Synesthesia (also spelled synaesthesia) occurs much more frequently in artists, poets and novelists than it does in the general population.
Yesterday I wrote about Jason Moran and his approach to jazz composition. I started writing about the idea of synesthaesia -- I admit it's a bit of a stretch to jump from Moran's jazz style and artistic influences to the peculiar ability some people have to see colored numbers or colored days of the week ... but hang with me here a minute and hopefully I'll stimulate your modalities to start thinking in synesthetic-like ways.
Synesthesia: A condition in which a person quite literally tastes a shape or sees a color in a sound. This is not just a way of describing experiences as a poet might use metaphors. Synesthetes actually experience the sensations.
From the Wikipedia article on synesthesia:
While cross-sensory metaphors are sometimes described as 'synesthetic,' true neurological synesthesia is involuntary...
My point is not whether non-synesthetes are successful or not, in capturing the essence of synesthesia. For me, trying to simulate synesthesia might open a crack in the door to a deeper level of metaphorical thinking ... a richer way to see and experience the world around me, or just another way to intentionally stimulate parts of my brain to cross wire or cross-pollinate.
Just for fun, listen to/watch this software-generated simulation of a quasi-synesthetic song-round. Click on the center arrow:
When I watch all four voices in the animation above, slightly squinting my eyes at it, I can see dancers moving around in the space, interacting with each other, interweaving the melodies in a very physical way. It occurs to me music animation such as this, might be an effective way to teach music.
Museum of the Mind, a web portal for synesthesia. There is almost too much to take in, at that website, but for starters, if you are an artist or poet, you might be interested in Dr. Hugo Heyrman's fascinating lecture on Art and Synesthesia.
One last reference on synesthesia as it relates to artistic endeavors is this, from the Contemporary Aesthetics, a paper titled, Kinetic Synaesthesia: Experiencing Dance in Multimedia Scenographies