A Musical Color Wheel

I was on Facebook the other day when I noticed a music theory image that my older brother had posted. Right away I noticed that it looked like a color wheel, and asked him if there was any significance to the colors used for specific notes.

Chord Wheel (via Guitar Grimoire)

Chord Wheel (via Guitar Grimoire)

He wasn’t sure about it, but the question stirred my curiosity. In order to explain why, I’ll need to explain synesthesia. In a nutshell, synesthesia is when stimulation of one sense causes involuntary stimulation of another. For example, some people associate colors with numbers or dates and others associate images with sounds. Ever since I can remember, I’ve associated certain colors with certain kinds of music, even certain keys. While listening to a note, I immediately think of (or even “feel”) a certain color. To some “synesthetes” (people that identify with this neurological condition), these colors are felt strong enough to produce almost hallucinogenic affects, like seeing a colored aura around an object, though for me it’s only a mental visualization. It’s to the point where I can even relate certain weather conditions to different types of music (grey skies versus blue, green grass versus pavement, etc). Some of you may be thinking that this is all pretty trippy, but let me assure you that I was sober for this entire project! However, according to wikipedia certain drugs can reproduce these affects, though I don’t really condone that. ANYWAY…

It’s an interesting phenomenon that I haven’t really explored because I figured it was just a quirk of mine, one among many. Wanting to look into this in depth, I decided to come up with a playlist of songs, in as many different styles as possible, in each key of the musical scale (A, A#, B, C, etc all the way to G#). Using this playlist, I would paint a color wheel, with a sliver designated for each note.

I was able to do this because my father taught me piano/keyboard essentials at a young age, and in high school I studied guitar, which was greatly encouraged by my older brother. The point is, early on in my life I learned chords and how to associate letters with keys. I’ve since learned that I have “perfect pitch”; this means that I can identify a note on the piano simply by hearing it, and that I can sing a note when given the letter. This was extremely helpful when compiling my playlist, though I did need to refer back to the keyboard a bit just to make sure I was on the right track (no pun intended). This is what I came up with:

Musical Color Wheel by Jess Lingley

Musical Color Wheel by Jess Lingley (the image on top done with songs, the image below done with individual piano keys)

Initially I was worried that the color distinctions between notes wouldn’t be strong enough, but I was quickly proven wrong. I also thought that I’d be able to narrow it down to one color per note, but I was only able to do that using individual notes on a keyboard, and not songs. Songs are made up of so many different arrangements and instruments that it would be nearly impossible to sum it all up with one color. Instead, I blended a multitude of colors and textures, inspired by whatever I was listening to. If anyone’s interested in the playlist I used, leave a comment and I’ll share it.

I don’t know that I really learned a whole lot with this exercise, but it was really fun to do and a subject I’d like to explore more in depth in the future. More often than not I have some kind of music on while I do art and I’ve certainly painted some things with certain music in mind. It’d be great to understand this a little better and tailor paintings to music, or vice versa. In the future I’d like to make more color wheels using major, minor and harmonic minor scales.

30 Minute Desk Sketch by Jess Lingley

30 Minute Desk Sketch by Jess Lingley

Wanting to try something different after all the painting I’ve been doing, I decided it was high time I got back into sketching. Here’s a thirty-minute sketch of my desk that I did earlier last week. I tried to keep it fast and loose, not focusing too much on details but paying attention to the way objects were placed against each other. My desk is normally very cluttered; I attempt to clean it up regularly, but more art materials come in to fill the space again. This was a fun, relaxing drawing. I’m going to make it a point to sketch more often! Good drawing skills are the foundation for almost everything else in the art world, after all.

I’ve only made a little progress on the models painting, brightening the two dresses on the left and refining the design of the middle dress slightly. I’m starting to think that I should let it dry as much as possible, in case we end up moving in the next few weeks. Tim’s had a few opportunities to talk to people in Halifax and my fingers are crossed! I am dreading the moving part a little bit though, just because we’re going to have to go through all the stuff we’ve accumulated in the past 6 years living here. You can be sure that I’ll be making room for all my art supplies, though.

slight progress on models painting

slight progress on models painting

Enjoy the rest of the week! Looks like we have a heat-wave coming, meaning wide open windows if I’m going to take this oil project any further.


One response to “A Musical Color Wheel

  1. Very interesting this music theory/color wheel. Jess, You have a very interesting writing style, I love reading your work. I always look forward to these regular write ups!

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