New exhibit offers trip into the mind of a synesthete

  • Artist Brandy Patterson with one of her paintings. COURTESY PHOTO

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/30/2022 12:30:14 PM

Artist Brandy Patterson’s upcoming exhibit at the Peterborough Town Library offers viewers a glimpse into the mind of a synesthete who translates music into color. 

Manchester-based painter Patterson said she’s always listened to music while creating her art, but it wasn’t until recently that she realized how much of an effect it was having on her process – and how differently she was interpreting the sounds. 

 “I would listen to music as I was working,” Patterson said, “but I wasn't intentionally listening to music to create what I see in my head.”

That all changed quickly after a conversation with her husband, Chad, a musician. The two were discussing how they experienced music, and as it turned out, Patterson’s experience was atypical. 

 “When I close my eyes, and I listen, I can see it,” Patterson said. A drumkit’s high hat is a “bright sound,” with lighter colors, she said, while a horn evokes moodier, darker oranges, blues and blacks.  

Patterson is one of about four percent of the worldwide population who experiences synethesia, an extraordinary sensory condition in which subjects experience involuntary reactions to stimuli which seem to transfer or transcend from the common sensory pathway to another. The phenomenon comes in several varieties; Patterson’s – interpreting sound as color – is the most well-documented version.

Patterson’s upcoming show, “The Color of Music,” aims to communicate the unusual phenomenon to the everyday viewer through paintings that she created while listening to her husband’s original songs. The show, which opens Friday at the Peterborough Town Library’s Community Arts Gallery, features Patterson’s finished work and some early-in-the-process sketches to illustrate how the visions in her mind become full-fledged paintings.

“When I hear music and I see colors or a composition, it’s very rough-sketched in my mind,” Patterson said, “and so to paint it, I have to add those colors and textures and layers to it that I like in my painting.”

For a real trip into Patterson’s creative process, don’t forget your headphones, as the exhibit will also feature smartphone-scannable QR codes that allow viewers to listen to the songs she was listening to while creating the pieces.

“My plan is that the availability of having them hear the music will hopefully allow viewers to see what I see when I hear music,” Patterson said.

Patterson will appear at an opening reception on April 22 from 5 to 7 p.m., with husband Chad performing. 

Sign up for Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Newsletters
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Headline Alerts
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript MLT Minute North
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript MLT Minute South
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Real Estate & Transactions
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Contests and Promotions
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Dining & Entertainment
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript Sports


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, your source for Peterborough area news.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458


© 2021 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy