It's called synesthesia, and I find it kind of funny that it's classified as a "neurological condition" because I literally can't imagine processing the world without it. I have come to learn that it is probably the reason why my brain does some odd things. In addition to certain music and sounds causing things to physically manifest on my skin and put shapes and colors in front of my eyes:

-All numbers from -3 to 108 have distinctive colors, dimensions, personalities, and some of them I can feel (19, for example, can only be described as the feeling of a quarter rolled in dough being pushed into my shoulder). This is true to a lesser extent for letters, though some letters have stronger personalities than my numbers.

-I can taste some colors and physically touch others, in addition to certain mixes of colors and shapes.

So please ask me questions or post links to songs. I especially love to talk about my numbers since they are like their own little people.

A word about music: certain things trigger the sights and touching. Songs with unusual time signatures, different sorts instrumentation, and quirky little riffs often do it. A lot of the time trembling voices or voices that go up and down abruptly do it, too. It's kind of a gamble but if I can touch and see your song I will tell you exactly what I experience. Thrash and grunge metal actually is very uncomfortable so please don't send me songs like that.

Edit: I do have to go to bed now. The Clockwork clip was a joke, I'm not Alex DeLarge, I'm actually an 18 year old American woman, which is probably the antithesis of an 18 year old British psychopath. But as far as my brain is concerned, I do have synesthesia. There is no circumstance under which it would need to be diagnosed or treated (for me at least) so I'm sorry, I don't have any physical proof beyond my conveyance of what I touch and see. I will answer more questions and describe more songs tomorrow if people are still interested, but in the meantime, thank you all for the responses and the suggestions.

Comments: 1790 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

howisbabbymade488 karma

Take a look at this. One of my buddies made an animation about synesthesia and I've always been curious about it. Do you feel/see anything like this?

edit - Do you sense these colors and feelings in the same way that you can visualize in your mind what someone's face looks like? It doesn't actually occupy your field of vision, but you "see" it in your mind. My buddy's animation shows it as if there are actually colors and numbers that appear into sight, as if it's like some sort of augmented reality glasses.

shameshesafeminist288 karma

Yes. Yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes. Thank you for the caps! That is probably the most accurate, engaging, and informative thing I've watched on the subject. In a lot of ways I experience it different but in a lot of ways it's the same. The mentality is the same - sometimes it's overwhelming but it's not really overwhelming. I managed to go 16 years without anybody saying "there is something seriously wrong with your brain" (well, to my face at least). I couldn't imagine life any other way.

I loved the animations. They did such an excellent job of really conveying how the mind just shapes the surroundings. I don't see my color sounds in the same way as that woman, but they do really manifest out of nowhere and are not part of independent thought. My number lines and alphabet (and my calendar) really do just warp dimension. I loved that video, please tell your buddy it was fucking rad.

cudderisback194 karma

do you have some proof of some kind?

shameshesafeminist109 karma

I have to go to bed soon, but, ok, I'll give you all some proof. I kind of didn't want to do this but... well, awhile ago Discovery did this documentary about me. It started out just following the day-to-day life of a modern teen and me and my friends choices of recreational activities but, uh, during the process I kind of got in trouble with the law, and the documentary crew wanted to follow me after I volunteered for this controversial therapy that would save my ass a few year's jail time...anyway, it was a weird part of my past. Not the point.

The point is the documentary filmmaker was actually super interested in my synesthesia and wanted to film me listening to my favorite artist. Let me be clear I love classical music, and my absolute favorite artist is Beethoven (I kind of enjoy his music almost like, on a sexual level, lol) so one night he's like, "I know you listen to music before you go to bed, let us film you listening to some classical so we can get a real synesthete experience". So they did, and then I described to them exactly what I saw and felt when I listened to Beehtoven... aaaand they eventually put it in the documentary. If that doesn't count as enough proof, I'm fucked elsewise, since, ya know, everything I experience occurs in my head. Anyway, here's the clip from my doc:

ACamelsDragon75 karma

Was this whole IAmA a lead up to a Clockwork Orange joke?

shameshesafeminist115 karma

No. I'm just fucking with the guy who asked for proof for something that I can only see in my own head.

