Short Circuit: the Mental Landscape of Synesthetes

Kandinsky’s Composition VI, painted in 1913, is one of the world’s earliest abstract paintings and was inspired by the music of Arnold Schoenberg (© Wikimedia/Hermitage Museum)

This edition of Sound Fountain is one of a series called “Stigma” on various forms of mental phenomena that we tend not to speak about often or candidly. One such mental quirk, synesthesia, is the ability to see and taste sounds, hear colors, taste music. It is a perceptual cross-over, and it is no small wonder to know that the roughly one-percent of people who have synesthesia includes at least one great writer, one great artist, and one great musician: Vladimir Nabokov, Vasily Kandinsky, and Franz Liszt.

Produced and presented by Michele Ernsting

Broadcast January 26, 2003