might be a quick fix. If not, I’ll have to go all Becky on them.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

If it doesn’t get fixed, I guess my only other option is to hand-deliver a postcard reminder to you. Maybe with a picture of a cute kitty.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that either.

Things I’ve Never Done

I’ve been hearing a lot about New Year’s Resolutions lately. In fact, I even wrote some of my own.

But recently I was reading the little note from the editor at the beginning of a magazine, and she wrote that she makes a list every January of “Things I’ve Never Done.”

So guess what I did?

Here’s my list of Things I’ve Never Done:

• Poked my eye out with a hanger
• Cleared a HazMat site
• Wore a mink bikini
• Lifted a Volkswagen over my head
• Held my breath till my lungs exploded

But as I re-read my list, it occurred to me that the editor I stole this idea from probably WANTS to do the stuff on her list.

So here’s my revised list of Things I’ve Never Done That I’d LIKE To Do:

• Go an entire day without saying, “Just DO it, okay?? Geez!”
• Eat a block of cheese without one pang of guilt
Cheerfully clean my house
• Get my house cleaned by cheerful people
• Write a manuscript that doesn’t need revising
• Be a synesthetic tuba player

What’s on your list?

Letterman Looks Like #117

I read an interview in New Scientist with Daniel Tammet, a 29-year-old British man. He’s synesthetic, mildly autistic, speaks 11 languages (he learned Icelandic in a week!) and can remember pi out beyond 22,000 digits.

Being mathfully challenged myself, I was fascinated by the way he describes his relationship with numbers. It’s very intuitive to him, much like language is intuitive to most of the rest of us. He explains that we don’t see one word — we see a web of connected words. Like to understand the word ‘giraffe,’ we need to understand its relationship to ‘neck’ or ‘tall’ or ‘animal.’ And that’s how he sees interconnections and patterns with numbers.

He talks about his synesthesia in a way I love. He says all of his numbers have a texture, which immediately allows him to group, for instance, all the lumpy numbers together into their webs and patterns.

He says, “For me, the ideal lumpy number is 37. It’s like porridge. So 111, a very pretty number, which is 3 times 37, is lumpy but it is also round. It takes on the properties of both 37 and 3, which is round. It’s an intuitive and visual way of doing maths and thinking about numbers.”

Isn’t that great?

He attributes his ability to learn languages to his synesthesia too, in the same sort of way — seeing the interconnectedness of words.

In 2005, he talked to David Letterman about his recitation for charity of the 22,000+ digits of pi and his synesthesia. He tells Dave he looks like the number 117 — “handsome, tall, lanky, and a little bit wobbly.”

He’s written a couple of books, too. The newest is “Embracing the Wide Sky – A Tour Across the Horizons of the Human Mind” and a memoir, “Born on a Blue Day,” both available on Amazon. (Yay! Just in time for my birthday!)

tammets-new-booktammet-born-on-a-blue-day

Read the rest of the New Scientist interview here.

Are any of your numbers lumpy?

What Color Is Your Alphabet?

Synesthesia fascinates me.

Anesthesia means ‘no sensation.’ Good for when you need dental surgery.

Synesthesia means ‘joined or multiple sensation.’ Good for making your world incredibly colorful and unique. (I’m jealous I’m not synesthetic. Can you tell?)

It’s involuntary. It simply IS … just like your senses. There are many ways it manifests itself … people taste words or they feel them or they see them, rather than just hearing them.

The most common form of synesthesia is seeing letters and numbers in color. Everyone’s alphabet is different — rarely do two synesthetes agree on the color of letter B, for example.

This is a representation of Juliet’s alphabet:

Here is Evelyne’s alphabet …

Here is Nadja’s …

Here is Channing’s …

And here is Corinna’s …

Researchers think about 1 in 200 people have some form of synesthesia. Many don’t realize the rest of the world doesn’t see colored words or taste shapes until they get to be adults. In researching for my novel, it seems folks fall into one of two camps. When they’re very young and learning their letters, they’ll say something like, “Q is my favorite letter because it’s the most beautiful green color.” Their friend will stare at them and say, “You’re weird.”

In the second group, it’s never come up before and as adults they’ll say something like, “Thanks for the perfume. It smells so purple.” And their friend will stare at them and say, “You’re weird.”

If they’re very lucky, their friend — young or old — will argue with them. “Nuh uh … it totally smells red” or “Q isn’t green … it’s brown with white dots!”

For the majority of synesthetes, especially when they’re young, if they mention their syn and get teased about it, they’ll never mention it again. I heard from both groups in my chats with synesthetes from around the world.

Some synesthetes have enhanced spacial awareness and move through their day as if moving around a huge gauzy clock. Some have colored days of the week, but some explain it like their weekly calendar is three dimensional as they move through it. This is how Josette describes her week:

In February 2001 Smithsonian Magazine had an article about synesthesia — “For Some, Pain Is Orange” by Susan Hornik and it knocked around my head for years until I figured out what to do with it. I had also been noodling over setting some mysteries in the wonderful world of marching band, and the two ideas finally collided to create my main character, Dash, who is 16 and plays the tuba. He sees colored music and tastes emotion.

You’ve listened to music that makes you feel happy or sad, or it brings to mind a gritty city or a day in the country, but when some synesthetes hear a tune, it has shape and color and movement, too. This is how Malcolm sees the Bach Toccata:

Cool, eh?

Do you think you’re synesthetic? Take The Synesthesia Battery.

If you ARE synesthetic, I want to hear all your syn stories. Every. Single. One.
If you’re NOT synesthetic, what do you want to know about it? Do you know anyone who is syn? What do you think about it? Are you jealous too?