Insight article

That guy sounds like a beige bun

The other day, we had a lunch gathering amongst The Storytellers, and as usual I love talking about food — the myriad varieties of flavours and the wonderful tastes out there, not to forget presentation of food in which some eateries in our area excel.

Seeing sounds, and tasting words however, came up in conversation with Alison, one of our MDs. In between courses Alison mentioned that she sees the year ahead like an arc in her mind’s eye, and that every month has its own colour and taste. With a few blank faces in response, she pressed on, saying that every word in her vocabulary carries with it a colour, texture or taste. Personally, I was completely fascinated, as this was the first occasion I had met someone with synesthesia — a sensory experience whereby one experiences one sensation from the stimulation of another — for example, if I say 23, you taste honey. Surprisingly, no one at the table, including Alison, had heard of this beautifully strange natural phenomena. She had always assumed that everyone thought this way. So we kept feeding Alison – not food to taste, but words to hear her interpretations of taste, colour and texture. These were some of our favourites:

Tabrez: Brown, and crispy
Robert: Beige colour, and has a bread or bun-like texture
Amy: Pale yellow, smells like freshly ironed clothes
Marcus: Blue and is an egg (with toast soldiers)
Martin: Blue, and tastes like juicy plum tomatoes (the name, not the person!)
Roger: Absolutely a Cadbury Flake, possibly with toffee, and tastes delicious

There have been a number of attempts to bring the synesthesia sensation to life, and in the last year, there two great executions stand out for me. The first is a video by Grey London, commissioned by Schwartz Flavour Shots, and the attempted visualisations of their flavours.

The next one I unashamedly love, and have been playing with regularly over the last year. Before you visit Patatap, make sure your speakers are on high (or you have headphones), and that you have a spare ten minutes as it’s more addictive than your Facebook feed on New Year’s Day (if you’re into that kind of thing)! This project by Jono Brandel was partly inspired by synesthesia and I think it’s a great insight into how other people experience sounds.


Nailia Tasseel