In Zurich, there’s a woman with incredible sensory powers.
When Elisabeth Sulser hears music, she can see it and taste it too
She is a synesthete.
In the course of a 2.004 and 2.005 neuro psychological research project at the University of Zurich, in which she participated as a test subject.
Elisabeth Sulser was identified as having an uncommon form of synesthesia, a story which went through the international media.
Elisabeth Sulser is one of the “protagonists“.
She tells of her life as a synesthete, meets with other synesthetes in England and is interviewed in the role of a test person by researchers at Oxford University.
Ralf Isau is an author and fantasist. In his new book about synesthesia, Die Dunklen, he has given Elisabeth Sulser's talent that of “seeing” musical tones to his main character.
What is synesthesia?
Synesthesia is a phenomenon whereby the direct or sympathetic excitation of a single sense organ simultaneously produces not one, but multiple sensations.
In music : colour synesthesia, for example, one of the more common forms, aural sensations such as tones or words also produce visual perceptions.
Similarly, visual stimuli may produce secondary auditory sensations, or sounds may actually be “felt”.
Numerous artists and musicians have been identified as possessing synesthetic abilities, including Alexander Scriabin, Frank Zappa, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.
What form does Elisabeth Sulser’s synesthesia take?
When Elisabeth Sulser hears music or even individual tones, she finds that what she is hearing is projected onto a “screen” in her head.
The result is a constantly changing, kaleidoscopic painting.
Colours change with the tempo, and the forms reflect musical figures: C – red, D – yellow, E – brown, F – green, G – dark blue, A – light blue, B – grey, C sharp – pink, D sharp – maroon, F sharp – violet, G sharp – turquoise, B flat – gold.
For Elisabeth Sulser intervals have a taste : that is, she perceives tones separated by less than an octave as a taste on her tongue.
A minor second “tastes” sour; a minor third, salty; a major third, sweet; and a fifth like a glass of water.
A minor sixth tastes like whipping cream, a major sixth like half-and-half; a minor seventh is bitter, similar to a major second; and a major seventh is sour, like a minor second.