Edit: You know, proof beyond recounting experiences, which I don't think should be discredited in this situation. If I said I was Obama, justifying it with "but I know I'm Obama" would understandably be doubtful. It's hard to physically prove something that only I experience if it's not potentially dangerous, harmful, or exceptionally rare.

plessis204108 karma

I don't tell many people, but I have this as well, though yours is seems to be a much more extreme/ severe case than mine. I like to keep pretty quiet about it to my friends, mostly because I have the damndest time explaining it to people, since I don't really have a frame of reference as to what it is like to live without Synesthesia. I don't get the manifestations on my skin or whatever, for example.

I tried to explain it to a girl I was casually seeing a few years ago (pre-med student, actually) and she couldn't even fathom why I got a lot of nonsense with the number three.

I don't get anything from most numbers, but I get pretty well the same reaction from any number with a three in it, and the same reaction from anything with a 7 in it, and then a combination of the two from a thirty-seven, if that makes sense.

Most of the time, familiar sounds and voices don't generate anything. My grandparents began going to Florida for the winter when I was 6 or 7 (24 now), and I never got much of a response from either of their voices until they came back from Florida in the spring of the year I was 10 or so. I'd go visit every now and again, and the first three or 4 times I'd go over, there would be a small response, and then nothing until the next spring.

Hall and Oates gives me the best physical and visual reaction, but I actually got a boner the first time I heard Fergie's voice, which is kind of hilarious based on what she looks like. Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC are a few examples of bands that I just couldn't physically listen to when I was younger. Tom Waits made me physically sick and dizzy the first time I heard him.

Live music typically equals a bunch of purple and blue lines flying out of instruments or speakers, or anything that would vibrate on a table as a result, to varying degrees. Live music was tough for a while, because I never really knew what to expect and different bands sound and feel different, especially hearing them for the first time, but I got used to it. Some still make me pretty uncomfortable, but it's not too bad. I absolutely can't have sexy bow-chicka-wow music playing in the background during sex.

Watching baseball pretty much turns it off, save for little ditties that play in the background when guys are walking to the plate. It also really bothers me when there are three balls and the HUD signifies so with three little dots.

I associate green with the taste of relish, and I fucking love relish.

Seeing brunettes feels significantly better than seeing blondes.

shameshesafeminist50 karma

This is so fucking cool. Thank you for sharing. I love hearing about how it differs for other people! Not only because I have it, but because I just find the brain so fucking fascinating. I think it is really cool that 3 and 7 influence the individual numbers they are in. I'd be fascinated to understand what it is like to see 37 since it is a combination of the two. I don't get that from my numbers, 4 is my best but the only one it really rubs off on is 40. It's so weird how these little firings of the neuron do this stuff.

I think how you perceive live music is fascinating, too. The effect of music is so hampered for me by the sights and sounds of everything else that I never really get a rise unless I'm in a very closed venue. I've never seen colors exist on anything but my screen, either, so if it is a good feeling band I imagine that must be intense.

God there is so much I want to say - it's really interesting about baseball, too, because provided that there isn't any bad smells the brightness and all the colors and movement and green field really exhilarate me. What exactly is it that turns you off about it? Too much background noise?

Haha, I think I'm a little giddy with the realization there are other sane people in the world that know what it's like to process life like this.

Llamatoe21285 karma

Have you ever taken LSD?

shameshesafeminist128 karma

I tried shrooms for the first time a couple months ago. It was a profoundly religious experience, and it certainly enhanced my synesthesia in a lot of ways (during the trip and for a short while afterwards). But there are a lot of other odd things in my brain that attributed to it being such a truly amazing trip.

Before trying them, however, I remember friends describing some of the stuff I experience (when listening to music, hearing loud noise, thinking about numbers and letters) almost verbatim. After trying them, however, I realized the intensity between the two is nowhere comparable. If I had to live my life seeing and experiencing the things the exact same way I did on shrooms, I'd be blissfully happy but also a nonfunctioning human being. ;)

foeljoster47 karma

What does dubstep do to you? Cuz it's not exactly traditional music.

shameshesafeminist74 karma

Some dubstep songs give me faint little tinglings but I have yet to experience one very powerfully. I will admit that I can physically feel the drop of a lot of the songs - it feels like... haha, I was going to say "this sounds weird" but I realize most of the stuff I've said on here sounds weird... it feels like those squishy toys you used to get when you were a little kid. You know, the ones with that weird gel in the middle that you could squeeze and stretch and it usually had glitter or something in it and it just felt fun to touch? (Then your asshole friend would always burst it and your mom would freak out and accuse you of eating the gel) Anyway it feels like that, a little firmer and flattened down, and it slices back and forth from around my temple through the middle of my earlobe. It's not very strong, though.

