Less Known Science : Seeing Music, Tasting Color and Painting Like A Child

How would it be if we can see music? Or taste colors? Or touch emotions?

Our senses generally functions separately. The fragrance/voice of your loved one can lighten and brighten you up. We can see a flower bloom and perceive the ripeness of a fruit by its color, hear the sound of danger. Every sense has its own characteristics and functions independently, but there are few for whom these bodily senses are merged.
Franz Liszt, a Hungarian pianist, composer and conductor, was well renowned in Europe during the early nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was considered to be the most technically advanced pianist by his contemporaries.

Franz Liszt

When Liszt first began as Kapellmeister (Conductor) in Weimar (1842), it astonished the orchestra that he said,

“O please, gentlemen, a little bluer, if you please! This tone type requires it!”

Or sometimes….

“That is a deep violet, please, depend on it! Not so rose!”

First the orchestra believed Liszt was just joking but later they got accustomed to the fact that the great musician saw colours where to others there were only tones.

Arthur Rimbaud, a famous and mysterious French poet in his sonnet “Vowels” assigned color to each vowel:

A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins!



Mysterious, because he started writing poems at a very young age, while still in primary school, and stopped completely before he turned 21. He was mostly creative in his teens (17-20).

“His genius, its flowering, explosion and sudden extinction, still astonishes” (quote in wiki)

They are just a couple of examples of great masters in whom the bodily senses tend to overlap .There are many others who walk among us with similar capabilities.


A study from the University of California, San Diego, suggests infants perceive the world differently than adults. For them, the senses are joined.

The authors of the study, Katie Wagner and Karen R. Dobkins, observe that early childhood development is characterized by “a period of exuberant neural connectivity” that may facilitate “arbitrary sensory experiences in infants that are unlike anything experienced by typical adults.” These experiences are similar to the condition found in some adults that is known as Synesthesia, a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are merged.
Famous neuroscientist,Dr. V.S. Ramachandran , in his book,The Tell Tale Brain, writes that these so-called synesthetes live in a wonderland between reality and fantasy. They taste colors, see sounds, hear shapes, and touch emotions in myriad combinations. He also goes a step further and argues that we are all Synesthetes .The use of metaphors like ‘feeling green’  ‘Hot Babe’, ‘Flat Soda’,  and our ability to understand and deliver pun and seeing art as analogy for  work of nature is the basis of all creative thought. This leaves us wondering if great masters and artists and poets are all in a way synesthetic?


Pablo Picasso once said,

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”

Picasso understood the richness that lies in synesthetic perception which is nothing like the ordinary. It takes something very special to be that, something that would make you a master not because you have perfected an art, but because you have learnt to be one with reality. You have learnt be like a child, like a synesthetic .



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