Monday, December 6, 2010

Synesthesia 2

 Just a little bit more on my auditory-tactile synesthesia.  It came up on a message board recently, so I'm mostly just doing a copy-paste and adding some more detail.

I can't remember not feeling sound, and I used to think it was normal until I was in high school and wrote some descriptive poetry that the rest of the class thought was absolutely bizarre.  I had childhood epilepsy, which my neurologists think probably triggered the sensory crossing.  There are some sounds I avoid because they are physically painful for me.  The absolute worst are waterfalls.  We went to Niagra when I was a kid and it was like a full-body migraine.  There are some people I avoid talking to because their voices are like scratches, slaps, or cheesegraters destroying my face.  Words like 'reticulate' and 'purse' are an insult to my nerves.  

Synesthesia does have its upsides.  Some sounds are silky, cottony, or warm.  I have near-perfect pitch because I can feel it when an instrument or voice is out of tune.  I'm a classical percussionist.  Playing my instruments can be a touchless massage.  Piano and harp illicit a similar response  Cellos and basses are wet, like swimming, but violins itch if they start to go up into a more strident range. Plucked strings are a totally different feeling, a tickling tap that travels around my body. Steel guitars are spiders walking over my arms and legs.  Trumpets and piccolos/flutes can leave me with spinal headaches.  I would rather be in the band then listen to one.  Most recorded music doesn't bother me.  Rock concerts are quite a sensory overload, but in a good way.  I usually come away from them refreshed and euphoric.

I have played clarinet on and off since I was seven because we had one in the house.  The sound is hollow, a breath against my skin. Saxophones have a somewhat wet quality, which varies depending on the register. It's actually a tingly, refreshing feeling, like putting a touch of Vick's Vapor Rub on my chest and standing by a humidifier. The lower the range, the warmer it feels, and when it gets toward the soprano sax range, it gets icy, like the feeling you get when you suck on a mint and then take a swig of cold water.  Trombones, baritones, and tubas are a thud in my chest.  Cymbals are a full-body vibration, not much different from sitting by the engine on a small plane.  Oboes and Bassoons are like being breathed on and pinched at the same time.

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