extract from Pitch, Pi, and Other Musical Paradoxes..........
by Charles E. H. Lucy copyright 1986-2000
chapter nine PITCH, COLOUR, SCRIABIN, AND OTHERS
Another mythological relationship which, like the music of the spheres has persisted, is the concept that pitch and colour are in some mysterious way related. Theories have been postulated by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872 -1915), the Rosicrucian Order and many others.
Some of the synaesthetic correlations between colour and particular keys, chords, and pieces of music may be caused by the association of auras, or subjective ideas, but the intent here is to explore the possibilities of a connection through mathematics and physics, and to extend our knowledge about sound.
Note: Colours displayed from this website may vary with equipment used.
Scriabin's theory was that each note in the octave could be associated with a specific colour, and in Prometheus, the Poem of Fire, he wrote the colours and music to match. His arrangement was:
The Rosicrucian Order based their theories on Just intonation and suggest that note names, frequencies, and colours should be:
Colour may be defined mathematically by the electromagnetic wavelength to which it corresponds. Pitch may be described by frequency, to which the wavelength is inversely proportional. But there is no general agreement on which colour matches which note, pitch or range.
The spectrum from a rainbow is described as: Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet Frequencies in the visible spectrum are between 1014 & 1015 Hertz. Wavelengths of visible light are between .1 & .8 of a micron, Guy Murchie in Music Of The Spheres states that invisible ultra-violet has a wavelength of 3,700 angstroms: that invisible infra-red 7,400 angstroms; and that this doubling suggests an octave. According to Van Nostrano's Encyclopedia, results on tests with a spectrometer gave the following results for human perception of colour:
Eg: for 5800 Angstroms (yellow) Frequency = 299,792,458 / 0.000,000,58 = 516,883,530,000,000 Hz.
As octaves are a result of doubling or halving frequency this high frequency may be reduced to a precise audible value by cumulative halving.
The following table shows the results of this logic:
Diagram of clockface with approximate colours
Diagram of global connections between frequencies, wavelengths and colours
Diagram of harmonic colours
Back to LucyTuning homepage