Sound and Color : Anatomy of a Track Part 1

Sound and Color : Anatomy of a Track Part 1

Apropos to the Halloween season, Arty suggested that we get our paws (and hands) a little bloody and dissect a recent audio submission to the site.  Arty, by the way, took over for me as VP Technology and as a poster child on the homepage.  That’s fine with me.  He’s a good boy, and youth sells, so let him at it.  I still get to blog.

One of our Midisparks composers, Dan Goldstein, has been exploring for some time relationships between sound and color.  Dan subscribes to the theory that all of us have the potential (if only latent) to experience sound as color.  That some experience sound in this way is documented.  The phenomena, known as chromesthesia (a subcategory of synesthesia) has been reported to occur in two ways.  In the first, the response to auditory stimuli is a projection of colored shapes, like fireworks, in the external space.  The second is the experience of a particular color in the mind’s eye in response to a particular note or other auditory input.  Studies have shown certain individuals to be genetically pre-disposed to chromesthesia, but that it is nevertheless a latent potential in most of us.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no predictability about which notes will trigger which colors, when the reported responses of color-synesthetes are analysed statistically.

This does not discourage Dan, however.  Dan suspects that different folks tune in to different overtones and hence different colors, even if the fundamental note is associated with a particular color.  In fact there has been demonstrated a mathematical relationship between audible frequencies and the frequencies associated with the light spectrum.  Basically, if you double the frequency of a note enough times you arrive in the realm of terrahertz.  The light spectrum is measured in terrahertz.

Dan conjectures that all of us are in fact experiencing, if only on a subconscious level, the same colors in response to particular musical notes, with respect to the highest (terrahertz magnitude) overtone partials.  If in addition, we are observing in a painting the particular colors which are described in the music, a resonance occurs, a sort of sympathetic vibration, between the audio track and the painting.  This is the essence of Dan’s current work to fuse music with art.

In order to achieve this sympathetic vibration between painting and audio, Dan uses a color ID application on his phone to get a hex value for the color.  He is then able to translate this value into an associated audio frequency.  Through transpositions available on the synths, Dan can produce these audio frequencies fairly closely and record them.  By bundling the associated audio frequencies of two or three closely related colors together, the composer achieves sonic “fields” which, at least theoretically, are associated with color fields in the painting.

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