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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 4:37PM   |  30 comments
blue night

Blog post written by Jairo Geronymo, pianist, Berlin, Germany

For the past two years, I lived in Nuremberg and commuted to teach in Berlin. On the train during my four hour commute on a train traveling at 190 miles per hour,  I wrote many blogs. Many were reflections on a concert or topic that concerned Berlin. 

Two friends, a French conductor and a Spanish violinist, have queried  why their respective countries are so fixated on their capitals. Barcelona offers some competition to Madrid’s hegemony, but Paris reigns supreme in France. 

In contrast, Germany is strangely decentralized. Frankfurt is the economic center, Dusseldorf the fashion center, Munchen the Beer and Lifestyle center,  and Berlin the government center. In terms of the arts, many cities like Cologne, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Munich, Berlin…and even Nuremberg offer varied cultural events.

Nuremberg enjoys a golden medieval past as an engineering, crafts and cultural center. It is the only city that has a Wagner opera written about its singing inhabitants.

Every summer in Nuremberg,  there is a Festival called Blaue Nacht or Blue Night.This is a ‘happening’ type of event, where blue shades cover all the lights in the old city. Every art gallery, cinema, museum, church , school, university, and the castle  presents t something related to the color blue throughout the night. Exploring a color, these events naturally favor the visual arts. 

The Blue Night Festival spurred me to thinking, what about about a D Minor Festival?

Last year, the four-story high inner courtyard of a school was draped in blue fabric and white balloons, all backlit. The visitors were taken to a small platform in the center of this heavenly place and could talk through hanging minimalistic microphones to (supposedly) God. The space was very silent. I think that I should have asked God which type of music She listens in Heaven.

This year, there was a percussion concert with mostly marimbas that seemed like the perfect musicalization of the color blue. It occurred in a 14th century church (http://www.st-klara-nuernberg.de/), all lit in blue. The subtle sounds, so rarefied and hypnotizing, were truly dreamy. Bluey, not Bluesy.

2010 marks the 175th anniversary of the first Passenger Train in Germany, the Adler, connecting Furth and Nuremberg

The Deutsche Bahn Museum  in Nuremberg celebrated this event during the Blaue Nacht by commissioning a special work by a French ‘vertical’ Dance Theater Group called ‘Compagnie Les Passagers’ . They built a structure with a square canvas panel 40 feet tall. Artwork painted on this panel celebrated the Adler on which the performers would ‘walk’. The performers were hung from the top of this structure by cable attached to their waists. Through incredibly strong upper body muscles, they walked and danced on this hanging piece of Blue Art. When they jumped out of the canvas panel, the lack of horizontal gravity made them levitate effortlessly. It was like watching a ballet from above, without gravity. 

I was astonished and amused by this technical ‘tour de force.’ But I was also impressed by the musical choices: French impressionist music. Afterwards, I could not have imagined anything else. The obvious is not always people’s first choice. Debussy, Ravel, and Satie were the perfect musical match for this simple, and yet extremely complex, performance. Impressionism was the first artistic movement of the 20th century to occur simultaneously in music and the visual arts--the marriage of hearing and vision.   Blue and …

Since the 19th century, scholars have studied synesthesia, a ‘neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway’. 

So before I start thinking seriously about the visual aspects of my D Minor Festival, I must ask you a question I hope you will answer in the comments section of this blog: which color would you paint your favorite piece of music? 


30 Comments

I always picture a really deep blue when I listen to Dayvan Cowboy by Boards of Canada. I think this is because it reminds me of falling through a universe.

I have been fascinated with synesthesia ever since a friend told me she had this condition. I wonder how colorful the world would appear to me or if I would think of someone or something differently than I do now if I were affected by synesthesia.

Brown-
Brown has been ignored as a good color. Blues, reds, and greens (the mainstream) overshadow the mellow, emotional colors of brown and grey. They do not outright show their emotions, but hide it in metaphoric "mixtures". Beck, one of my favorite musicians, can be painted brown. He has talent, but he does not express it in a "red way, or sulk over it like a "blue.

