Synaesthesia Magazine Cities - Page 44


Interview with a Synaesthete...

Rachael Spellman

What form of synaesthesia do you have?

I have chromaesthesia, or coloured hearing. Shapes and patterns appear, usually relative to the pitch and tone of a piece of music, or the vocal range of a singer. It tends to differ with the life experience and age of the latter. I can be listening to Leonard Cohen at the start of his career, when his voice was at its most mellow and appears as honey ripples, a stream through my mind; then more recent recordings will show it as jagged brown shapes, like a mountain range, where his voice has deepened and cracked with use over the years.

Do you have any frustrations about your form of synaesthesia?

Occasionally, a well-nuanced piece of music - usually orchestral - will overwhelm my mind with intertwining harmonies, and the variety of instruments used. Each instrument, and its sound, creates a different pattern and colour; it’s the equivalent of having a kaleidoscope for your mind, and someone giving it a good twist. Shapes jag and fracture, colours jumble about. It isn’t painful, but it can be disorientating. It was enough to throw me off balance, once, when I was a child and performing at a show with my local ballet troupe. We were accompanied by a live orchestra; though it was small, the collision of sounds and relative colours were enough to make me miss a few steps.

Are there any daily patterns to your synaesthesia? Is there one particular daily activity which sparks a synaesthetic response?

I’m almost always plugged into my iPod. Music plays a large part in my life, for entertainment and a pick-me-up when tired. I find that towards the start of the day, colours and shapes appear more vividly, like muscles that are fresh before a workout. But by the end of the day, colours appear dulled, corners are rounded off and the shapes tend to get a bit skewed.

my mind,

'it’s the equivalent of having a kaleidoscope for your mind'

Rachael Spellman is a synaesthete – a synaesthete who writes. In her interview, she reveals some of her secrets as a synaesthetic writer; the ups, downs and sensory pandemonium.