At one time, my business partner and I had about ten businesses we delivered to every week. Noni and I would get together and make up the large bouquets the evening before they were to be delivered.
We’d both taken enough art classes to understand color theory. One evening, Noni stopped me and said. “You can’t put that in there. It’s the wrong shade. It doesn’t go.”
I wanted the flower I was holding in the bouquet I was making. I thought it did go. I looked at the flower in my hand and looked at the bouquet. I knew that flower needed to go there. I squinted at the flower and the bouquet then announced, “It does go there. It’s a diminished seventh and will give the bouquet movement. See how this tone will move the eye from here to here to here?” I put my flower in the bouquet.
My diminished seventh was only the first of many such discussions. I’ve stopped her from using an E minor in a key of G major arrangement. Actually, that E minor lily is very picky about what type of arrangement it is in because it has some undertones or grace notes that dictate that it must be used in a minor key.
Many times, Noni shook her head and muttered something about, “If you have a reason for that to be there…”
I’d assure her that this customer likes jazz, so I’d make this a jazz arrangement. Since the customer did indeed like the jazz arrangements I made, Noni blindly accepted the idea that I might know what I was doing, even if I wasn’t using color the way she’d been taught.
Finally one morning, Noni called me all excited about an article she’d read in the paper about people who can hear color and see smells or any other combination of sensory crossover. She’d found a scientific explanation for my odd explanations of why I used the flowers the way I did.
Once we both understood that I can somewhat hear color and apply my background as a pianist to flower arranging, we’ve had fun playing with the idea. She’s learned to hold up the flower that isn’t behaving for her and ask, “What goes with this?”
The part of our relationship that always surprises me is that I can answer her question from the auditory part of my brain. I’ve become aware that I do look at something and process the sound even if I have to strain to listen sometimes.
The ability to construct a song with flowers doesn’t always work the way I want. My church choir was preparing a challenging cantata for Earth Day Sunday. The first soprano line I sang was just plain hard with all sorts of turns, trills and pesky rhythms. I’d practiced and practiced. On the other hand, our Easter Sunday anthem was easy, and I hadn’t spent much time on it. At the last minute, I’d been asked to do the communion table flowers for Easter Sunday, so I thought I’d whip up a massive arrangement that matched the anthem. I put together an arrangement measuring five by three feet. After I thought I got the last flower in, I stepped back looked at the bouquet and realized that I’d made the cantata and not the anthem. I don’t have as much control over my arrangements as I’d like to think. Fortunately, I was probably the only person who knew that I’d produced an arrangement for the wrong piece of music.
Now, that I understand the science behind my perception of color, I wonder how long I’ve been wandering through gardens and humming along. I wonder how much of my immense enjoyment of gardens is due to the double sensory whammy I receive. The only problem occurs when I find myself singing in public gardens or department stores as I walk past pretty colored displays. Even the produce department at the grocery store can stimulate my desire to at least hum what I see.
Understanding the nature of waves that transmit sound and color, I suspect that many people perceive as I do. Without both a job requiring attention to color and a strong background in music theory, most people will never notice the details of perception. However, when I stand in front of an audience and sing, I notice those who have their eyes closed and a beatific expression on their faces. I bet they perceive more than just the sounds. They may sense the vibrations, and see or even smell the whole composition.