Blood Orange songwriter Dev Hynes delivers TED talk on synesthesia

“The way I see things is constant streamers across the room.”

The producer and songwriter currently known as Blood Orange gave a TED Talk in Vancouver last week about having synesthesia – the neurological condition that causes sounds, colours, words and sometimes even tastes to overlap in the brain.

“The way it works for me is my sight and sound senses are combined. Every sound I associate with a colour and every colour I associate with a sound,” he told the audience. “The way I see things is constant streamers across the room, bouncing off from every touch and every sound. Over the years, I’ve learned what colour palettes I love most.”

Explaining how he found out he had the condition, he said: “I was 13 years old at music school talking to my teacher. I can’t quite remember what it was I was trying to describe, but I do remember my music teacher saying to me, ‘Do you have synesthesia?’ In hindsight, it seems a little presumptuous of her to think a little boy in Essex would know what synesthesia was.”

Hynes went on to discuss how his synesthesia informed his latest project, scoring the Gia Coppolla film Palo Alto.

“I first thought to myself, ‘What is the house that these characters would want to live in?’ I wanted to paint a picture and colour scheme that I could work around. I gently apply different daubs to see what fits to match the colour I have in mind with these characters.”

He added: “It’s a fun experience for me — even more than releasing music or having people hear my music. It’s a completely selfish thing. I’m just very excited to look at this picture I had in my mind before.”

The talk hasn’t yet been posted online, but a reporter from Spin was on hand to document the event. Check back with the TED site for updates.

Hynes’ latest album Cupid Deluxe came out last November – read FACT reviewer Chris Kelly’s verdict.



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