BOLD as Love…Can you SEE it?

06 Jun

A couple of weeks ago….

I asked about the meaning of Jimi Hendrix’s Bold as Love, covered by John Mayer. While looking for some other information, I came across the fact that both John Mayer and Jimi Hendrix have/had a condition called music to color synesthesia that causes the person to “see” music in colors. From Wikipedia:

Music → color synesthesia

In music → color synesthesia, individuals experience colors in response to tones or other aspects of musical stimuli (e.g., timbre or key). Like grapheme → color synesthesia, there is rarely agreement amongst synesthetes that a given tone will be a certain color. However, consistent trends can be found, such that higher pitched notes are experienced as being more brightly colored (Ward, Huckstep & Tsakanikos 2006). The presence of similar patterns of pitch-brightness matching in non-synesthetic subjects suggests that this form of synesthesia shares mechanisms with non-synesthetes (Ward, Huckstep & Tsakanikos 2006).

Color changes in response to pitch may involve more than just the hue of the color. Brightness (the amount of white in a color; as brightness is removed from red, for example, it fades into a brown and finally to black), saturation (the intensity of the color; firetruck red and sky blue are highly saturated, while grays, white, and black are unsaturated), and hue may all be affected to varying degrees (Campen & Froger 2003). Additionally, music → color synesthetes, unlike grapheme → color synesthetes, often report that the colors move, or stream into and out of their field of view.

So, now a moment of clarity. Aha. Lightbulb. I get it. Mayer is crazy like a fox and I think that his cover of Bold as Love is linked to his affection of Jimi Hendrix. In John’s article about Jimi Hendrix in Rolling Stone back in 2004, Mayer says:

I think the reason musicians love Hendrix’s playing so much is that the language of it was so native to his head and heart. He had a secret relationship with playing the guitar, and though it was incredibly technical and based in theory, it was his theory. And I think that was sacred to him. That’s why you almost never read an interview with him explaining his live-gear setup or his favorite scales. That’s part of what made his playing so compelling — all you heard was the color. The math is what’s been applied ever since.”

So, perhaps Bold as Love is simply a manifestation of how Jimi, and John, saw/see the music. Bold….Bold as love.


Posted by on June 6, 2007 in Influences, John Mayer


6 responses to “BOLD as Love…Can you SEE it?

  1. morewines

    June 6, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    Both are noted to be some of the best
    guitarists. It seems Hendrix is always at
    the top of the list of the best.

  2. music maven

    June 7, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Hendrix really is the apex. SRV, considered in some circles as the best blues guitarist ever, was a disciple of Jimi Hendrix. In the Rolling Stone article, John Mayer talks about how Hendrix defined “cool”. A pure original with no “gimmick”, Jimi Hendrix is certainly a legend.

  3. jenfera

    June 7, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Additionally, music → color synesthetes, unlike grapheme → color synesthetes, often report that the colors move, or stream into and out of their field of view.

    This sounds similar to a migraine aura or scintillating scatoma. I wonder if they are related, and if these music → color synesthetes get headaches after hearing a lot of music. Or maybe if you are a musician like Jimi or John, having an outlet for it releases it?

    If you’ve never experienced a migraine aura, I can tell you that it can be very disturbing and frightening. My vision can be obscured while dancing colors and lights swim around in front of me. I see it whether my eyes are opened or closed. It can last for anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. Some people feel travel sick, many getting splitting migraine headaches afterward.

    Pretty cool link between John & Jimi though. Nice find, MM!

  4. shrewspeaks

    June 7, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    It is interesting how much of psychadelia played off that notion of streaming colors in life. The color references here beg the question are the colors organic or chemically enduced?

  5. masa

    April 5, 2010 at 2:01 am

    I was researching why John has so many references to colors in his songs for a blog post when i came across this! very cool!

  6. iggy

    June 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Jimi was part of a Rainbow Bridge meditation cult in Hawaii. In their thinking the Axis was the center of all, the collective consciousness. More so, it was thought to be a literal crystal in the core of the earth that connected the four corners of the earth.

    The Rainbow Bridge was a movie made in the 70s and Jimi played a experimental concert of love, meditation and music. The concert was free in support for the cult. Here is more info:

    Yet, the beauty of someone like Jimi Hendrix is his music is so bold and expressionistic, that one can listen and interpret it in many ways and still love it.


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