When I listen to the song "Communion Cups and Someone's Coat" by Iron & Wine, I always see the oranges, purples, and pinks of a sunset. I think this is because this song always gives me a sense of serenity and peace, and also a sort of wonder. To me, dusk is one of the most calm, soothing times of day, and the feelings that I associate with this song just seem to fit perfectly with the feeling I get when looking at a sunset.

It's quite interesting how much of an impact color can have on events, movements, and/or lifestyles. Blue in Germany is associated with Blue Nacht. The fact that people can identify with something such as a movement through colors, adds a whole other level to the participation in that movement. When a large group of people all wear the same color, unity is created. A feeling of community stems from these similarities. Quite often people overlook the role of color within movements.

But how essential is color to a movement? Can the same level of unity and community stem without the participation of color in the picture?

I love how color can truly influence things. Without color, the world would be a bland place. When I hear the song "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles, I always imagine a purple or dark blue. The colors to me represent longing and wanting, just like the purpose of the song. To me, a more upbeat song usually has brighter colors such as orange or yellow, but the more solemn songs have darker colors.

I love this question. We learned about synesthesia in psychology, and I find it very applicable to my life. Colors are vital to our understanding of moods, emotions, and feelings. If we see red, we feel anger or passion, dark blues for sadness, etc. You even can see this in film. Take for instance, The Matrix, in the film, the primary color that stands out, and tints the entire film is green. That one significant alteration to the film adds a certain science fiction, high tech, mysterious quality to the movie. Back to the question, one of my favorite songs is Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, by Wham!, and I always think of bright turquoise when I hear it. For me, the song and the color go hand in hand, they represent a feeling of jubilance and youth. But the song to dark colors, and it just wouldn't work. I love the idea of color becoming such a powerful idea.

I don't normally focus on colors when I listen to music; something more abstract comes to mind. Certain songs emote a specific motion or movement to me because of the progressions and development throughout the song, somewhat similar to the visualizers on itunes or other music players. Occasionally songs will make me think of colors if the mood is really strong, like sadness or happiness (which would be either cool colors or warm colors). The idea of synesthesia fascinates me because I've definitely experienced it but never knew it had a name. After reading this and looking up more about it I feel like it should be more common than it is thought to be. The mind is so complex that I think most of us don't really analyze what is really going on with our thoughts, but if more people did then almost everyone would be able to relate to synesthesia.
To answer the question, I can picture the song R.I.P. Burn Face by CocoRosie as being shades of gray, light purple and light pink... Its a sweetly sad song that is subtle and understated.

I think the idea of festival honoring a color is an incredibly novel and inspired idea. Color is one of the various elements in the world that are capable of communicating an idea that is very much intangible. An emotion, thought, or feeling can be transmitted exceptionally well by color just as well as by, say, poetry or music. As a filmmaker color is something I am often enraptured by. For example, blue water and a blue sky can convey such a strong feeling as well as any written word. It is very clear why directors often use color to such wonderful ends in their films. For example Zhang Yimou uses deep yellows, golds and reds exceptionally well to present the majesty and impressiveness of Shanghai mobster's homes in "Shanghai Triad." One of my favorite songs, "Moon, I Already Know" by Mount Eerie, is a minute twenty long soliloquy on isolation and existentialism. Both the music and the subject give the feel of moonlit blue night. Listen to the song by the shore during a full moon, it will be a moment that will stick with you.

I'm going to start this response by saying I'm extremely jealous of the author's experiences. I watched the video linked about the "phones to God" and I would have loved to see it lit and in action. It's rather imaginative to dedicate an entire festival to one color, and to do so successfully, I'd imagine, would take a lot of skill. Colors mean different things to different people, and blue is sometimes a very tricky one for me to pin-point how it makes me feel. For this reason it'd be rather difficult for me to choose one color to paint my favorite song. I also don't really have a favorite song.

However, I don't think one color could possibly illustrate a song. Songs take you through a series of emotions and feelings, at least good songs do. They evoke a certain mood and, for me, usually a series of images. I think more in moving pictures; I imagine things as if they were a film. So while some songs may mobilize brighter, more vivid colors others could have more muted palettes. Even the performance the author of this blog saw had multiple songs and moving performers. While the color blue may have evoked a particular mood, the music and movement certainly helped. Therefore, I suppose while I don't think of a particular color, when I listen to "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin I feel a sense of lightness; I feel as though if I close my eyes I'd float away into a psychedelic, richly colored, swirling adventure of wandering through different, exotic cultures. I feel as though I could travel through time and space, and I feel overall at peace with the world. I don't think one color, on its own, can explain or exemplify this feeling for me.

