Color and sound relationship

The Real Relationship Between Sound and Color | TechnoChic

color and sound relationship

However, the most interesting artistic research, concerns the relationship between sound and color and the results obtained in music and. Color and Sound: Physical and. Psychophysical Relations*. Many artists and scientists have been concerned. throughout time. with the correspondences. Seven Colors in a Rainbow It is well known there are seven colors in a rainbow Isaac Newton, a pioneer in the field of colour, passed a beam of sunlight.


However, the most interesting artistic research, concerns the relationship between sound and color and the results obtained in music and painting. During the twentieth century, many artists have investigated the possibility of creating relationships between these two forms of expression.

Their artistic manifestos are equaly important to properly understanding this phenomenon as were the music contributions of Scriabin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schoenberg, Webern, Milhaud, Stravinsky and Xenakis. The general idea that the universe is made by laws that are constantly repeated in all different physical phenomena, had a considerable importance in the development of theories about the relationship between sound and color.

The ancient Greeks were the first to construct a color scale divided into seven parts, in analogy with the seven notes of the musical scale and the seven known planets and the Aristotelian theory of color was considered valid until the XVII century.

The first artist in history to study in the relationship between sound and color was Giuseppe Arcimboldi. Painter Milan — Arcimboldo used the pythagorean harmonic proportions of tones and semitones as his starting point which he subsequently translated into their corresponding color values, using both his artistic instinct and a scientific method.

The painter, in creating of a special grayscale, managed to correlate the relationships between the musical scale and brightness of colors. With this system he was also able to divide the semitone into two equal parts, conceptually anticipating the arrival of the tempered scale by years. In this way, step by step, starting from the purest white and adding more and more black, he managed to render an octave in twelve semitones, with the colours ranging from a deep white to a high black.

He then did the same for a range of two octaves. As the artist himself did not leave any notes, we can only speculate that he intended to extend the system along the lines of a theory of perception. Arcimboldo gray scale Nearly fifty years later, Athanasius Kircher drew up complex tables of analogies, among other things associating musical notes, colours, intensities of light and degrees of brightness in relation to eachother Ars magna lucis et umbrae, Four years later, in Musurgia universalis he devised a system associating colours with intervals.

In the XVII century, analysing the spectrum of light, Newton correlated musical notes with colors through a direct analogy between acoustic and optical phenomena, suggesting a close correspondence between the seven colors of the rainbow and the seven notes of the musical scale. An increase of the oscillation frequencies of light in the color spectrum from red to violet, made a corresponding increase in the frequency of oscillation of sound in the diatonic major scale.

He knew the colour theories of his day, the writings of antiquity and those of the 16th- and 17th-century theorists.

color and sound relationship

He adopted the colour theories of dyers and painters, rejecting those based on Newtonian physics. Castel The instrument worked in this way: In other experiments Castel used colored crystals of different sizes.

Apart from the technical results obtained, Castel initially worked on matching the colors of the spectrum to the notes of the diatonic scale, starting from Violet for C and ending with Crimson for the high C. Muller Later, he perfected his system and he proposed a range of twelve colors corresponding to the semitones including the eighth: In this way he was able to extend the system to multiple octaves with the simultaneous application of a scale of values based on shade, ensuring the principle of cyclicity every octave has the same color, that becam lighter and lighter.

A different aspect of the problem, that is the relationship between sound and form, was handled by the German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni He was the first to realize that sound vibrations interact with matter creating real geometric shapes. By placing sand on a metal or glass, round or square shape, stand which was pivoted on a stem, and makeing it vibrate with a violin bow, Chladni was able to produce sound giving it a dynamic image.

Chladni Chladni array So, what can we see in this picture? Primarily, we can see two things: The boundaries between these vibrating parts, which are specific in every particular case, are called node lines and they do not vibrate.

color and sound relationship

The other parts oscillate constantly. Then, if we put sand on this vibrating plate, the sand black in the illustration collects on the non-vibrating node lines.

The oscillating parts or areas thus become empty. The opposite is true for liquids; that is to say that water collects on the vibrating parts and not on the node lines. The term cymatics was coined in by the Swiss doctor Hans Jenny to refer to the theory that attempts to demonstrate the morphogenetic effect of sound waves the process that leads to the development of a specific shape or structure.

His experiments were similar to those of Chladni. Jenny made use of crystal oscillators and invented a machine called the Tonoscope in order to make these plates and membranes vibrating. Tonoscope This was a major step forward. The tonoscope was constructed to make the human voice visible without any electronic apparatus as an intermediate link. This yielded the amazing possibility of being able to see the physical image of the vowel, tone or song a human being produced directly.

Cymforms Lets make a small digression. We know how almost the whole of cosmogonic tradition trace the emission of sound back to the creation of the universe. The Bible, egyptian tradition, Veda, Rigveda, Upanishad and also the indigenous traditions of the Amazon speak about it. For example the Uitotos say: So, in his research, Jenny discovered that the sound of Mantra OM, transformed to the Tonoscope, created the same geometric shape of his corresponding Yantra.

