The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science

Paperback | February 26, 2010

byCretien Van Campen

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What is does it mean to hear music in colors, to taste voices, to see each letter of the alphabet as a different color? These uncommon sensory experiences are examples of synesthesia, when two or more senses cooperate in perception. Once dismissed as imagination or delusion, metaphor or drug-induced hallucination, the experience of synesthesia has now been documented by scans of synesthetes' brains that show "crosstalk" between areas of the brain that do not normally communicate. In The Hidden Sense, Cretien van Campen explores synesthesia from both artistic and scientific perspectives, looking at accounts of individual experiences, examples of synesthesia in visual art, music, and literature, and recent neurological research.

Van Campen reports that some studies define synesthesia as a brain impairment, a short circuit between two different areas. But synesthetes cannot imagine perceiving in any other way; many claim that synesthesia helps them in daily life. Van Campen investigates just what the function of synesthesia might be and what it might tell us about our own sensory perceptions. He examines the experiences of individual synesthetes -- from Patrick, who sees music as images and finds the most beautiful ones spring from the music of Prince, to the schoolgirl Sylvia, who is surprised to learn that not everyone sees the alphabet in colors as she does. And he finds suggestions of synesthesia in the work of Scriabin, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Nabokov, Poe, and Baudelaire. What is synesthesia? It is not, van Campen concludes, an audiovisual performance, a literary technique, an artistic trend, or a metaphor. It is, perhaps, our hidden sense -- a way to think visually; a key to our own sensitivity.

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What is does it mean to hear music in colors, to taste voices, to see each letter of the alphabet as a different color? These uncommon sensory experiences are examples of synesthesia, when two or more senses cooperate in perception. Once dismissed as imagination or delusion, metaphor or drug-induced hallucination, the experience of syn...

Cretien van Campen is a social scientist at the Social and Cultural Planning Office of the Netherlands. He is the author of two books on perception and visual art.

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The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science
The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science

Kobo ebook|Feb 26 2010

$23.29 online$30.17list price(save 22%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:19810 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:February 26, 2010Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0262514079

ISBN - 13:9780262514071

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Even readers already familiar with synesthesia will find much to learn from Crétien van Campen's The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science. In clear and lucid prose, van Campen provides shimmering descriptions of synesthetic experiences as he explores the complex interplay between synesthesia in science and, especially, synesthesia in the arts. Although several of van Campen's stances on the science of synesthesia are debatable and controversial, agree with them or not, reading The Hidden Sense will broaden and deepen one's understanding of this fascinating set of phenomena. This is an extremely interesting, current, and well-written book that highlights a fascinating topic in synaesthesia research, namely the translation of synesthetes' experiences into art.