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Blood Orange Gives TED Talk About Hearing Colors

Blood Orange Dev Hynes TED Talk Synesthesia

It might sound like stoner ramblings, but Dev Hynes can, like, hear colors, man.

The musician and producer better known as Blood Orange gave a TED Talk at the annual Technology, Entertainment, Design conference in Vancouver, Canada, on Thursday evening about how his synesthesia — a neurological phenomenon that causes two or more senses to cross wires, more or less — first drew him to music as a kid.

“I was 13 years old at music school talking to my teacher,” he said, bathed in swirling light while playing a keyboard. “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.”

He recounted holing up in a library to learn more about the condition.

“The way it works for me is my sight and sound senses are combined. Every sound I associate with a color and every color I associate with a sound… 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 color palates I love most,” he said.

While Hynes didn’t touch on how his synesthesia contributed to Cupid Deluxe — his second album under the Blood Orange moniker, and a marvel of sweetly pained outside R&B released last year — he explained to the crowd the way in which it helped him pen the score for the Gia Coppola film Palo Alto.


Based on a collection of short stories by James Franco, and directed by the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, the film is slated for a theatrical release this spring.

“When I was asked to compose a score for… 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 color scheme that I could work around. I gently apply different daubs to see what fits to match the color I have in mind with these characters.”

In the end, he said, “I find I have a whole house complete. All the colors I saw in the beginning I pulled together, all fill in perfectly. 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.”