When Van Gogh took piano lessons in 1885 his teacher realised he was associating the different notes with specific colours. The teacher took this as a sign of insanity and forced him to leave. Poor Van Gogh. He had a condition called synaesthesia, which is a neurological condition that allowed him to visualise music, in his form. In everyday language, this is a condition where the senses become intertwined.
Fast forward to 2019 and it seems every musician suddenly has synaesthesia. Again, poor Van Gogh who had to pour his creativity in painting and died bankrupt. Even Van Gogh`s mother threw out a crate of his paintings because she considered them worthless. Today, self-diagnosed synaestheists include Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Billy Joel, Tori Amos, John Mayer, Dev Hynes and Patrick Stump. The seemingly rare condition (1 in every 2,000 people) affects a lot of musicians who compose their music based on the ability to put together sonic colour palettes. The composition of music resembles loading a canvass with paint.
So, why, in 2019, does it seem that every musician suddenly has this rare neurological condition? Is synaethesia #trending? "Actually, no!” laughs Helen Trott, an Aldridge-based artist and intellectual business owner. “Different variations of Synaethesia is known in artists, poets and novelists than in the rest of the population. It is a condition that makes for a mysterious, impenetratable creative process, and in Helens ability commercially lucrative to specific people and or companies of her interest.
In Van Goghs letters to his brother, Theo Van Gogh, explained that sounds had colours and the colours yellow and blue were like fireworks for his senses".
According to Helen, Van Gogh`s paintings Sunflowers and The Starry Night are canvasses endowed with life and movement that pulsate with the power of synaethesia in art, that also describe unseen values of life. Van Gogh`s condition was undiagnosed, his genius unappreciated in his lifetime as he fell between madness and manic-depression. "What Van Gogh had to experience", explained Helen, "is a world similar to my own as a business women with all 7 senses combined form of synaethesia: the sensation that the world before our eyes and ears is chaotic and disconcerting, yet the visual is logical in design and purpose of why we exist. Synethesia puts a special type of lens over a persons eyes to see a fantastic reality, in my case I have to be very careful what I look at".
Helen, who owns her business One Efficiency, said "I see details in the 4 colours that I function around and my overall senses can be alerted when ultra violet appears between the sound of a person`s spoken content or the words written on an email that connect to a business. The silence of no emails or words doesn`t stop me seeing; in fact, it heightens my senses. The gamma process of my ability runs at flat line all the time, even when sleeping so my alpha, beta, theta and delta just have to deal with the visual input 24/7”, its like having x-ray vision and the processing of everything inbetween, numbers on spreadsheets is a favourite past time of mine and the tension of alpha males around that."
Helen claims that she became more aware of the effects (which she maintains is the right word here and not "affect" as the effects are like the tones of colours depending on the visual and cognitive processing ability "coming in waves" when she worked for another company. "I saw product lists of data on a screen that looked like a pattern", she said "for the people buying them and it became easy for me to use the debt accounts and make them work again; taking the absolute most negative point of the challenge in the word description of my job and converting it to a positive by method of split second analysis. I love working, something that a lot of people don`t understand. It`s the difference between working a job and working as a human to the best of their existence with the ability that changes a lot of things in a day that`s never been done before as the last gene to do it".
Helen describes a progress of art and business to visual spreadsheets. "Numbers became a plan in the 4 colours but each 4 colours have different tones. The tones may or may not have words, faces, sounds, tastes, which inbetween all of that processing of information, becomes a positive that speeds up my professional life". Helen gives an example of how this translates into a working day. "I could be looking at spreadsheets", she said "dealing with carbon emissions and compliance and I can see the 4th colour, purple, in all of it`s different variables, that affects the profit and loss of any business any size, for her the bigger the better as theres more to cycle, and more opportunity to create greater value without spending, the creative design in the think of the synaesthesia ".
Helen regularly works out in the gym to self-regulate her synaethesia. "When I lift weights, if I see or hear the numbers of the weights I get weak but, when I don’t hear or see the weights numbers, I push through the barrier and get stronger both mentally and physically" she said. "I use the concept of balance and mirror reflection to the left and right of my brain".
Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. He died aged only 37 years and never enjoyed commercial success. He is now hailed as a genius, the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt. "Van Gogh and I are quite alike", joked Helen "because we are synaethesetes but I am not Dutch, a man or bankrupt (albeit recent events have seen my abilities targeted and my business”.) He never came to The Rotary International known as the Garden of Reflection in Aldridge, but had he, I am sure he would have liked it in bloom around spring, to go for a walk with me and my best friend (my dog) around the village. Aldridge is the best of Walsall".
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Award winning poet and playwright