The Hidden Sense

Synesthesia in Art and Science

What is does it mean to hear music in colors, to taste voices, to see each letter of the alphabet as a different color? These uncommon sensory experiences are examples of synesthesia, when two or more senses cooperate in perception. Once dismissed as imagination or delusion, metaphor or drug-induced hallucination, the experience of synesthesia has now been documented by scans of synesthetes' brains that show "crosstalk" between areas of the brain that do not normally communicate. In The Hidden Sense, Cretien van Campen explores synesthesia from both artistic and scientific perspectives, looking at accounts of individual experiences, examples of synesthesia in visual art, music, and literature, and recent neurological research.

Van Campen reports that some studies define synesthesia as a brain impairment, a short circuit between two different areas. But synesthetes cannot imagine perceiving in any other way; many claim that synesthesia helps them in daily life. Van Campen investigates just what the function of synesthesia might be and what it might tell us about our own sensory perceptions. He examines the experiences of individual synesthetes—from Patrick, who sees music as images and finds the most beautiful ones spring from the music of Prince, to the schoolgirl Sylvia, who is surprised to learn that not everyone sees the alphabet in colors as she does. And he finds suggestions of synesthesia in the work of Scriabin, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Nabokov, Poe, and Baudelaire. What is synesthesia? It is not, van Campen concludes, an audiovisual performance, a literary technique, an artistic trend, or a metaphor. It is, perhaps, our hidden sense—a way to think visually; a key to our own sensitivity.

Table of Contents

  1. Contents
  2. Series Foreward
  3. Acknowledgements
  4. 1. Introduction
  5. I. Perception
  6. 2. Music Video Clip without TV
  7. 3. Children Draw Music
  8. 4. Visual Music
  9. II. Thought
  10. 5. Calculating in Colors
  11. 6. Poetic Synesthesia
  12. 7. Exploring Drug-Induced Synesthesia
  13. III. Insight
  14. 8. A Colored Brain?
  15. 9. Dark Double Bass and Purple Piano
  16. 10. The Hidden Sense
  17. Bibliography
  18. Name Index
  19. Subject Index