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Pasquale D'Silva/Vimeo

WATCH: This Is What It’s Like to See Sound

FIONA MACDONALD
5 FEB 2015

Every time Pasquale D’Silva hears a sound, the above is what he sees.

The app developer has a condition called synesthesia, which means that his senses blur together and get cross-wired, so that when he hears something, he sees it as a colour.

 

This particular type of synhethesia is known as chromo-synethesia, but there are all different types. Scientists have previously trained volunteers to see letters and numbers as colours, and following brain injury, this man started perceiving mathematical formulae as geometric figures (which is really cool). In fact, it's estimated that 4 percent of the population experience some kind of synesthesia.

"For me,” D’Silva told Tony Castle from Fast Company in an interview last year, “it is when I associate anything with colour: names, faces, sounds. Anything that triggers a sense can often trigger colour." 

But although synesthesia is a fascinating ability (or “superpower”, as D’Silva calls it) that is often associated with heightened creative ability, it’s also extremely hard for us who don’t have it to wrap our heads around.

I mean, I believe that D’Silva sees a “ghosty peachy pink” when he hears the sound of a heater, as he told Fast Company last year, but I just can’t even begin to grasp what that would be like.

In an attempt to share his power with the world, D’Silva created C H R O M O, above, which is one of the best representations I’ve seen of the condition.

A commentor, cblakeley, over at Gizmodo, where I first came across the video, seconded this assumption: "I have synesthesia and I may quibble about details (no two synasthetes will agree on every detail) but this is so damned close to how I see this stuff, it's kind of eerie."

Lewis Hill, a researcher working on a PhD project called the Synesthetic Music Experience Communicator, which aims to “communicate both the experience and performance benefits associated with this cognitive phenomenon,” also has synesthesia.

Commenting on D’Silva’s Vimeo, he shared his own attempts to visualise the ability, and the results, below, are mesmerising - not only because of how vivid they are, but because they give us an insight into how someone else perceives the world. 

One of the most interesting things is that D'Silva thought his perception of sound was completely normal until a friend told him otherwise. This intrigues me. Our view of the world is so habitual that we never know what things might look like to someone else. And really, synesthesia or not, getting a glimpse through someone else's eyes (or mind) is always going to be beautiful.

Sources: GizmodoVimeo, Synesthetic Music Experience Communicator, Fast Company