Song-colour. Musical genre-colour

Subtypes of auditory-visual synesthesia

Some people with auditory-visual synesthesia receive their colour impressions from individual sounds, notes/chords or timbre of instruments, but for others it is triggered by a much wider and more general musical concept. The inducer in this case is a whole song, track or piece of music; an album; the entire works of a composer or repertoire of a musician; or a musical genre.

The perception tends to be of one single colour, or two at the most. When two colours are perceived they are normally in some kind of pattern (a red base with green dots at the top, for example). Alternatively, in the case of song-colour, while the person is listening to the song it might start off as one colour and then transform into the another to reflect some kind of change in the nature of the music: from the verses to the chorus, for example, or the part that is sung and the instrumental part.

It is considered a type of chromesthesia, which is a general name that can be given to any type of synesthesia where the inducer is sound or music and the concurrent is (or includes) colour.

What appears to trigger the colour in these cases is the general impression received from the song, the musical genre, etc., for any of the following reasons (and perhaps others):

The atmosphere it suggests

The emotion it evokes

Its most dominant aspect, e.g. the timbre of the main instrument or unique features of the singer’s voice

A technical aspect of the song (rhythm, tempo, etc.)

The key the song is in, which might in turn give rise to an atmosphere or an emotion

The concept of the type of music, rather than the sound (in this case we would be talking about a case of coloured sequence synesthesia rather than auditory synesthesia)

In any case it is a highly consistent type of synesthesia: the same song, musical genre, singer etc. always triggers the same colour or combination of colours.

Key signature-colour synesthesia, which manifests in the form of a single colour per song or piece of music (or a limited combination of just a few colours), has its own page, as it is perhaps more closely related to tone-colour and chord-colour synesthesia.

Here are some descriptions written by people with this type of synesthesia:


" I have Chromesthesia and for each song (sometimes even artist) it's generally one color, that will ebb and flow with the course of the song. It's always been like that. One hue, but various levels of saturation and lightness/darkness."

(Source: This comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2019.)

"It kind of depends on the feel of the song. Most of the time I get pastel colors for more like, calm songs? Mostly beige shades and such. If the music is more dark, creepy and such I tend to get a dark color palette ranging from dark red to dark slate blue."

(Source: This comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2019.)

"I also have the type where music brings on colors. This sounds kinda corny, but country is typically grain colored or John Deere green, depending on the gender of the singer. Taylor Swift normally sounds golden pink, which is conflicting because I don’t like her voice very much. Songs with darker lyrics are normally black, grey, and purple, regardless of how upbeat it is."
(Source: this comment in the blog Synesthesia and Such. 2013).

"Red: faster songs you could dance to; warm temperature songs

Blue: slow but not necessarily sad, songs that have a cool temperature

Green: mid tempo with cooler overtone; relaxing type vibe

Orange: mid tempo; peppy and warm

Yellow: happy pop songs

Smoke grey: bluesy soulful type songs

I have a theory that the colors actually correspond to music modes, but I haven’t really tested it out. A lot of the songs with the same colors seem to have similar chord structures."

(Source: This comment on the online debate platform Reddit/Synesthesia. 2018.)

This page is about song-color synesthesia and musical genre-color synesthesia
This page is about song-colour synaesthesia and musical genre-colour synaesthesia

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