Color My World: A Study of Synaesthesia's Occurrence in Musicians

Lindsay A. Baranowski


Synaesthesia is a condition characterized by the occurrence of a stimulus in one sensory modality that automatically triggers a perceptual experience in another. For example, when a person hears a sound, they immediately see a color. Contrived association is the conscious or logical association of two senses. While contrived association can be controlled and influenced by individual perception, Synaesthesia is an involuntary, passive experience that happens to someone. Because synaesthetic reactions are completely subjective, there is no way to definitively conclude that an individual has a genuine reaction. Perceptual experiences in sensory modalities play a large role in the performing arts, specifically in music. In order to communicate an artistic idea, musicians often rely on contrived association. Visualizing a picture while performing a piece of music is an example of contrived association however, visualization cannot be characterized as a synaesthetic response because the individual controls the image. Through investigation of synaesthetic tendencies and interviews with synaesthetes, contrived association, that is to say a logical association of two sensory perceptions, is influenced by teachings and learned behavior. This influence of learned behavior leads to false positives when testing for synaesthetic reactions and can be responsible for a higher occurrence of Synaesthesia in artists today.


Synaesthesia, Contrived Association, Performing Arts

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