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Music and color: the phenomenon of color hearing

Even in ancient India, there were peculiar ideas about the close relationship of music and color. In particular, the Indians believed that each person has his own melody and color. The brilliant Aristotle claimed in the treatise “On the Soul” that the correlation of colors is similar to musical harmonies. The Pythagoreans preferred white, as the dominant one in the Universe, and the colors of the spectrum in their view corresponded to seven musical tones.

The colors and sounds in the cosmogony of the Greeks are active creative forces. In the XVIII century, the monk scientist L. Castel decided to construct a “color harpsichord”. Pressing a key would present the gaze of the listener with a bright color spot in a special window above the instrument in the form of a colored moving ribbon, flags shining with various colors of precious stones, illuminated by torches or candles to enhance the effect. Composers Rameau, Telemann and Gretry reacted with attention to the ideas of Castel. At the same time, he was sharply criticized by encyclopedists, who considered the analogy “seven gamma sounds – seven spectrum colors” to be untenable. THE Phenomenon of “COLORED” HEARING The phenomenon of color vision of music was discovered by some outstanding musical figures.

The brilliant Russian composer N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov, famous Soviet musicians B.V. Asafiev, S.S. Skrebkov, A.A. Kennel and others. All the keys of major and minor were seen painted in certain colors. Austrian composer of the 20th century A. Schoenberg compared the colors with the musical timbres of the instruments of the symphony orchestra. Each of these outstanding masters saw their colors in the sounds of music. For example, for Rimsky-Korsakov, D major had a golden hue and caused a feeling of joy and light, for Asafiev it was painted in the color of emerald green lawn after spring rain. D flat major seemed to Rimsky-Korsakov as dark and warm, Kenel as lemon yellow, Asafiev as a red glow, and Skrebkov evoked associations with green. But there were amazing coincidences. The key in E major was spoken of as blue, the color of the night sky.

In D major, Rimsky-Korsakov was associated with a yellowish, royal color, in Asafiev it was the sun’s rays, intense hot light, and in Skrebkov and Kenel it was yellow. It is worth noting that all these musicians had absolute pitch. “COLOR RECORDING” BY SOUNDS Works by N.A. Musicologists often call Rimsky-Korsakov “sound painting”. This definition is associated with the wondrous visualization of the music of the composer. Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas and symphonic compositions are full of musical landscapes. The choice of the tonal plan of nature paintings is by no means random. Seen in blue tones in E major and E flat major, in the operas The Tale of Tsar Saltan, Sadko, The Golden Cockerel, were used to create pictures of the sea, the starry night sky. Sunrise in the same operas is written in A major – spring, pink tonality. In the opera Snegurochka, an ice girl first appears on the stage in the “blue” in E major, and her mother Vesna-Krasna – in the “spring, pink” in A major.

The manifestation of lyrical feelings was conveyed by the composer in the “warm” D flat major – this is also the tonality of the scene of the melting of Snegurochka, who received a great gift of love. French composer-impressionist C. Debussy did not leave exact statements about his vision of music in color. But his piano preludes – “The Terrace Visited by the Moonlight”, in which glare shimmers, “Girl with Flaxen Hair”, painted in delicate watercolor tones, suggest that the composer had clear intentions to combine sound, light and color. C. Debussy “The Girl with Flaxen Hair” Debussy’s symphonic work Nocturnes allows you to clearly experience this unique “light-color-sound”. The first part – “Clouds” draws slowly moving and fading in the distance silver-gray clouds. The second nocturne of the “Festivities” depicts light bursts of the atmosphere, its fantastic dance. In the third nocturne, on the waves of the sea, sparkling in the night air, the magic virgins-sirens swing and sing their bewitching song. K. Debussy “Nocturnes” Speaking of music and color, it is impossible not to touch on the creativity of the genius A.N. Scriabin. For example, he clearly felt the red thick color in F major, the golden one in D major, the blue solemn color gave in F sharp major.

In Scriabin, not all tonalities were associated with any color. The composer created an artificial sound-color system (C major – red, G major – in orange, and D major – in yellow tones and then along the fifth and color spectrum). The composer’s ideas about combining music, light and color in the symphonic poem Prometheus were most vividly embodied. Scientists, musicians and artists today argue about the possibility of combining color and music. There are studies that the periods of oscillations of sound and light waves do not coincide and “color sound” is only a phenomenon of perception. But after all, there are definitions among musicians: “tonal flavor”, “timbre colors”.

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