Saturday, 26 June 2010

Synaesthesia?

My other obsession in life is music, and you'll be hearing more about this in the forthcoming mammoth blog post. 

Some musicians speak to me. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, B.B. King, Carlos Santana (in his peak years '72-'74), to name but a few, do it to me. The greatest virtuosos are capable of capturing the all complexity and nuance of the human voice. And this is the ultimate goal when you attempt to play a melodic instrument, whether you know it or not. When I am most receptive I can almost hear words. Coltrane is a chatterbox trying to tell you his life story; Shorter is taciturn but a master of the withering put-down; Miles Davis does it all: name an emotion and I'll point you to a recording that captures it. Even Sun Ra's cacaphonies make perfect sense to me. Most rock music conveys no more message to me than a baby banging its toy on its cot conveys to its parents.

What's this got to do with beer?

When I experience flavour I almost hear it and see it. Fruity, herbal hop character is shiny brass instruments; maltiness is bass and drums. Somewhere in the middle the highs and lows mingle in harmonious, or sometimes discordant, ways. At the same time I almost "see" a representation of my mental flavour encyclopaedia, and where the new beer flavour is filed. Experience a new beer and I look into my mind and I almost see lights come on, like a map in a public place that has buttons illuminating specific locations.


I have a friend who keeps no numbers in his mobile phone. He doesn't need to as he can remember them all. He'll freely admit to being a bit "spergy". Sometimes I feel I have a similar thing going on with flavour.

Recently I was in the pub with friends (funnily enough). I described a beer as having a murky midrange. One of my friends, known for his ability to cut through bluster and flummery, interjected – "what the fuck are you on about, 'the mid-range flavours'?". It was then that it dawned on me that I regularly use this, and other, musical terms when describing flavour. It seems perfectly natural to me but now I realise not everyone perceives and remembers  flavours the same way. 

Could this be synaesthesia? Am I a synesthete? I wonder. It would explain a lot.


3 comments:

  1. Possibly you're just a strange bloke?
    Mine's a pint of Holdsworth baldy!

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  2. I have a similar affliction if you can call it that, I find it to be great fun. I match music to colour mostly but I can also match taste to music. I don't know if it's the mood a beer creates or the taste filtered through music but often certain beers get associated with certain songs for me.

    I'll be interested to read more from you on this.

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