Emotional Energy in Music
The Colors of Music
In the true power music I have listened to I have found only a small number of power types. Seven, in fact. And they have qualities that match the seven evolutionary steps, the Soul Emotions, outlined in the first chapter. The seven rainbow colors constitute a very convenient vocabulary for discussing the energies. I don’t believe that power music conveys color in a literal sense—the Hallelujah Chorus probably doesn’t bring the color orange to mind in most listeners—but most people associate certain traits with each color and those traits correlate nicely with the emotional aspects of the music energies.
Actually there may be a literal aspect to the color-energy correspondence after all. There is a belief among metaphysical seekers that the color bands repeat in each higher octave of the electromagnetic spectrum, but our eyes are sensitive only to one octave of the spectrum, the visible light octave. Kay Gardner quotes from the 19th century scientist Dr. Edwin Babbitt:
When one musical octave is finished, another one commences and progresses with twice as many vibrations as were present in the first octave, and so the notes are repeated on a finer scale. In the same way, when the scale of colors visible to the ordinary is completed in the violet, another octave of finer invisible colors, with exactly twice as many vibrations, will commence and progress on precisely the same law.
In the color violet, we can see the spectrum returning to the beginning, red. One can imagine the color bands repeating in higher and higher octaves of vibration, all the way up to what is known as the “emotional plane”. If that plane of existence consists of one octave of vibration (a 2 to 1 frequency ratio) then we have a reason to think that musical power may really carry color in an esoteric way. There are a lot of “if’s” in all of this and it is still hypothetical conjecture but it makes sense in a certain simple and elegant kind of way.
In any case, here again is a brief listing of the energy types, with some of their qualities. There will be a fuller discussion of each energy in Part 4. An important point is that each energy admits of more than one kind of interpretation.
: separation, beginning, alone, fear, stimulation, aliveness, adventure, danger, challenge, vitality, courage, strength.
: independence, freedom, newness, celebration, gratitude, praise, boldness
: self-identity, personal power, self-fulfillment
: awareness of the world, compassion
: appreciation of beauty and truth in form
: appreciation of beauty and truth without form
: return, home, completion, rest
The relevance of the key
Most listeners agree that different keys have a different quality or “feel”. The “sharp” keys (G, D, A, E, B major) are bright and lively. The flat keys (F major, B flat major etc.) are more solemn and grounded. C major has a bright quality but is more stark and bold than the sharp keys. If you listen to enough music and are aware of the tonic key and the color energy, it is easy to conclude that there is a natural key for each color or energy. Indeed the key of C major is used for marches and other Red music so often that it cannot be coincidence. We will see later that the key of D major is unmistakably a favorite context for power music of the Orange variety. E is bright and joyful; F is the “earth tone” and has solid feel to it, and is a natural context for the Green energy.
Does this mean that C is a red key, or G is a blue key? Not in the sense that the key determines the color, for it is the emotional quality of the music, primarily, that determines the color. But it does mean, for example, that C is more suitable to red energy music than say E flat or A. The most powerful music is music that is written in the key that corresponds to its color energy.
Lending credence to this principle is the fact that colors have long been associated with individual notes, and the most common association is red with C, orange with D and so on.
Other color-music correlations
Among composers, the Russian Alexander Scriabin associated colors with keys, but in a different way. Oliver Messiaen, a French writer of contemporary music, associated colors with chords but not in any systematic way. The musically intuitive author Corinne Heline, in
Color and Music in the New Age
, is on the right track when she ascribes a certain color to an entire work, according to the “feel” of that work. She ascribes color nuances to specific sentiments, for example: carmine with strength; bright brick red with anger; scarlet with pride; silver-green with life; greenish-gray with pessimism, etc.
These assignments, however interesting they may be, seem a bit arbitrary and unsystematic, and we are not given any good reasons to believe that the music actually carries these colors inherently.
Healing with Music and Color
by Mary Bassano
begins to explore the music-color correlations systematically in the context of healing. That little book uses only the seven fundamental colors; the attributes presented for each color are ones that you might come up with on a first attempt and some are partially correct; unfortunately in general they fall well short of the full truth. Many of the examples that are listed for the particular colors are correct, but not all of them. The section of that book not dealing directly with color offers wonderful wisdom.