I just did a project on synesthesia a month ago and found the topic very intriguing. When I picture my music with color, it's usually vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. I find it amazing that two very different art types can be linked by the brain so easily and it's almost easy to put a color to music even though there really is blatant correlation between the two.

It is truly fascinating how the subconscious works. Synesthesia is a condition that is employed everywhere and its brilliance is that the majority of people never actively realize its affect. In film, a color tint can project a mood. For instance, in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the scene with a blue color tint conveyed an eery, dreamlike feel. The concept of color palettes applies to my experience with music. I do not see one specific color when listening to a song, but a specific color palette. To me music conveys more than one color because it can produce more than one emotion within mere minutes.

I love how color and music combined can create a mood and change a spectator's reaction to any image. Synesthesia is easily one of the most fascinating conditions within brain function. I think color is too subjective to pick just one and apply it to a song to demonstrate the mood we are currently in.

That being said, I do think color can be combined with just music and evoke a pretty powerful emotion. Depending on the type of music I'm listening to, I would pick heather gray and/or a light green. It is amazing how even a slight difference in tone or shade can demonstrate different feelings.

For me, I've always envisioned the Black Keys, a bluesy band, with have harsh pastel colors, which are somewhat indicative of their own style — at times smooth and reduced, at other times gritty and cacophonous, but many times a point somewhere in-between.

Wow, that sounds like an incredible experience. They really do it every year? It must be difficult to find all that material. How interesting, I really want to go to this festival now. I wonder what blue music sounds like... It's such an interesting idea, color has a big affect on us, mood wise and when I think of blue I think of jazz and being cool and relaxed and calm. It seems more like something that would last a week rather than a night.

I'm not so sure why but I think I would paint my favorite piece of music purple, or a magenta. That's just the color that came into mind. The thing is, I don't have a favorite piece of music. I can imagine maybe certain songs being purple, but I also can imagine certain songs being red, green, and yellow. I suppose we associate colors with tempos, cultures, instruments and moods. For ex. a spicy Latin American samba I would paint red, but a light, show tune (Sound of music for example) I would probably paint yellow. This blog, has really made me think about the relationship between color and sound, and I think my mind will be buzzing on this topic for at least the next few days.

*To first answer the question, what came to mind was of course the album Kinds of Blue, by Miles Davis, I say every song conveys a blue ( and not just because the title says it dos)
I first came across the term “synesthesia” in a poetry class while reading Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas. The confusing of senses allows for an element, like blue, to convey much more then what itself represents. A cool concept. Thomas used the color of gold/yellow to show youth and age at once.
The removal of colors can also do that very thing. In the film “Removed,” the lead female is visibly erased, leaving only a color-less haze for a form. To me, this represents sysnthesis while also making a statement. By removal of a color, we look at the women without an ability to use our visual senses. Forcing the viewer to concentrate on what she said. And what she said ( 70’s porno script ) exactly like how she looks, empty, and color-less. It is not truly her. What she does say are phrases ( and sounds) that are said knowing that they are to be taken in by a voyeuristic eye ( a male eye) . Yet, her appearing removed allows are senses to be confused. We don’t see her, we hear her, but then, is what we hear really her? Are senses are confronted and confused ( resulting in synesthesia).

This is a really fascinating concept the idea that color can evoke a certain type of emotional response. This question got me thinking about the way I relate to songs or even films. Like many people have posted about the idea of a "a cool concept" when I am listening to a song that makes me feel somber or sad, my mind builds an entire background for the song. For instance when I hear the song "The world spins madly on" by the wheepies, I start to image the narrative behind the song and all of the images are either in green or in brown. Or when I listen to songs by Beethoven I picture blacks or red-probably because of the harshness of the piano. This reminds me of the film "Earth" and the color palette that Deepa Mehta chose to use. Without the addition of color in that film, I don't think the message would have been nearly as strong. I like what Kate said about how the removal of color is just as powerful as the addition. Without color I think that the concept is incomplete.

