Ask anyone who’s been high on marijuana, and they’ll tell you they’ve come up with theories even goofier than this. Probably the experiences of synesthesia Ludlow had in earlier chapters, in which he literally saw sounds and heard colors, made this idea more appealing to him.

A later short story by Ludlow, “The Music Essence” (1861), featured a man who invents an instrument for his deaf wife that translates musical notes into light and colors:

Is there no method by which the scientific relations of pitch (time I was sure she had become acquainted with already) may be communicated to the mind through other adits than the ear? Music in its pure scientific aspect is quite independent of sound — uses sound only as its ordinary normal expression — and by all the more delicate intellects — the poets especially — is constantly translated according to a system of analogies, into other than audible forms. Rossini is called florid — but his roulades have no effect of garlands to the eye, no fragrance to the nose. Verdi, they tell us is brilliant — but who sees him shine? And the painters have no difficulty in understanding a picture’s tone. All music, it seemed to me, finally resolved itself into a science of tensions and one nerve as well as another may convey the relations of tension, provided that we attain the means best calculated to awake their idea through the sense.