I have auditory-visual synesthesia. Typically, humans with this form of synesthesia see music as color, sometimes geometric shapes, and occasionally texture. I see music as all of those things, but I also see movement and pattern and entire visual landscapes of sound mostly in 3D. My synesthesia doesn’t fit neatly into the auditory-visual synesthesia category.
I’ve never heard of anyone else who sees music the same way I do. Even the very few people I’ve talked to who have auditory-visual synesthesia don’t see music like I do. Their version is less animated than mine.
Because I have this unique and rare aspect of my brain, every once in a while, I go down the internet rabbit hole to see what new things they’ve discovered about synesthesia. It’s really quite a mystery how it all works. They think that it has to do with cross wiring in the brain. It’s completely harmless, and in some cases, it can even help people in their daily lives. My synesthesia has never helped me do anything, but it can be very beautiful.
So, today, I was rummaging around on the internet looking for new scholarly articles about my brain and the wacky way it works. In an article from last year, they mention a connection between synesthesia and hyperphantasia, a term I had not previously heard, which of course makes me think of a sped up version of Mickey Mouse and all the mops and buckets with a Yakety Sax accompaniment.
From the article I linked: “People with hyperphantasia have an excellent capacity for mental visualisation, with an abundance of visual imagery that they can evoke in all its colour, detail and dimensions with no effort whatsoever.”
That’s me! I’ve always been able to very easily visualize all manner of things quite vividly in my mind’s eye. It’s a blessing and a curse. I have an excellent sense of spacial relations like playing a real world game of Tetris; I can see how things should fit together easy-peasy.
There’s even a quiz developed in 1973 to tell whether you have aphantasia (the inability to visualize) or hyperphantasia. I didn’t bother finishing the quiz myself, because I answered every single question on the first two pages with “Perfectly clear and lively as real seeing.”
Now, that’s not to say that hyperphantasia is synesthesia, because it is not. They are two discrete things. However, the article goes on to say the following:
“If a person with synesthesia also has hyperphantasia and the tendency to involuntarily create detailed images in their imagination, it is also possible that both phenomena can occur together: the typical colours and/or abstract shapes of auditory-visual synesthesia and the more complete images of hyperphantasia. It is fairly rare for them to happen at the same time, as it is necessary to focus on either one experience or the other, but some synesthetes do experience it in this way. “
Exclamation points! The combination of hyperphantasia and synesthesia in my brain completely explains why I don’t see music the way that other synesthetes do. My music is so much more vivid and full of movement, pattern, and texture than any other synesthete I’ve encountered. It’s nice to finally know why. I love it when all the pieces fit Tetris-style.