Musical synaesthesia in synaesthetes and its manifestation as a wider phenomenon
This thesis has been titled 'Musical Synaesthesia in Synaesthetes and its Manifestation as a Wider Phenomenon', in order to give an indication of the broadness of the subject area that it addresses. It looks at ways in which types of association normally associated with one of the five sensory channels sometimes make connections with, and produce stimulation of, any combination of the other four. Although the thesis touches on most known perspectives of this large topic, all of which are interconnected, it focuses on just two of these areas. Firstly, it deals with a condition which affects a small minority of the population known as ·synaesthesia'. 'Synaesthesia' is derived from the Greek combining syn meaning to combine and aesthises meaning perceived by the senses. This word was coined in the 1870s, probably by Fechner. People with synaesthesia experience involuntary sensations that do not exist in the external world but which are triggered by sensations which belong to another sensory channel. There are, for example, synaesthetes that who hear sounds as colours, taste textures, or hear odours. The first of these three examples is, by far, the most common type of synaesthesia and is especiaJIy relevant to this thesis since it deals with musical synaesthesia Musical synaesthesia usually involves strong and specific colours in connection with musical sounds. This introduces the thesis' second focal point, that of music. Coloured sensations in the absence of coloured stimuli are especially frequent as responses to music and musical material is used in this thesis to test such responses. It seems likely that Messiaen was a synaesthetic musician, and possible that Skryabin was also. In a more general way, the notion of music being coloured is not confined exclusively to synaesthetes. Numerous non-synaesthetic people maintain that certain keys, intervals, chords or sounds of certain musical instruments are coloured. Given that there are more non-synaesthetic people than there are synaesthetic people, it seems likely that the former group are predominantly responsible for the gravitation towards coloured music and towards musical paintings during the second half of the second half of the nineteenth century. Therefore, the term 'synaesthesia' might arguably be used to define this phenomenon with as much validity as it is used to define the neurological condition. It is from the above standpoint that we can gain a greater understanding of a certain prevalent spirit of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century's 'age of synaesthesia'. Although this standpoint is not convincing from a neurological point of view, it is relevant to the study of the internal worlds of several musicians, writers and painters. This is my justification for writing about synaesthesia as a wider phenomenon.