Yantra is the substantial geometrical base of everything, like Mantra is their substantial sound.

color and sound relationship

Mantra and Yantra, in indian tradition, are extremely colse. Photo Today, the scientists John Stuart Reid and Erik Larson have developed Cymatic studies and they have created another machine called the Cymatoscope, a new version of the old Tonoscope, which is able to give us tridimensional images of sound, expecialy if we use water as sound propagation medium.

This is the description: The most satisfactory one I made had a large ground glass about five feet in diameter, framed like a picture, and set in the upper part of the instrument. On this the colors were shown. The instrument had little windows glazed with different-colored glass, each window with a shutter, and so arranged that by pressing the keys of the organ the shutter was thrown back, letting in a colored light.

This light, diffused and reflected on a white screen behind the ground glass and partly on the glass, produced a color that was softly shaded into the neutral tint of the glass.

An electric light could be used behind it.

color and sound relationship

Sound does not have the electrical and magnetic fields that visible light does. Sound also travels much slower than does light. The audible sound spectrum consists of sounds between frequencies of 20 Hz and 20, Hz. These waves are very large and very slow compared to light waves.

Sound waves are approximately 1,, times larger than light waves. They are vastly different in both size and speed. Both color and sound cover a range of wavelengths, but color is not restricted to a single wavelength. The pitch of the note A has a frequency of Hz. If notes were sounded around the A but of slightly smaller or greater frequencies, the result would produce pulses in the sound and an unclear tone.

As the size of difference in frequency is increased, the sound would be dissonant and very unpleasant to listen to for an extended period of time. Sound is not continuous in this sense. Color on the other hand is continuous. If a red were produced at one particular wavelength of light and slightly different wavelengths added into the color, the appearance would change subtly and the eye would start to notice the red deepening or lightening depending upon the color being added.

There is not a dissonance in color blending as there is in sound blending of similar notes.

This is because of the continuous nature of light, and the step nature of sound. Not all sound blending is dissonant. There are certain combinations of sound intervals that produce very pleasing relationships.

These instances comprise the relationship between harmony and melody. When two harmonious notes are sounded, each note can be heard and both sound complementary to the other. When color is blended, each color loses its individuality and a new color results.

Two colors placed next to each other would have the same effect as two notes. The observer could see both colors and comment on the relationship between them. Perhaps an untrained ear could not distinguish between two notes, but no amount of eye training will free the eye to separate blue and yellow from green. Sources of Color and Sound Sound and color also have different origins. Sound emanates from an object that acts mechanically to produce the sound.

The object produces the sound. A large rock thrown into water will create a splash. Shattering glass creates quite a pleasant sound to some people. The sound comes from the object. On the other hand, an object appears to be colored because of the interaction of white light with the object.

White light strikes an object, the object absorbs certain parts of the light, one might say it absorbs all colors but blue, and the light leaving the object would then contain whatever color is left, or blue for the example.

color and sound relationship

In a sense the real color of a blue book is a combination of every color but blue. This is not accurate because the object itself it not colored.

Color is perceived as the reaction of light with an object. History of the Studies Plato pondered the idea of eight concentric circles each with a distinctive color and tone. The eighth note was a repeat of the first note and all the notes sounded together produced what he termed as the "music of the spheres". This was quite an advanced idea for a time when there were no prisms and rainbows were not frequently seen. Aristotle suggested the first color-music formula. He had no conception of the color spectrum so he invented his own spectrum with black and white as the ends and several colors in the middle including red and purple.

Aristotle assigned colors to musical tones according to how the colors and tones blended. Much of this early work on color and music was purely speculative.


Sir Isaac Newton observed the colors of the rainbow via a prism in the 17th century. Niels Hutchinson writes that Newton split the rainbow into seven sections intentionally to mirror the seven notes of the musical scale.

With a good prism, seven colors are clearly visible and so the necessary relationship between the seven colors and seven principle notes should be challenged. This will be addressed shortly.

Newton also attempted to create a music-color wheel, shown in Figure 3. The design of this wheel was entirely arbitrary. Another arbitrary formation of a color wheel can be seen in Figure 4.

essay - Color and Sound - a relational history in theory

Each color is assigned to a key on the piano. This coordination was developed by Dominic De Clario and used in a presentation of light and sound in All of the colors in the show were coordinated to the particular key of the music and the particular notes being played.

Music-Color Assignment According to Dominic De Clario Declario wanted to have white light as part of the color selection and he chose to add it as one of the key colors. White light is the sum of all of the visible colors. To replace indigo with violet demonstrates how this music-color scheme is arbitrary and unscientific.

It is particularly easy to coordinate seven colors to seven notes. A relationship is not established between sound and color because there are equal numbers of each. In fact, the seven whole tones in the western system of notation is also arbitrary. There are a total of 12 notes in the western scale. Indian musicians use a system of quarter tones for a total of 22 notes.

The western system of music has become a standard largely because it is easier to use. It works, but just because it is easier does not make it the standard. A popular way of dividing up an octave of notes is with seven divisions. It is not the only way and so the seemingly magical relationship between seven colors and seven notes probably is not so magical.

It probably came around in a deductive application of the number seven instead of objective study of the sound and color. On the website The Metaphysics of Music and Harmony another example of the relationship between color and music is displayed.

In Figure 5, the 12 tones are arranged around a wheel.