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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000294.txt from 2005/04

From: Tom Flavel <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Synesthesia
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 13:27:06 -0400

On 18/04/2005 12:20:35, wrote:
> Synesthesia is neurological condition that causes some people to
> perceive sounds as colors. There is a suggestion in the story that
> infants must learn to distinguish their different senses, that we all
> once perceived a gaggle of feeling, including colored sounds. I am NOT
> suggesting a strong link between this and the 'dark' - 'bright'
> discussion. But it's interesting.

To learn consciously, or develop naturally without intervention?

> For background, I have been reading the discussions on this list for
> years, and I understand that the word 'dark' is used so often and used
> so imprecisely that it loses usefulness. But it does have some meaning
> to me, as does 'bright'' and you may hear me use those words sometimes.
> (Interestingly to me, that other word, 'warm', has no connotation to me
> as to timbre, but rather seems vaguely like a mood. I'll never say
> "warm, dark tone".)

There was a documentary on synathesia which gave the thoughts of one
researcher - he was saying that this *is* the origin of language itself.
That (for example) physically round objects tend to have "round"-sounding
shapes, or something similar.

He suggests that everybody has these associations at some level, even if
not as obvious as synathesiates.

He gave a quick example of a spiked piece of card and a rounded piece of
card, and asked people which one was "booboo" and which was "kiki".
Something like 98% of people said "kiki" was the spiked one.

He (and I forget his name) speculated a couple of reasons as to why this
may have arisen, such as the physical shape the mouth and lips make when
producing sounds, as an analogue of the shape of whatever object is
being described.

Another example is music (uh oh) - If you ask people to plot frequency
against colour, the overwhelming majority of people settle on higher
frequencies being lighter in colour. (For the record, I believe this is
not what people mean when they describe tones as dark)
Now, synasthenetic mappings appear to be mostly random, *except* that,
generally, they happen to correlelate with this trend. Within each
individual person there are variations and exceptions, of course, but
that's generally how the spectrum falls.

As for me, my mapping is of sound to touch: I feel sound, as if my skin
were being brushed against or sucked, or so on. That is exactly the
reason why I turned to the clarinet: it is the *only* instrument which
can stimulate two entirley unrelated areas of skin.

Most instruments stick to oen region, and are rather predictable. The
clarinet, however, can "switch modes" (and this is nothing to do with
changing register by going over the break: it's simply the tone change -
and saxophones dont have it, either. Nor do oboes, for that matter)

Hence, for me, I'd classify clarinet *styles* (one instrument can be
played in both styles, assuming it's a decent instrument) as "arms and
shoulders" vs "around the waist".
Makes more sense to me than calling them "light" and "dark"...

I'd be interested to hear if any other synathesiates on the list
(whatever their mapping happens to be) have an equivalent duality, and
if for them any other instruments exhibit dual regions (colours, tastes,
shape, location, whatever)


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