Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

CHAT: Synesthesia and conlanging (was Re: The Conlang Instinct)

From:Daniel Seriff <microtonal@...>
Date:Thursday, December 2, 1999, 5:27
Gerald Koenig wrote:

Speaking of synesthetes, I've recently discovered myself to have a
slight tendency towards synesthesia. I associate musical keys with
colors and emotions. It doesn't happen with individual pitches; for
example, when I hear the pitch D (alone), I don't see dark green or feel
a certain emotion, but when I hear the key of D major or D minor, I
usually have a strong impression of the music being "painted" on a dark
green background. A work like Beethoven's 9th symphony (D minor) or
Dvorak's 7th symphony (also D minor) give me a strong impression of deep
dark forest green, almost black, lurking in the background. The Brahms
Violin Concerto (D major) has a strong, vibrant green behind it, like
St. Patty's day colors. Here are the rest of the colors I see:

C major: yellow                         A minor: red/
F major: grayish-blue   *               D minor: dark black-green/
Bb major: gray/                         G minor: neutral (beige or taupe)*
Eb major: light blue/                   C minor: bluish-white
Ab major: pinkish-red                   F minor: washed-out purple
Db major: very light green/     Bb minor: greenish-grey
Gb major: light green*          Eb minor: dark grey-blue-green
B major: orange or black                G# minor: orangey black
E major: dark blue/                     C# minor: true black/
A major: fire engine red/               F# minor: dark purplish-red*
D major: bright green/          B minor: dark bluish-green*
G major: orange                         E minor: dark black-blue

The ones that are starred are keys for which my color perception isn't
particularly strong. The ones that are slashed are very strong perceptions.

I even get color senses for certain works that don't adhere to diatonic
harmony (the key system). A lot of Alexander Scriabin's music gives me
strong color impressions, especially his later works that are based
around a non-diatonic chord called the "Prometheus" chord (because it
came from his work called "Prometheus"). Arnold Schoenberg's and Alban
Berg's music does it to me, too.

From talking to all of my musician friends, it seems that this kind of
association is very rare among musicians. I can only think of 2
composers who were synesthetes (Alexander Scriabin and Nikolai
Rimsky-Korsakov). I've actually had people tell me that I was flat-out
wrong, that this kind of association was impossible. Little do they know.

> Now, does anyone see the need for a personal gender system here? I > wonder how Pat Duffy would like seeing a year as a single long vector, > or 12 month-vectors head to tail, as in my vector tense grammar? Can > natlang grammar do violence to the mind of a conlanger? Do language > universals work for conlangers, or are they a secondary layer as > suggested in a way by Ed Heil to me. Are conlangers langesthetes? Are > our internal perceptions of language non-standard yet fully functional?
I think I've always had a kind of "analytical" perception of language, even when I was very young. I would find myself deconstructing words in my mind, trying to figure out what my mouth was doing, and what my brain was doing. Then I'd move on into the question "How did these sounds get strung together and associated with this particular concept or object?" In other words, I'd find myself wondering about the etymology of words, especially ones like my name (Daniel), and things like "harmonica" and "bagel". I think this ability to break down words and sentences into the smallest possible segments is what got me really interested in language pretty early on.
> Abnormally yours, > > ---------------------------------------------------------------------- > Jerry | Without careful communication > Gerald Lea Koenig | jlkatnetcomdotcom There is boundless demonization. > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
-- Dan Seriff <microtonal@...> "Mozart is just God's way of making the rest of us feel inferior." - David Barber