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 Subject: Science: Sound to Color Category: Science Asked by: joia1-ga List Price: \$25.00 Posted: 12 Mar 2004 21:38 PST Expires: 11 Apr 2004 22:38 PDT Question ID: 316218
 ```I make musical instruments and would like to correlate musical notes to colors. By looking at the frequency of a note, ie. middle C and transposing that up by octaves into the light spectrum can the color be determined? For example, C = Red D = Orange, etc. I'd like to match these up by science as apposed to art. Also, to better understand what I'm trying to do, see my website at www.joiatubes.com Joia1```
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color Answered By: hedgie-ga on 19 Mar 2004 02:28 PST Rated:
 ```Hi joia Interesting question: Mapping sound to color Comment below has some merit, but I am going to offer different mapping, mapping based on human perception of color and sound. It is still scientific, but it takes the properties of sensors into account. 1) perception of color: Somewhat technical explanation of chromatic coefficients is given here http://www.math.ubc.ca/~cass/courses/m309-03a/m309-projects/vaxenga/part5.html We can clarify it as much as needed, on request. For starters: each perceived color can be described by three number The numbers (coordinates or coefficients) differ vsry slightly from person to person, once we exclude colorblind subjects). There are different transformations of those three; A simple set is this: hue saturation and luminance . Luminance describes to intensity of light (volume of the sound) Hue would match the dominant tone (pitch) of sound (low or base) Saturation,which increase as we are going from white to pastels to pure (rainbow) color has no obvious analog. You have to choose. you may choose duration of a note, or something like timbre. Since duration of the tone may mapped on the duration of flash, it may be better to reserve saturation for another property of sound. Visually, all this is explained here: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=psychology.uww.edu/305WWW/COLOR/ColorSolid.JPG&imgrefurl=http://psychology.uww.edu/305WWW/COLOR/COLOR.htm&h=531&w=288&sz=160&tbnid=CXvztRxwjQcJ:&tbnh=127&tbnw=69&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcolor%2Bsolid%26hl%3Den%26lr%3Dlang_cs%7Clang_en%26ie%3DUTF-8%26inlang%3Dpl%26c2coff%3D1%26safe%3Doff This picture is taken from the site http://psychology.uww.edu/305WWW/COLOR/ColorVis.html which has additional explanation on human perception of color. Look at the pages there. 2) Perception of sound: Physics represents sound and light in a similar way, by a spectrum (a graph which how much energy is in each frequency band). http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/sound.spectrum.html A sound spectrum is explained here: http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/sound.spectrum.html However, they eye and inner ear differ. Light is filtered through 3 types of cones and so has three dimensions. Inner ear has many more sensors, and sound perception has more dimension. Since intensity naturally corresponds to volume, you must select two characteristics of the sound spectrum to map on the other two dimensions of light. Dominant tone (main peal in the spectrum) would be a good match to HUE. Purity (spectral with) would be a good match for SATURATION. Pure tone (single line a spectrum) would then correspond to a pure color, and 'white noise' would map on white color.(zero saturation) If you are happy with the answer, please do rate it . It helps me to improve my skills if I know how well,or how badly, I did answer. If you are not happy, please do ask for clarification. Hedgie``` Clarification of Answer by hedgie-ga on 22 Mar 2004 05:10 PST ```Hi joia1-ga I have read your comment. In general, it is better for you to use 'request for clarification' button. That way I am notifiedd about your RFC. I usually come back to read the comments, but it is not required or guaranteed. As GA researcher I cannot communicate with you directly (using e-mail). Commenters (racecar, ofer) do not have this restriction. However, I will answer your CRFs as needed. I see no conflict between the answers. The mapping between frequencies (color and pitch), which racecar sketched can be, and should be, described by a mathematical function. Unless you provide additional requirements, such function is not unique. Linear function (roughly, racecar's choice) is simplest. You also may choose if you want to map whole visible range to whole audible range as I suggested, or use just part of the range, as racecar does. Audible range changes a bit with age. For younger people it is 20Hz to 20kHz, which is more then the segment which racecar picked. Th eother difference between Racecar's answer and mine is in this: Racecar considers only pure (spectral) colors and tones. I considered more general mapping: Mapping of all sounds we can hear to all colour shich we can differentiate. There are colors which are not pure, but which we do see as different from pure colors (e.g. brown, grey etc). If you are satisfied with a subset of colors and subset of tones and simple function, then racecar's mapping is without a fault. hedgie```
 joia1-ga rated this answer: and gave an additional tip of: \$25.00 ```To racecar.ga your thoughts and complete breakdown of the notes and colors is an exceptional resource for me in my field. Also, thank you for your follow up. Outstanding! Hedgie-ga, Thanks for the clarification and your brain on this. I got it! racecar provided the foundation and you provided the map to expand on this issue. I have no idea what researchers would charge for this information but here's at least another \$25.00 for your work. You guys (or girls?) are great! Thanks, Rick```

 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: racecar-ga on 13 Mar 2004 02:54 PST
