Scriabin, Alexander Nikolayevich

Scriabin, Alexander Nikolayevich
   A Russian composer who reportedly experienced a variant of synaesthesia called * coloured hearing, or, more specifically, * coloured music. As recounted by the British psychologist Charles S. Myers (1873-1946), who interviewed Scriabin personally, "In general, when listening to music, he (Scriabin) has only a 'feeling' of colour; only in cases where the feeling is very intense does it pass over to give an 'image' of colour." Scriabin claimed that he had become aware of his synaes-thetic ability during a concert in Paris, which he attended in the company of his compatriot Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1906), who also experienced coloured music. Together, the two of them later set out to design performances which combined colour and music (referred to as colour music, or visual music). The notion that coloured hearing is idiosyncratic may have been confirmed by the fact that the two composers agreed only on the colour of D major (yellow), whereas they held different opions on all other colour-key associations. It has been noted by synaesthesia experts that Scriabin would seem to have developed his synaesthesia unusually late in life, namely during young adulthood, whereas most individuals are aware of this special ability from early childhood onwards. Scriabin also lacked colour-key correspondences for D flat, A flat, E flat, B flat, and F, explaining this with the words that these may well be "either untraviolet or infrared". On the basis of these somewhat unusual circumstances, it has been suggested that Scriabin may not have been a 'true synaesthete'. For other historical examples of persons experiencing coloured music, see the entries Nussbaumer, F.A. and Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai.
   Harrison, J. (2001). Synaesthesia. The strangest thing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
   Myers, C.S. (1915). Two cases of synaesthesia. British Journal of Psychology, 7, 112-117.

Dictionary of Hallucinations. . 2010.

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