Eminemerica44 karma

What is your favorite song

shameshesafeminist4 karma

It changes all the time. Modest Mouse is one of my all time favorite bands, and this is one of my all time favorite songs, however:

I touch a lot of the song, but it's not my all time strongest. It's one of those situations where the musicianship is amazing, I feel and see a big part of it, and I love the lyrics - any combination of these three usually yields a song I consider really favorable. But that's just me. ;) Isaac Brock's voice a lot of time feels like... hard but very smooth, curvy-inward ice blocks on the outside of my shoulders.

iwantitalliwantitnow31 karma

Hey, I have synesthesia too! It sounds like you have "projection" synesthesia, which is pretty rare. The way you experience the world must be fascinating. As for me, colors have tastes, and smells have colors. I also feel music, though to a much lesser extent. How do you feel about discordant harmonies? They tend to make me cry.

shameshesafeminist26 karma

I'm thrilled to hear about you! I have actually never spoken to someone else who had this (or had it and could recognize what it was). I can only taste blue under certain conditions and certain mixes of colors and textures sometimes taste sweet, but that is the type of synesthesia I find most fascinating. Can you tell me an example of which colors taste like what/what smells provoke which colors?

I hate discordance. High pitched screeching is the worst, though I don't think you have to have synesthesia to get how fucking grating that is.

UNSC_Iroquois20 karma

I can see colours when I listen to music.

Is a high F purple for you?

shameshesafeminist20 karma

Right on! No, it's not for me. Listening to high F on its own is a bright green.

[deleted]17 karma

Please listen to Neutral Milk Hotel, I am quite curious how Jeff Mangum's voice would "feel".

shameshesafeminist19 karma

I like Neutral Milk Hotel. Their songs never get a synesthetic rise out of me, but I still enjoy them for their musicianship and lyrics. His voice is both distinct but not grating... sort of like Colin Meloy's, but not exactly. Anyway I guess what I'm saying is I like a lot of bands that I don't feel or see.

M30W_GUSTA15 karma

Why exactly is metal uncomfortable?

shameshesafeminist40 karma

The instrumentation is really tight and complicated which is usually a trigger for the synesthesia. But the resounding emotion is one of stress and it makes me just physically uncomfortable. Like if someone makes that squeaky noise with plastic wrap - you know how it physically hurts your head? It gets more intense as it gets louder, because the more focus I give to it the stronger the sensation. If it's playing in the background I can usually ignore it, but if I'm in the car with someone and they are listening to it on a CD I just start to feel nervous and my skin gets all weird because it goes too fast and doesn't feel right.

M30W_GUSTA2 karma

Thanks for explaining. I would also like to know if that only happens when you listen to thrashy, speed metal or all kinds of metal?

shameshesafeminist8 karma

Classic heavy metal (ACDC, Blue Oyster Cult, etc) is the only genre I know that doesn't do this for me. Unfortunately I'm not an enormous fan heavy metal in general... Spinal Tap being an exception, of course. ;)

ChaseMutley13 karma

What is your favorite kind of music and what do you see and touch when you listen to it?

shameshesafeminist54 karma

The song that I experience most intensely, without a doubt, is this one:

I remember hearing it on my walkman for the first time when I was 7 (I was at an airport) and just being completely absorbed. I felt it so strongly that I just freaked out and didn't know what to do. That first riff, the horns, emotionally excite me and my armpits, shoulders, and the tip of my nose feel electrified. My brain screen is bright white with a tiny little yellow. Then at 10 seconds it errupts into these dark blues and greens (kind of like the colors on that peacock feather) - they stretch out immensely and cover everything and overlap, and some bright yellow filters through. My whole screen moves and I get this feeling like somebody is... God, this is really hard to articulate... like, uh, pushing me through cold water but one section of my body at a time.

