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Creative Synaesthesia – If You See What I’m Saying

I discovered the Reactable, a new music-making interface, via City of Sound and Peter Marsh.

Why do I find this so fascinating? I think it’s the way it opens up new creative possiblities via artificial synaesthesia.

According to the scientists, ‘true’ synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which one sense is involuntarily translated into another – e.g. colours are experienced as sounds or vice versa. It is popularly associated with psychedelic drugs, but can also result from a stroke, blindness or deafness. I encountered synaesthesia in my work as a hypnotherapist, as it’s a fairly common occurrence in trance subjects.

Synaesthesia and Creativity

Less extreme versions of synaesthesia, sometimes called ‘pseudo-synaesthesia’, are reported by many people as part of their normal thinking processes. This kind of everyday synaesthesia seems to be particularly common among artists and other creative types. Like a lot of poets, I experience a kind of grapheme-colour synaesthesia, whereby words (and numbers) are associated with particular colours. Louis MacNeice describes the phenomenon in his poem ‘When we were children':

When we were children words were coloured
(Harlot and murder were dark purple)
And language was a prism, the light
A coloured inlay on the grass,

Another of my favourite examples of synaesthesia is the artist and writer Mervyn Peake. A brilliant draughtsman and illustrator, while writing his novel Titus Groan Peake made sketches of characters in the margin:

As I went along I made drawings from time to time which helped me to visualise the characters and to imagine what sort of things they would say. The drawings were never exactly as I imagined the people, but were near enough for me to know when their voices lost touch with their heads.
(Mervyn Peake, ‘How a Romantic Novel was Evolved’)

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Hypnosis and Creativity (Creative Review)

I started working with artists and other creative professionals when I began practising as a hypnotherapist 10 years ago. Here’s an article I wrote a while ago about [tag]Hypnosis [/tag]and Creativity for Creative Review.

EDIT: Brian Clark over at Copyblogger has written a post on hypnotic copywriting that’s almost a mirror-image of the process I describe in my article: I wrote about the trancelike state we enter when absorbed in producing creative work; Brian has written about the trance we enter when absorbed in the product of that creative work, whether a novel, film, conversation or advert.