Music and colour both have a very simple thing in common. They share very similar effects on our emotions which are both extremely dynamic and immediate. You see it, you hear it, you feel it. We all understand how a piece of music or a colour can affect our day. A bright shiny colour is happy and a dark colour more pensive, a light and soft tune immediately lifts our mood, a melancholic song? Well you know what that means… There is also a small minority of people (around one in around 3,000) who have a far stronger connection between music and colour. They are called chromesthetes. This means they spontaneously “see” colours as they listen to music. Chromesthesia or, as it is also known, sound-to-colour synaesthesia.
This is a type of synesthesia in which heard sounds automatically and involuntarily evoke colour. Synesthesia is a continuous phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. It is as if the brain, when it engages listening to music, the part of the brain that connects to colour engages as the same time with the part listening to the music, so it becomes a simultaneous process.
Another sound and image connection is called timbre. It is also known as tone colour or tone quality. It is the perceived sound quality of a musical note, sound or tone. Timbre distinguishes different types of sound production, such as different choir voices, certain musical instruments playing at once, or a string instrument, from a wind instrument, and a percussion instrument. It is what enables a listener to process different instruments from the same or different categories of instruments.
Colours as words are also important in our mind connectivity. So what happens when we bring together music with colours in the title of a tune? Does the record live up to its expected emotive quality? Have a listen to some of the records below and make your own mind up from this very small selection of records with colours in their titles. Or just turn the volume right up and dance around your own living room.
Two grey rooms Joni Mitchell
White lines grandmaster flash Am I black enough for ya billy Paul Black and go,d Sam sparro Blue Monday new order
Brown sugar Rolling Stones Don’t eat the yellow snow frank zappa Famous blue rain at Leonard cohen Greener arrested development Little red corvette Le vie on rose Edith Piaf Mood indigo duke Ellington Orange crush rem Pink matter frank ocean
Purple haze Jimmy Hendrix Red right hand nick cave and the bad seeds Rhapsody in blue George gerswn Critti politti Rock a boy blue Beth Orton – “See Through Blue” The Power of Orange Knickers The Clash – White Riot Goldfrapp: Yellow Halo Red Wine · Woody Guthrie