Then certain parts turn to golden ribbons that spin through the muscles in my forearms and knees and I have to move. This is one of the songs that it literally hurts to sit still to. I'm not dancing... it's like, I feel these things on my body pushing me and I have to bend to them in these weird mechanical ways or it's unpleasant. Like an itch, our a tourettic tic. It's only at these certain parts in the song, though...

Ok, wow, haha this is tough to go through. It would take up to much space to describe it - it's better if I listen to other people's songs because I usually don't feel them as intensely and can describe them more accurately.

TrippingOnCrack10 karma

Seems like this " neurological disorder" has a lot of pros. Any cons that you've had?

shameshesafeminist13 karma

Yes I wouldn't consider it a disorder, though I am lucky in large respects because some experience it so intensely it interferes with their lives.

When I listen to my "big songs", the ones that fill me with the most intense emotion and joy, I feel very strongly compelled to move to them. It's not a painful pressure like a sneeze or a tic, which are really difficult to control and not always enjoyable.... It's more like a smile - it feels physically satisfying to jolt my body and kick with the specific sounds and riffs in a song that send these little shocks through my muscles. But while doing my little moves makes me happy, they often weird people out, and it can get kind of irritating if one of my big songs is playing and I can't move to it.

Same goes with outside. If it is sunny, warm, and I am in a certain part of nature surrounded by certain colors, my skin gets pushed on by the same force I hear in my music. The conditions have to be really good, but I start to feel something lifting me up under my armpits and I get like... I dunno, kind of titillated. Sometimes the colors and shapes of my surroundings even taste good. Anyways, when I'm in this certain environment I do this one thing where I stick my hands over my head and move my arms and wrists in these specific circles at these specific angles and speeds. It's kind of like me blissing out, but I definitely look like I'm on drugs when seen by someone passing by - a lot of times this makes being out hiking with others or walking through a public park on a really beautiful day tough... I have to walk with my arms pressed firmly to my side and my fists clench.

RabbleCat9 karma

what is the number 16 like? the way you experience the world sounds so beautiful ... you write about it well too. thanks for sharing :)

shameshesafeminist19 karma

No problem-o. Glad to hear it doesn't come off like babble talk, which it sometimes does when describing it to friends, haha.

16 is sort of... stoic. Not a very friendly number. Dark navy blue and at a sort of hinge on the number line. It is sort of, I don't know if "jealous" is the right word to describe it, but it is not close with 17 which is a much more appealing, vertical number.

SeeOtter9 karma

The instrumental in this song gives me shivers. What do you you feel? Also thoughts on the number 69?

shameshesafeminist14 karma

At the beginning, yes, I can feel it. It's akin to the musical scores in fantasy movies, I think strings always make people feel like something big is about to happen. That's the only part that did anything for me, however. I just saw it moving on my brain screen... uh, I guess imagine what it would be like if you could see the crescendos physically move in your mind. I saw them as a purple, but looking back I realize it was the same shade as that little sliver next to the word "Facebook". Sometimes my brain does that... if I'm listening to something for the first time and one of the sounds is moving but it doesn't elicit its own color, my brain scree will like, take a color from something I see at that time and apply it to the motion. But then that becomes a permanent imprint, because I could listen to this song again staring at a million different colors and I will never be able to see that instrumentation in anything but that one purple.

Edit: Haha, the number 69. It's actually paired with a group of vertical numbers that rise at a distance for a tiny little bit. It's unique since my numbers don't like to go directly vertical much after, like, the mid 30's. It's a hopeful number, not very loud. Smooth but rounded to the touch.

clark_bender_kent9 karma

Do all people with synesthesia experience the same things in the same way? With your example of 19, is that unique to you or is the usual sensation for 19. Sorry this isn't a tune, I'm just really curious.

shameshesafeminist10 karma

No it all depends on the individual. From what I understand there are certain types of synesthesia that usually have some universal principle (like I think people who see music all have their own sort of "screen") but otherwise it differs from person to person.

