Chromesthesia is also known as sound-to-color synesthesia. It is a type of synesthesia in which sound creates an involuntary experience of color and also sometimes shapes and movements. People who experience Chromesthesia report a wide variety of differing colors, though many have been found to experience a similar pattern, as shown in the image of a keyboard below.

Many individuals who see color while listening to music, experience them simply in addition to their normal visual senses. It should be noted that they perceive it spontaneously and without any effort.

Read more about Synesthesia in the book “Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia

Several notable composers have experienced Chromesthesia including Hungarian composer Franz Liszt and American composer Leonard Bernstein. Liszt would famously instruct an orchestra to play the music in a “Bluer Fashion”, perhaps not realizing they didn’t understand the music in the same way that he did.

Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky was a pioneer of abstract art, and used his Chromesthesia to his advantage. In 1913 he painted ‘Fragment 2 for Composition VII‘ which wonderfully shows the colors and shapes that he experiences during classical musical performances.

Kaitlyn Hova is a professional violinist, composer and neuroscientist who experiences Chromesthesia. In 2017 she gave a TEDtalk in which she plays a violin that has been altered to include lights that reflect the colors that she experiences when hearing, and playing, certain notes. Check out the video below. Her incredible performance begins at 5min 20sec.

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