Synaesthesia Magazine Cities - Page 45

Can you recall the strangest synaesthetic experience you have encountered so far?

The strangest – and most wonderful - experience to date was when a boy serenaded me back in school. His voice was breaking, and it went mid-song. I actually saw it change colour and shape in my mind, but felt so bad for him that I didn’t mention it. I don’t think he’d have got it anyway.

It was only later that I remembered the sensation of his light-honey coloured voice deepening to cinnamon; the “stream” of his voice wavering and bending. It’s not a conscious sight, more a feeling that the stream is there, and I felt the places that it “blipped”, like a BP line.

We're interested in your response to the city and its attack on the senses; can you recall a moment where you ever felt overwhelmed by a city's sights, sounds and smells?

When standing on the high street of my city, the combination of sound/colours is often disorientating enough that I have to wait several seconds before crossing the road. The ping of lights, brakes screeching, voices, all make up my daily metropolis environment. That’s even before we get onto the range of vehicle noises, usually patterned as flumes and coils.

The smells are a thick swatch rammed under the nose – sharp fumes like blades in the throat, soft perfume from the local flower stall, rich coffee and lemon-sweet tea from the cafes. It’s a multi-sensory experience, the urban equivalent of stepping out into a great prairie full of open sky, thunder and flowers.

What do you think draws writers to the city?

Cities are a never-ending source of inspiration. You only have to walk five minutes down the road to have experienced something new; the face of a city is always changing. Nothing stays static with humans around. There’s a wealth of sensory triggers for descriptive scenery, and the constant flux of people either travelling to, from or through a city’s streets, makes for a carnival of characters to use in fiction. Because of this unpredictability, cities are great for opening a writer’s mind to new concepts and ideas. Whenever I’m suffering mental block, I’ll take a trip out onto the city streets to wake my creativity up. Metaphors always find a home in me while out and about; juxtaposing one sense-trigger with another at the speed they appear.

As a writer, have you ever found that your experience of synaesthesia hinders your writing?

Only while listening to music of the wrong tone for a particular piece of writing. Then the colour/shape contrasts might not suit the mood I’m trying to evoke. If I’m writing a character “warm” with intensity, but the backing song is too “cool” in its colours, the written effect becomes muted. A character’s dialogue won’t flow with the same intentions I hear in my mind; an action may become blunted, or sharpened beyond requirements.

Have you ever found that synaesthesia has helped your writing?

For the most part, synaesthesia only ever enhances my writing. It’s a joy to have, particularly where the use of metaphor and simile are involved. I use the colours and shapes projected to create entire soundscapes in which my writing lives. A concept may come alive by association – a cloudy sky full of nimbus becomes a “gunmetal” sky, with its connotations of not only dark colouration but danger. Sentence structures can be simplified by the use of a synaesthetic metaphor, something we often use everyday without thinking about it, such as a “dark” mood, feeling “blue” or indeed, as Holly Golightly described having, “the mean reds.”

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What's your favourite city?

London will always be my favourite city. From when I was twelve years old and first read a description of it in a children’s book, as a thin blue haze on the horizon, it’s entranced my senses. I look forward to every experience of walking its varied streets, full of old architecture painted over with modern faces. There’s so much grit and grime, beauty and elegance about a city that has muddled itself together over a layer of centuries, with much future still ahead of it. The people that walk its streets are as blood through the veins, conveying messages and stories of their own. Standing in the middle of them is like listening to the whirling wind through conifers. I always come away from the Big Smoke feeling as though I’ve gained another facet of its personality, no matter how bright or how grim. It’s always a learning curve, an experience. Every sensory-perception adds a layer, which, over time, becomes familiar, such as the sharp elbow of cold air that always seems to lance up Euston road towards the station, ready to jab a traveller in the eye the moment they step out of St Pancras station.

The real inspirational point about London is that no one borough is the same as another. This makes for great juxtapositions of identity and imagery, all nestled up to one another and ready for a wandering writer to stumble upon them.

'The ping of lights, brakes screeching, voices, all make up my daily metropolis' environment.'

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