Synesthesia and the colour of murder
Last month I was excited to be invited to participate in a podcast celebrating the release of the talented Sarah J. Harris’ debut novel The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder. And a pretty spectacular debut it’s been with critical and popular acclaim in no short supply! Sarah’s book traces the story of a young boy who has synesthesia and face blindness, and whose experience of sound and colour unravels the events behind a shocking murder.
In the lead up to the release of The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder, Sarah wanted to chat about my experience of synesthesia, which is similar to the books protagonist’s, the thirteen-year-old Jasper Wishart. I travelled down to London from York and met Sarah in Covent Gardens to give her the full experience of synesthesia is such an iconic place. With so many people and unique sounds, it was a great place to explore the relationship between sound and colour. I also found it fascinating to speak with Sarah as she’s been able to articulate in writing what I see in my mind’s eye in her descriptions of Jasper’s experience. Hearing Sarah describe the experience of her character, as well the experience of the many synesthetes she interviewed, was such a wonderful experience. The experience of synesthesia can be hard to describe and hearing the mirrored experiences of so many people was refreshing and made me feel truly understood.
My synesthesia means that I see sound as colour in my mind’s eye. Every sound that we hear in our everyday lives, as well as music, is made up of distinct colours and textures. It was so much fun to wander Covent Gardens and describe the wonderful sounds around. The bustle of builders joking with each of other as they work, the exhaust of a taxi cab and the background tinkle of people eating at restaurants all evoke beautiful colours that I share through our discussion. Lucky for us there was even a string quartet playing as we explored!
Sarah also met with the Head of the UK Syneasthesia Association (note the British spelling!) James Wannerton. James experiences sounds, including words, as specific tastes which can felt and identified. It was wonderful to hear the different crossed sensory experiences out there, with James explaining that there are more than eighty!
Hint – you can hear my interviews in episodes one and three!
Jasper is in the unusual position where he also experiences face blindness (prosopagnosia), a sensory perception where a person is cognitively unable to identify and recognise what should be the faces of those who are familiar. It was fascinating to hear Emmeline May relate her experiences and the way she identifies those around her. Fully exploring both synesthesia and face blindness really takes the listener into Jasper experiences in Sarah’s book and the demonstrates the significance of our sensory perceptions to the way we see ourselves and relate to the world around us.
It was really amazing opportunity to meet Sarah, share my experience with her and visit Folded Wing Studios to record a real-life podcast that’s now on iTunes!
Sigourney Young xo
May 7, 2018
I’m a synesthesia artist that will be forever found with paint on my nose, dancing around the studio in my yoga pants. I love travel, gluten-free brownies and working from the home studio I share with my husband. My goal? To bring you into the world of synesthesia and to create a space online that celebrates the colour and meaning of music.
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