About 40% of synesthetes report some form of “colored hearing” also known as sound-color synesthesia, sound-to-sight synesthesia, or auditory-color synesthesia (Cytowic & Eagleman, 2009, p. 87; Robertson & Sagiv, 2005, p. 37). Many musicians have this form of synesthesia, including Eddie Van Halen, Itzhak Perlman, and Jean Sibelius. People with this form of synesthesia report a variety of experiences. Scholar Christopher Tyler reports, “If I pay attention to the chromatic quality of chords, I do have noticeable color associations with them” (Robertson & Sagiv, 2005, p. 39). Another synesthete described it this way, “When I listen to music, I see the shapes on an externalized area about 12 inches in front of my face and about one foot high onto which the music is visually projected…lines moving in color, often metallic, with height, width, and most importantly, depth. My favorite music has lines that extend horizontally beyond the “screen” area” (Cytowic, 2002, p. 15). Tori Amos, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Hélène Grimaud, David Hockney, Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Liszt, Ithzak Perlman, Jean Sibelius, and Eddie Van Halen all have sound-color synesthesia.
Cytowic, R. E. (2002). Synesthesia: A union of the senses (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Cytowic, R. and Eagleman, D.M. (2009). Wednesday is indigo blue : Discovering the brain of synesthesia. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Robertson, L. C., & Sagiv, N. (2005). Synesthesia: Perspectives from cognitive neuroscience. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.