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Qingu's avatar

What do people with synaesthasia experience while watching the iTunes visualizer?

Asked by Qingu (21135 points ) March 5th, 2010

Like, can they “see” things in the vizualizer colors and patterns that ordinary people can’t see? (Like how we can ordinary people see things that colorblind people can see?)

Have there been any psychological studies about this?

And, most importantly, what do the studies—should they exist—suggest about the possibility that the machines are taking us over through our technological creations?

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25 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

They probably see the face of Jerry Garcia.

Jeruba's avatar

If you can give me an idea of what you see in the iTunes visualizer (what this is and what it does), I might be able to tell you. Is it something that matches graphic patterns to music?

Qingu's avatar

@Jeruba, yis, the video is good.

To me, it looks like some sort of cosmological thing, with like virtual “stars” and “black holes.”

And the patterns and flows of the lights have rhythms that match up with the “beat” of the music.

So clearly, computers can see something, and normal people can see something… I want to make a Venn diagram and throw in synaesthetic people too!

DominicX's avatar

I have synesthesia, but not like that. Mine is not too interesting. I just see numbers as inherently colored. 7 is green, 5 is purple, 3 is blue, etc.

I’d be interested to know. I remember reading about someone who saw certain sounds, such as the sound of an electric guitar, which to him looked like a red ball of fire with lightning coming out of it, and the sound of a piano looked like purple waves against a black background. I find it fascinating.

Likeradar's avatar

@DominicX Oooh, interesting. Can I ask about it? When did you realize not everyone thinks of numbers as having colors?

DominicX's avatar

@Likeradar Actually, that’s essentially what I always thought. I thought no one else had this but me. I didn’t even know there was a word for it, so it was really cool to find that out, especially the other type of synesthesia I have. It’s called “number form” where I see a spatial “map” of the numbers 1–100, 1–1000, or the years 1900–2000, etc. in my mind. Usually looks like a 3D spiral staircase.

Qingu's avatar

If they isolate the genes responsible for anaesthasia and figure out how to genetically engineer people to include them in your genome, I would totally pay good money to have that procedure done.

@DominicX, do you ever take advantage of this ability? Like use it as a superpower?

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

It’s messed up… the colors don’t match tunes I “associate” them with. It’s odd to watch.

AstroChuck's avatar

I have a form of synesthesia called ordinal linguistic personification synesthesia. It’s wear I see inanimate things such as the year or days of the week, etc. and “see” them. They also have a “personality”. I see odd numbers a certain way and even numbers a different way. Each of those have a distinct personality as well. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s a bit difficult to articulate. But I don’t have the kind where the visulizer on iTunes does anything to me besides make interesting designs to the music. So I guess I don’t know why I chimed in. Nevermind.

Btw, it’s Synesthesia, not Synesthasia.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Stoners.
Nah I’m kidding.
I imagine they see things differently than people without the condition but anything specific they see is likely not really there. The mind plays tricks on us all.
I’m pretty sure Skynet isn’t trying to take over via iTunes.

AstroChuck's avatar

edit: it’s where I see…

Not wear. Duh.

angelaclaire's avatar

You probably figured this out from some of the earlier comments, but Synesthesia is a very individual thing that takes tons of different forms. The visualizer may affect some in a curious way, but it won’t be the same for everyone.

MrsDufresne's avatar

Well, since reading your question, I just discovered the iTunes visualizer. I have synesthesia of the audible/color pattern sort, and what I see when I watch it is…sheer inspiration!! I want to be able to make the images I see in my mind’s eye when I hear certain sounds/music, into patterns on a visualizer too, but I have absolutely no idea how. If someone could tell me how to make my own visualizer patterns I would be ever so grateful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gorillapaws's avatar

Unfortunately I believe the only way to accomplish this right now is through learning computer programming, unless anyone knows of a software package designed to do this. It would probably take someone several years of programming self-study to get to the point where making an iTunes visualizer plugin would be possible.

So if you were trying to explain what your audio/color synesthesia was like to someone who doesn’t have it, would you say it’s similar to the iTunes visualizer? How is it different? What is your experience like when you watch the visualizer… does it “conflict” with what your brain is naturally generating from the sound?

Also there are several different visualizer plugins that come with iTunes (you select from the visualizer menu), is there one you prefer, does one more closely match what you experience?

