for jacky : Color and Music Bibliography
- Funny that I should check back to the tuning list for the first time in
months to see this question posted. The topic of pitch and color is kind of
an obsession for me. I have my own ideas about it which I apply to writing
music in pure intonation, and I've invented an electronic wind instrument
based on these ideas. As I've been working on a book about it for a while
now, I can give you a partial bibliography of interesting sources. Pitch -
color associations are mostly idiosyncratic and arbitrary. Of course, many
well known composers have had personal synesthetic experiences; Prokofiev,
Skriabin, etc. Many color theorists and artists have stated their ideas on
this (e.g. Goethe). There are several ways to make a pseudo-scientific
correlation, resulting in C = green or C = red and other relations (see Lucy
Tuning on the web for one take on this). Contrary to somewhat popular lore
(see Barbara Hero's lambdoma webpages), Pythagorean sources contain zero
references to color and music. Aristotle said something to the effect that
there is a color code in everything, but that's about the extent of Greek
color-music theory before Xenakis. A whole slew of metaphysical (and
religious) lore surrounds this topic, making it often seem like
pseudoscientific bunk to academics, and honestly you need to do a lot of
sifting to find sources which are interesting. Out of about 40 books on the
topic which I got on interlibrary loan from all over the country, maybe 10
had anything I felt was really worthwhile in them. Countless people have
"discovered" a "new" way to write music with colors which amounts to
redundant coding for 12 equal tempered pitches. The majority of published
"discoveries" have absolutely nothing to do with tuning. There are also many
U.S. Patents on color-pitch associations, mostly for teaching purposes.
Obviously it's been a topic of interest for generations. Here are some
sources you might find interesting. They're in no particular order, and
some are just color theory books or color/pitch percption or psychophysics
OPTICKS, or A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and
Colors of Light, by Sir Isaac Newton, fourth edition 1730, available from
Dover Publications, New York, 1952
(established ROYGBIV and an analogy between the diatonic scale and the
rainbow, the most pervasive idea associated with the topic, later dismissed
by Helmholtz and others)
Coloured Light: An Art Medium, being the third edition enlarged of
“Colour-Music,” by Adrian Bernard Klen, M.B.E., A.R.P.S., Technical Press
(possibly the best introduction to and synopsis of the subject, summarizes a
large number of other sources)
The Elements of Color, A treatise on the color system of Johannes Itten based
on his book “The Art of Color”, by Johannes Itten, translated by Ernst van
Hagen, edited by Faber Birren, published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1970.
(refers to Newton, equates color with pitch, Itten’s RYB credo at bauhaus,
1919, also influenced Klee, Kandinsky and others)
Colour-Music, the art of Mobile Color, by Wallace Rimington, Hutchinson and
(the color organ)
Musicolour, by Ronald Senator, Musicolor Ltd., 1977.
(12 tone colors)
Farb-Musik: Leitfaden für eine kombinierte Farben- und Musiklehre, by Fritz
Dobretzberger and Johannes Paul, 1993, Simon and Leutner Verlag, Berlin.
12 tone, 12 colors, (figures), also planets
Der Akkord- und Quintenzirkel in Farben und Tönen, Ein einfaches Gesetz der
Farbenharmonie, von Hans Bartolo Brand, J. Lindauersche
Universitäts-Buchhandlung (Schöpping), München 1914.
(pure intonation based on 3/2, ends up w/ 12 tone colors)
Color and Sound Interrelated, by Louise A. Beattie, Department of Art and
Design of San Jose State University, Masters’ thesis, 1998.
The Fine Art of Light Color Playing, by Mary Hallock Greenewalt, Westbrook
Publishing Co., 1946.
A Method of Associating Color with Music, by Thomas H. Goodpastor, University
of Notre Dame, Masters’ thesis, 1950.
The Influence of Visual Color Upon Selected Examples of Twentieth-Century
Music, by Susan Bayla Rosenfield Geffen, University of Texas at Dallas,
Masters’ thesis, 1991.
(contains a useful bibliography)
The Musical Interval as Applied to Color, by H. A. Froom, printed by Edwin R.
(uses just intonation ratios)
Common Sense: Relationships Between Color Vision and Audition, Central
Michigan University, Masters’ thesis, 1985.
(explores RYB light correlated responses to pitch stimulus)
Musical Colour, by Danton Adams, Douglas & Gilson (1922) LTD., first edition,
SOUND & COLOUR, Their Relations, Analogies, and Harmonies
John Denis Macdonald, M.D., F.R.S., staff surgeon, R.N.
Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer: London; Groves, High Street: Gosport, 1869.
The Correlation of Sound and Color: Three Major Metaphysical Sources, by John
Floyd Gay, University of Missouri at Kansas City, D.M.A diss. (microfilm
Rainbow-Music; or The Philosophy of Harmony in Colour-Grouping, by Lady
Archibald Campbell, Bernard Quaritch, London, 1886.
Short Talks to Art Students on Color From an Artists Standpoint, Also Dealing
with the Relation of Color to the Musical Scale, by Maud M. Miles, 1914.
Die Zalengrundlagen der Musik im Wandel der Zeiten, 2. Aufl. - Stuttgart:
Verlag Freies Geistesleben, 1985, by Ernst Bindel
Though the rest of this book has to do with number relations and harmonic
proportion, these sections deal with twelve tone major keys with are equated
with colors. p. 288 - 303
COLOR-MUSIC, by Theodore F. Karwoski and Henry S. Odbert, Dartmouth College,
from Psychological Monographs, Vol. 50, No. 2 Whole No. 222, 1938, edited by
John F. Dashiell, University of North Carolina, published for the American
Psychological Association by THE PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW COMPANY, the Ohio State
Concerned with synesthesia. “A preliminary survey of 274 college students
revealed 165, or 60%, who showed some tendency to associate color with short
musical selections.” p. 57
Musik und Alchemie, by Franz Liessem, 1969 Hans Schneider, Tutzing Satz und
Druck: Ernst Vögel, München 22, Kanalstrasse 10
largely concerned with music and planets, but also involves colors.
Pythagoras musicus, by Barbara Münxelhaus, Verlag für systematische
Musikwissenschaft GmbH Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1976, Band 19 der
Orpheus-Schriftenreihe zu Grundfragen der Musik herausgegeben von Martin
Tone and number, Music and arithmetic, Music and Geometry, the Quadrivium, no
Color: basic principles and new directions, by Patricia Sloane, 1968 Studio
Vista: London, Reinhold Book Corporation: New York, A subsidary of
Classical Japanese painting colors. 5 parent colors - Red (seki) Yellow (au)
Blue (sei) black (koku) and white (byaku). There are also 10 mixtures of the
parent colors, which by the rule of “Iro no kubari” cannot be placed
contiguous to a parent color in a painting. p. 10
10 color Munsell system, p. 20
Kandinsky boxes value scale, p. 27
Thomas Young (1773-1829) primary color theories. First suggested red,
yellow, blue, but revised this to red, green, purple. p. 29
Neon (red) Helium (yellow) Xenon (light blue) Krypton (white) and Argon
(blue-violet) are all inert gasses used in incandescent lights. Mercury
vapor also produces white light with high ultra violet content. p. 34
Naming the Rainbow, 1998 by Don Dedrick, Dept of Philosophy, University of
Victoria, Canada, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
“there are more than 11 basic color terms.” p. 73
Color naming experiments with adults establish the fact that given a
continuum of spectral color, for example the term “blue” is applied to a
range of stimuli, and as the so-called “hue border” is approached, teh
composite term “blue-green” will be used, and “green” will be used as the
boundary region is exited. p. 65
The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, compiled and translated by Kenneth
Sylvan Guthrie, edited by David R. Fideler, 1987 Phanes Press, Grand Rapids,
writings on number, the cosmos, and harmony. references to music of the
spheres and musical intervals. No mention of color.
Writings on Contemporary Music Notations, an Annotated Bibliography, by
Gerald Warfield, Associate Director, Index of New American Notation. Music
Library Association, 1976. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
452 entries on notation related articles published between 1950 and 1975. 4
Epperson, John W. “Color in Contemporary Music Notation” Bandwagon 74
(november 1974) pp. 14-18, exx.
contains a brief history of the use of color in notation, although most
discussion is of contemporary usage. Color score examples from 1958-69. One
work from 1910 by Felix Weingartner.
The New Music, by Boris Lang, Scarsdale New York: the author, 1967
(Library of Congress) 12 pp., exx.
“Catching Sight of the Music” by Kenneth Payne, composer (London) 29
(1968) pp. 16-18
describes pedagogical color charts for music.
“Musikalische Graphic,” by Hans Sündermann, Antaios 8, no. 5
suggested correspondence between color and emotion in musical passages.
