Music ‘colors’ the world of White

Junior Riley White’s perceptions are impacted by a condition called synesthesia. Synesthesia is a condition in which a stimulation of one sense evokes another sense.

By Brady Rogers

Junior Riley White’s perceptions are impacted by a condition called synesthesia.

Synesthesia is a condition in which a stimulation of one sense evokes another sense. For example, the most common type pairs colors to letters, while others trigger color or smell when seeing certain dates and numbers. Roughly 1 out 2000 people have these sensations, and Junior Riley White is a lucky one.

White realized he stood out from others just a couple years ago. For many synesthetes, it takes several years to understand that they have the condition because they think that everyone feels the same sensations. The realization came to him freshman year, “I just kind of realized that nobody else had or saw things the same way I did. I just did some research and figured it out.”

There are several types of synesthesia documented, standing at a little over 60. White has a type of synesthesia that’s induced through music, called chromesthesia. As he puts it, “Whenever I hear music it’ll just make like flashy and colory things in my head.”

For White, chromesthesia creates an advantage in music and sound. The condition causes a color to associate with a certain pitch, and allows him to easily understand the note being played. The help from chromesthesia lines up with another ability he possesses called perfect pitch, and using both abilities to his advantage along with dedication and hard work he has earned his way to state for band.

His unique abilities can sometimes affect him in classroom situations. He explained that there’s always a song or something running through his head which gets distracting at points and can lead to him spacing out. But, he is still able to work despite the distractions.

However, White wouldn’t want to give up chromesthesia if he had the choice. It almost acts as a sixth sense and is perfect for band and other activities he’s involved in. He’s a very talented musician and chromesthesia helps just a little more. He summarized how he felt about chromesthesia and expressed, “I’ll just pick up different things and like yeah I honestly the more I think about it, it’s kind of weird, but I mean it’s kind of cool.”


Colorful music notes. Photo courtesy of Merrypak.

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