MrsDufresne's avatar

@gorillapaws I would have to say that, yes, the images on the visualizer do conflict with what I naturally see, and I have never found any program similar that even closely matches the images that I see.

Jeruba's avatar

I find it disturbing. It’s a curiosity just for a little while, with the images matching the impulses, but it is totally antagonistic to my visual experience of music, which does not explode out of a center but moves from left to right with lines and shapes and panels of color. So I had to turn it off, and I would hate to have this thing going while I listened to music. It would ruin it for me.

Also, having a device that did emulate my synesthetic experience of music (if it could even be done) would be totally pointless because I already have it.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Jeruba “Also, having a device that did emulate my synesthetic experience of music (if it could even be done) would be totally pointless because I already have it.”

It would enable others to share in how you experience the world. I find the subject fascinating. Would you describe your experience as positive? or would you turn it off forever if you had the choice? Does it affect your ability to drive if their’s music playing? or can you just “tune it out?” If you’re listening to the same piece of music being played, do you have an identical visual experience, or could it vary every time you heard it played?

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

Jeruba's avatar

Oh, I love having it. I love seeing a rainbow of color when I look at a printed page, being able to tell instantly if a word is misspelled (the colors are wrong), and knowing people’s voices by the shape and color as well as the sound. But I don’t think there’s any way someone else could experience it, just as I don’t know what it’s like to have perfect pitch or an eidetic memory or the physical coordination of a figure skater.

I have music playing when I drive because it keeps the part of my mind occupied that would otherwise be inclined to wander. I drive more safely when that part of my mind is kept busy, so I can actually see what’s in front of me and not what I conjure up.

Some pieces always evoke the same experience. Well, at least to an extent. For example, every time I hear a certain piece by Bach, the shapes are the same (much as all paisley prints are “the same”: even though there may be many variations, we call them all paisley), but the colors may vary depending on the instrumentation. Some change quite a bit in color even though the line may remain constant. The line of Pachelbel’s Canon in D is always the same, but sometimes it is one set of colors and sometimes another—there is, after all, a huge amount of difference between strings and brass.

I expect a completely different answer from other synesthetes because the commonality is in the crossover of sensory experiences and not in the specific inner perceptions.

AstroChuck's avatar

@Jeruba- ”...being able to tell instantly if a word is misspelled (the colors are wrong)...”

That must be incredibly advantageous. Good for you.

Jeruba's avatar

@AstroChuck, it’s one of my secret weapons as a proofreader, for sure.

28lorelei's avatar

@Jeruba, so what exactly in the music triggers your synesthesia? Is it the instruments or the general layout?

Jeruba's avatar

@28lorelei, I can’t answer that. It’s like asking what in the environment triggers your act of seeing. It’s having your eyes open. It’s hearing the music. It’s part of the sensory experience.

I can tell you that a different arrangement or different orchestration of the same piece produces a different effect, but the same instrument playing different music also produces a different effect.

A person with perfect pitch hears the same music I hear, but this person has an added dimension to hearing that causes him to register tones differently from the way they reach me. A person with eidetic memory sees the same page of print that I see, but the impression it makes on her is different from the one I receive. She will remember every word. I will remember some of it verbatim and some in terms of the gist or the general idea.

But I will see it in color.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Jeruba what if it’s a recording, will listening to the same recording multiple times produce an identical visual experience every time?

ftp901's avatar

I have synesthesia. The first time I ever saw a visualizer like that (in Windows Media Player), I thought to myself that it was the most accurate representation I’d ever seen of what I see when I hear music. So, yes, the iTunes one is similar. The ones called iTunes visualizer and Jelly are the two that are closest, although, nothing could truly capture it.

I see lit up colours (like neon against a black background) and they are different colours based on the instrument or sound of the voice and the length, speed or strength of the sound. The shapes are extremely varied (sometimes a small precise blue spot, sometimes a big, deep, green splash, sometimes a long green pipe/tube or a fuzzy/spiky red ball. All of them are flying around in front, beside, and around me. Sometimes they are splashes (not a solid shape). It is in three dimensions and all around me as if I’m standing in outer space and coloured neon shapes are flying through the air. Some shapes are as big as my head or larger. They are all fluid and constantly changing. The iTunes one moves too fast. My colours are beautiful and fluid and it’s a very positive experience.

I’ve had this since I was a kid (before I ever saw a computer) so I don’t think it has anything to do with technology taking over my brain. It’s more like painting and art. I also have the coloured letter/number thing.

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