Color in Music and Art

Color in Music and Art

I have attached a chart which describes a theory of the relationship between color and sound. The essence of the theory is that the seven notes of the western musical scale, regardless of octave, correspond to fixed values in the light spectrum. This could be considered a melodic theory of the relationship between color and notes insofar as the angstrom value in the light spectrum remains constant for a particular note regardless of the octave. Another theory takes a look at the order of colors in the light spectrum and associates combinations of these colors to harmonic combinations in music. For example, the primary colors red, yellow and blue are associated with a major triad. This approach could be considered a harmonic theory of the relationship between color and notes because the spectral value of a note would change depending on the harmonic context of the note, e.g., root, third, fifth, etc.

So much for theory. I am a blind man in search of a deeper connection to the visual arts. If I am to succeed, it will be through the engagement of my inner eye. My dear vampiress, Lolita, has shown me how music can open that inner eye, can help us to transfer imagery from the external world to the internal world of the imagination. And for those who see, music can help paint for you that which is unseen on the canvas.

The capacity of music to suggest color, as the theories presented at the outset of this little post suggest, is one area of potential connection between music and art. The legendary jazz musician, Charlie Parker, saw colors when he played. My personal experience is that lower notes and dissonance convey darker hues, higher notes and open intervals brighter ones.

Consider Belinda Greb’s photograph of a fog-shrouded forest surrounding a shimmering lake. mist hovers over an early morning river and fog shrouds distant woodsRemants of a Washed Out Bridge on a Foggy Afternoon
How might musical choices convey something of the contrast between lights and darks in the photographer’s image? Imagine a low-lying synth pad, sustained. Perhaps a bit of wind effect blows through. Perhaps the loon’s cry comes from the distance. Are you in nature? Is it night? Then a slow rhythm on suspended cymbals is introduced. It shimmers over our low synth. Is it the light of the moon reflected on still waters?


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