Synesthesia is a blending of senses, where sounds are sensed as shapes, words as physical sensations, or some other combination of cross-wiring. It is a super power of sorts which some creative brains can tap into, and which I can sometimes experience in some secondary way through art. Synesthetic art, like the album 808s & Heartbreak by the otherwise deplorable rapper I won’t name, or a Van Gogh painting, generally have some sort of internal logic which they borrow from their partner sense. I don’t get the crossing of senses myself, but I can sometimes tell when a creative work is tapping into this cross-blending of senses, and like to try and tap into those feelings.
Arthur Rimbaud, a synesthetic poet once wrote of how he sees letters in his poem Vowels, the first line being:
A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue : vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins…
The above image is cropped from the latest New Yorker by artist Masha Titova, which has been created as an interactive piece where each shape has a corresponding sound. Visit, click on shapes, and try to tap into synesthesia.