Attacked by Dahlhaus in Neua Zeitschrift für Musik, vol. 128, no. 10 (Oct.
11, 1967), p. 505
Die Dasia-Notation, by Barbara Hebborn, Orpheus - Verlag GmbH, Verlag für
systematische Musikwissenschaft, Bonn 1995, Band 79 der
Orpheus-Schriftenreihe zu Grundfragen der Musik herausgegeben von Martin
Greek origins, number origins, early notation, based on Greek sources. (fig)
Basic Color Terms, Their Universality and Evolution, by Brent Berlin and Paul
Kay, 1969, 1999 CSLI Publications, Center for the Study of Language and
Information, Leland Stanford Junior University.
diagram, p. 9
20 dissimilar spoken languages, additional written sources = 98 total
languages surveyed. 11 basic terms.
Fundamentals of Sensation and Perception, 3rd edition, Levine and Shefner,
Michael W. Levine, 2000, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at
Chicago, Oxford University Press
Chapter 14, Color Vision, pp. 297-331. p. 323-325, cellular evidence for
Color Perception: philosophical, psychological, artistic and computational
perspectives, edited by Steven Davis, 2000, New York, Oxford University Press
Simultaneous Contrast and Color Constancy: Signatures of Human image
Processing, by John J. McCann, p. 88-101
Theories of Visual Perception, by Ian E. Gordon, 1989 John Wiley and Sons,
Perspectives on Notation and Performance, Edited by Benjamin Boretz and
Edward T. Cone, W. W. Norton Company, New York, 1976
Note Values, by John MacIvor Perkins, p. 63-73
logarithmic rhythmic notation based on integer ratios.
Ist C = Rot? Eine Kultur- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte zum Problem der
wechselseitigen Beziehung zwischen Ton und Farbe, Von Aristotle bis Goethe,
by Jörg Jewanski, Berliner Musik Studien 17, Schriftenreihe zur
Musikwissenschaft an den Berliner Hochschulen und Universitäten,
Herausgegeben von Rainer Cadenbach, Hermann Danuser, Albrecht Riethmüller und
Christian Martin Schmidt, 1999
p. 182, Isaac Beekman, in 1623 adopted PU=white, P5=yellow, P4=red, P3=blue,
and dissonances are black.
p. 222, Cureau de la Chambre, 1650, also equated intervals with colors white,
yellow, red, green blue, purple, and black
Newton, Marain, Helmholtz, Morley, Campion,Krüger (1742) after Bach wtc(1722)
and Werkmeister (1686). Naturlehre 1740. p. 249
Castel, Goethe, etc.
Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors and their Applications to the
Arts, by M. E. Chevruel, 1st english edition, 1854, translated from the 1st
french edition 1839, Reinhold publishing company, a subsidary of
Chapman-Reinhold, Inc. New York, Amsterdam, London
p. 62, equations of simultaneous contrast of hue and tone (page)
Source Book of Proposed Music Notation Reforms, by Gardner Read, Music
Reference Collection, Number 11, Greenwood Press, New York, Westport
Connecticut, London, 1987.
90 proposals for staff reforms, none of which have to do with tuning.
Johannes Itten, Meine Symbole, meine Mythologien werden die Formen und Farben
sein, Museum moderner Kunst, Wein Kunsthaus Zürich Museum Folkwang, Essen,
1988, Herausgegeben von Dieter Bogner und Eva Badura-Triska
20th Century Microtonal Notation, by Garnder Read, Greenwood Press, New York,
1990, Contributions to the Study of Music and Dance, No. 18
over a hundred varieties of notation, and only 1, Erv Wilson’s, use anthing
other than a 5 line staff. p.144
The Notation of Western Music, an introduction, by Richard Rastall, St,
Martin’s Press, New York, 1982, J.M. Dent and Sons, Ltd.
p. 6 why staff notation has held its sway. pp. 1-7, requirements of
instruments and voices
Perceptual Constancy: Why Things Look as They Do, edited by Vincent Walsh and
Janusz Kulikowski, Cambridge University Press, 1998
“Color constancy and color vision during infancy: Methodological and
empirical issues,” by James L. Dannemiller, pp. 229-261
p. 241 trichromacy by 3 months
“Physiological substrates of Color Constancy,” by Hidehiko Komatsu, pp.
p, 358 neurons tuned to the color purple (macaque monkeys) in area V1