Can you hear this painting?


Yellow Red Blue, by Wassily Kandinsky.

After attending a performance of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin in St. Petersburg, Kandinsky said, “I saw all my colours in spirit, before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me.”

Kandinsky was describing his experience of a condition called tone-colour synaesthesia, in which sounds elicit visual sensations. In his paintings, Kandinsky tried to evoke the visual equivalent of a symphony.

The word synaesthesia comes from the Greek roots syn, meaning ‘together’, and aesthesis, meaning ‘sensation’. The condition was first described in 1690 by the philosopher John Locke, after he encountered a blind man who claimed to experience the colour scarlet whenever he heard the sound of a trumpet.

Synaesthesia was once believed to be extremely rare. However, there is evidence that the condition is far more common that was previously thought.


  1. #1 Evelyn Wolke
    January 10, 2010

    I never thought I was a synaesthete, but the picture certainly evokes music. Being a musician of sorts myself, I wonder what piece of music it was meant to represent… my guess is it’s something string-ish…

  2. #2 Rick
    January 10, 2010

    I found this blog in a long kind of full circle way . I was searching for color and feelings ie warmth,cold .
    I will be reading here for awhile so I usually start with a disclaimer first.
    First i,m tired but that aside I am basically a very good test subject for a lot of this material lol.I had no sleep last night because of the postictal state from 3 days of gmal szs some partials, and the “pink” noise that is constant. lol well there is 1/2 I will only appear 1/2 crazy now.
    On subject .in the state I am in right now this pic. SCREAMS , VERY LOUDLY TO ME , I have avoided looking at this twice on the web because I breakout in sweat and feel the left side of body get colder than right ,left eye twitches etc.etc. I can see (lol) where this could be taken as a partial sz. ? and maybe it is if I was hooked up. A picture causing a sz. ? a little odd.
    I fully understand what the man was feeling when he presented his feelings here. In a little different situation I would also “taste” them >Yesterday and the day before I feel this pic. could have scared me .
    The seizures are almost normal for me after 16 years I,m 47 but I am in a recovery period with ptsd memory loss and what appears to be true amnesia of 13/14 mo,s after going into shock with a seizure disorder? lol irony may be the right word this was caused from dealing with the mental health system and trying to get help for my ex wife who I still feel is Bi-polar? lol(watch jerry springer)
    I am fascinated with some of this because there is little written about it and if you try to tell someone you feel,taste,or smell color or even feel or smell music or sound they will no longer talk to you. lol
    Any kidding aside actually they would not be “smart” enough to understand this. What brought to this site actually was when I was reading and proof reading a 12 yr olds 9th grd. papers .My daughter just turned 12 today and is on the last chapter of world history for 9th graders ? “gifted” is another topic.sorry
    I was interested in any links with I.Q. epilepsy,personalty types and color.
    My brother is beige is a poet,musician,very neat ,tidy,lonely.
    I am the top 10 list for add adhd ,15 yrs sobriety,near death many times , a pink and purple house,love flowers,roses, I am constantly seeing myself my mom and my grandma as “different” people .
    Would love to know my gmas take on the picture. she painted and I understand more and more probably an I.Q. that is in the very high levels.amazing.
    My mom ,the color I am not sure? but she had some odd habits ,habits The crossword puzzles,the reading,the game shows all at the same time .
    Sorry for the rambling I will try harder the next time. Rick

  3. #3 Margo
    June 21, 2010

    This painting represents the worst music I ever heard. In fact it resonates dissonance.

  4. #4 jemmy
    November 8, 2010

    this is interesting! have you ever read the book “a mango-shaped space”? its really good and about something like this…

  5. #5 Oyunu oyna
    November 10, 2010

    This painting represents the worst music I ever heard. In fact it resonates dissonance.

  6. #6 Jenny
    January 31, 2011

    among the different sounds I heard the most distinct was that of a hollow box stumbling down the stairs, kind of like bom-bom-bom in quick succession. it was very cute.

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