I saw a documentary talking about how neuroscientists think all children have synesthesia, but usually the pathways straighten out when you get older. They speculate that certain associations and triggers have something to do with specific impressions from childhood that were being encoded at similar times - so it's all random. Not sure if the given explanation is true, but when I see electric blue I do unconsciously taste blue raspberry airheads no matter what I'm doing or what I'm eating. Sometimes it's fun because it's so intense, other times I kind of resent my Mom for letting me eat so much candy as a child. ;)

jfr3sh7 karma

have you ever listened to aphex twin? richard d. james is synesthetic.

shameshesafeminist5 karma

The weirdest thing about Aphex Twin... I have listened to a lot of his music but I have never felt it particularly well (some songs a little bit, but nothing very palpable). But there is this one band, this one band in my whole fucking life, it is the only band I know that I've felt every single song of. There is something intensely unique about their particular instrumentation and the lead singer's voice that just trips me out immensely... they sound a lot like a ton of other bands, but bizarrely enough none of the other bands really do it for me. I will always puzzle as to why...

ANYWAY, they did this cover of two of Aphex Twin's songs and it enabled me to feel his music. Obviously they deviated a lot from the originals, but I find Richard James such a fascinating person that it was like I got to have the experience. It was diluted but it was still very meaningful to me... this song, man, this song and every song by this band get me like electric meathooks through my nerve centers (you know, in the good way). I will never understand why...

Thank you for the share, by the way. I liked the music for its own merits and appreciated the lovely clouds.

kallapzo6 karma

Hi, I noticed your comment above about how you like the steel drum sound, and I'd really love to know what you think of this song by Portico Quartet They use a recently invented instrument called a hang that has a very steel drumy sort of sound, but is unique in its own right. Also, because it's one of my favourites, and seems to fit your description at the bottom of your post (strange instrumentation, unusual time signatures, vocals that abruptly shift pitch), try this great song by Battles on for size

I could probably throw music at you for ages, but I'll stop there. Hope to hear back from you.

shameshesafeminist11 karma

The Portico Quartet was blocked from my computer for some reason!

I've heard the song Atlas a couple times. It is very trippy - yes I definitely see and feel a lot of it, but... I don't know how to explain it, the song doesn't like me very much. It's not an angry sounding song in itself but listening to the music gives me feelings of hostility...

The song Ice Cream, on the other hands, is a blast of color and sound. Bright yellows, little friendly cuts... this sounds stupid, but like, pop rock slivers over my shoulders and on my forearms and my chin. It literally pushes me back and forth and then... I don't know how to explain, it's like slow snakeskin sliding down and up the front of my body!

God, sorry to get off track again. I realize you didn't ask about Ice Cream - I do love (the) Battles, though.

Negative numbers beyond -3 are very unusual. They certainly have distinctly different personalities than -3 through 108, and I don't really explore them or think about them that often since they like to keep themselves separated and wind around downward like stairs going to some sort of blueish brown basement. They're not mean, they're just odd.

Edgar4llanPwn8 karma

Huh that's interesting! I wonder why the negative numbers and positive numbers are so different in your mind. Is it because you actually visualize the negative sign? Or do you envision them as being on the opposite side of some great divide.
I'm in university and I can't think about negative numbers without also realizing that they might as well be positive, depending on your frame of reference. Many of my problems require me to define some arbitrary direction as "negative" and the other as "positive". How would that duality make you feel?

shameshesafeminist11 karma

This is actually a shocking development in my own little world... now that I think about it, when I think about my number line I don't actually visualize the numbers! I never realized that. I don't see the numbers on my screen. I just 'know' who they are by their location, emotion, color, and distance from me. I can't believe I never realized that - they're totally amorphous! I think I just pair them up with the corresponding character I learned in school.

This is so weird.

bduddy4 karma

Why 108? So 109 does absolutely nothing for you?

shameshesafeminist21 karma

109 marks the transition into my "white numbers". They are like ghost numbers, shades of white, grey, and silver. They are all quiet, kind of ethereal, and cover great expanses. They have dimension, and move like the others, but 109 really is the first marker for the ones that build up to "infinity"... infinity has a dimension all to itself, and it is a very weird sensation to me, but I still group the white numbers and infinity together in terms of personalities and feelings.

GreenEggsAndHamX2 karma

What is 7 like to you? My favorite number :)

shameshesafeminist6 karma

7 is a very nice number! It is... how do I say this, it is "friends" with 4, which is my favorite number and has a similar disposition. When I view 7 from its own position it and 4 glow very brightly and it has one of the nicer shades of blue attached to it (sky blue) - after 4, 7 is certainly the nicest of the numbers from 0 to 11 (which is the group it is in).