 ```The frequencies of light of various colors can indeed be expressed in terms of musical notes, but there is not a visible color for every note, because an octave represents a doubling in frequency, and the highest frequency of light our eyes can see is not quite twice the lowest frequency. We can see light from about 4.3 E14 to 7.5 E14 Hz. (7.5 E14 means 750000000000000). The frequency of middle C is 262 Hz, so the frequency of the C 41 octaves above middle C is 262 * 2^41 = 5.8 E14, which is the frequency of green light. So if we could hear green, it would be a C. The highest frequency we can see (7.5 E14 Hz) is between E and F 41 octaves above the E and F above middle C. The lowest frequency we can see (4.3 E14 Hz) is the G 40 octaves above the G above middle C. So the colors would go like this: G (196): deep crimson (4.31 E14) G#(208): red-orange (4.57 E14) A (220): orange (4.84 E14) A#(233): yellow (5.12 E14) B (247): yellow-green (5.43 E14) C (262): green (5.75 E14) C#(277): turquois (6.10 E14) D (294): blue (6.46 E14) D#(311): blue-purple (6.84 E14) E (329): violet (7.25 E14) And F and F# are not visible. After each not is its frequency (for the G below middle C up to the E above it), and after each color the corresponding frequency 41 octaves higher. I just kind of guessed when naming the colors, but they're approximately right.```
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: racecar-ga on 13 Mar 2004 02:56 PST
 `after each *note*...`
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: racecar-ga on 22 Mar 2004 10:56 PST
 ```Hi Rick, Hedgie and Ofer are correct that there are an infinite number of possible arbitrary ways to define a function which links colors and sounds, and that would be about all that could be said on the subject if you wanted to assign each color to an animal, say, or each musical note to a continent. But as you know, the musical scale is a frequency scale: it would be cumbersome to refer to each note by its frequency in hertz, so instead we give each note a letter name, kind of a shorthand. In western music, the octave is broken up into twelve increments (notes), and in the tuning system known as just intonation, all steps are the same size. The frequency of each note is a factor of 1.05946... times that of the previous note. Anyway, the point is that the musical scale is just a way of measuring frequency, nothing more. And each pure spectral color has a frequency, which can be measured using any frequency scale, including the musical one. As Hedgie has pointed out, most sounds that you hear and most light that you see are made up of a mixture of various frequencies. This mixture is what makes a note played on one instrument distinguishable from the same note played on a different instrument, and it accounts for the property of visible light known as saturation. In fact, even if you paint your instruments with the colors I have suggested, each color of paint will reflect not just a single frequency, but a range of them. The color perceived by the eye, however, can be the same as if the light were monochromatic. All these details aside, in my view, the answer to the original question is simple and unambiguous. The question was: "By looking at the frequency of a note, ie. middle C and transposing that up by octaves into the light spectrum can the color be determined?" And the answer is, unequivocally, yes. This answer is based on basic principles of optics and music theory, so a reference shouldn't be necessary. If you would like assurance that the answer is correct, one thing you could do is post a question asking other GA researchers. If you like, you can direct your question at specific researchers whose answers you would trust. In my opinion, mathtalk-ga would be a good choice in this case. Last thing: I repeat that while the frequencies I listed are accurate, the color names are only approximate, and you should check them.```
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: dibutilftalat-ga on 24 Mar 2004 08:24 PST
 ```Here is just an idea to dig into ;-) Nobody has yet mentioned the musical harmony. The chords can be consonance and dissonance and color prception, althoug extremely subjective, also has some rules about combining the colors. For instance 'red is no good to combine with green' or 'some blue shades match light-yellow' - there is lots of literature on how to and how not to combine colors. I have not heared about a formal study about color harmony and consonance. If such would exist it will be extremely beneficial to the mapping of the music to color. I realise of course that it has nothing to do with analog music playback - applicable only to the rendition of notes (MIDI, MOD or live play)```
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: jeffbridges-ga on 24 Mar 2004 11:43 PST
 ```Out of curiosity - and I know I didn't pay for this question - I heard that George Gershwin may have had a brain "disorder" that allowed him to see sound. Hence, Rhapsody in Blue actually sounded like the color blue. Is there any truth to this rumor, and if so, do the techniques outlined here to match color with sound equate with Gershwin's match of colors and sound?```
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: spacegirl-ga on 24 Mar 2004 11:55 PST
 ```the "disorder" that jeffbridges comments on is a true gift called synaesthesia. those of us who have this gift see colors for letters, numbers, and musical notes. for more information on synaesthesia, and some brilliant famous people who are synaesthetes, you may want to check out this link: http://www.psychiatry.cam.ac.uk/isa/frames.html synaesthetes can be very possessive of the colors they associate with certain letters, numbers, or notes, and will argue to the death why A flat should be lavender (or whatever) - emotion and perception are the key factors in determining these colors for most, not science. a scientific correlation such as joia1 is trying to create is a completely different scenario and seems much less likely to rile up any vehement synaesthete. hope that's clear!```
 Subject: Re: Science: Sound to Color From: diggabyte-ga on 10 May 2004 16:07 PDT
 ```Regarding mapping sound to color, as well as color harmony and consonance and their application to musical performance, I have been toying around with the idea of using pure color, and it's direct variations (hue, tone, etc) to represent frequency range cutting and boosting, also known as an equalizer, or EQ. EQ's are used most frequently with DJ audio-mixing, elctronically generated music, and audio recording and mastering. For simplicity, I have been focusing on the Disc-jockey EQ, which traditionally uses three frequency ranges (bass, mid, treble) with a -26Db cut and a +12Db boost associated to each. I would like to hear some comments on how a 3-band EQ might use color to reresent changes. Any ideas?```