Synesthesia is such a fascinating subject and the position posed is just as interesting. I definitely associate color with mood when it comes to music. If I am listening to slower songs I think of pastels. When I listen to my favorite songs, I see brighter colors like yellow and orange, as my mood is blissful.

It is interesting to think of how color creates moods in film. Back before color was available in filmmaking, mood had to be created in other ways such as contrast. Nowadays, saturation is also used to create a different emotional feeling. When a film has a low level of saturation with dull tones, it generally has a sad feel. When a film has a high level of saturation with vibrant tones, it generally feels happier. The same goes for television. I have noticed that Disney Channel has high saturation levels to create a happy mood for the kids that watch it.

In response to Dakota: I disagree that a song couldn't be described by a color. As you say, good songs take you through a series of emotions and feelings. Colors are not unlike songs in that way. Without getting into psychological, scientific studies of the effects of different colors on emotional states, we can look at colors from a sociological and culture standpoint. For example, in America the color red can range from a feeling of love and affection to hate or violence. I think it would not only be tangible but fascinating to hear a song that can blend love and violence without be disjunctive or contrasting. All colors are have a strong dynamic range of emotions and can rank diversely on the emotional spectrum, just as songs can. It could be argued that color has just as cultural anchored meaning as music does. For example red in China is symbolic of good fortune and joy. Red would never be associated with power or violence, in fact it is forbidden to wear red to a funeral because it is a symbol of happiness. In the same mode of logic one can assume that chinese rock music might now carry the same connotations or emotional connections to an American audience. In effect, color is just as multifaceted and emotionally layered as music can be. I think this is such a wonderful and inspiring concept. I think this is a great idea, innovative idea that is fun to think about.

It is truly amazing how color can relate to things. Imagine the world without color. If there weren't colors, would things still give us the same emotions? Colors are universal, and can be related to all types of emotions and feelings. When I am listening to music, the song choice will depend on the color I think of. The tone of the song can convey a strong message which furthermore either brightens or saddens someone. For the most part, yellow and greens come to mind when I think of music. My music taste is so diverse that when I think of a rainbow I see myself in the middle of it.

The question of what color one would paint a piece of music makes me think of two things-
1. A book I read in middle school called 'A Mango Shaped Space.' The book was about a girl with synesthesia, a neurologically based condition which caused her to mix numbers, letters, and sounds with colors. It really is hard to explain, but with her particular condition she would see colors and shapes appear in the air whenever she heard specific noises. I remember one part of the book where she is listening to a classical piece of music and describing what colors and shapes each of the instruments have for her.
2. An interview I once heard with composer Eric Whitacre. In the interview Mr. Whitacre was describing his first experience singing in a choir. He said it was like he had been living his whole life in black and white and now everything was technicolor.

In response to the question posted at the end of this blog entry - I imagine Clair de Lune to be colored in shadowy pastels. Clair de Lune has the quality of beautiful innocence - giving the pastel idea - and a dark undertone giving the shadows.
The use of color to express music is pretty prevalent through popular media such as light shows (such as the light tunnel in the Detroit airport, McNamera terminal) and in films to strengthen an emotion of a music piece. However, I think this is more thoroughly expressed in places such as Germany. I remember telling my host family that the streets of Berlin were so colorful in comparison to going through down town 'America'. This increase in color use could be because of their dark past, thereby encouraging residents to create more of a colorful space.

In response to the question posted at the end of this blog entry - I imagine Clair de Lune to be colored in shadowy pastels. Clair de Lune has the quality of beautiful innocence - giving the pastel idea - and a dark undertone giving the shadows.
The use of color to express music is pretty prevalent through popular media such as light shows (such as the light tunnel in the Detroit airport, McNamera terminal) and in films to strengthen an emotion of a music piece. However, I think this is more thoroughly expressed in places such as Germany. I remember telling my host family that the streets of Berlin were so colorful in comparison to going through down town 'America'. This increase in color use could be because of their dark past, thereby encouraging residents to create more of a colorful space.

The color(s) associated with music depends on the specific piece of music, in my mind. A particular song may have qualities of yellow while another qualities of blue, sometimes even incoherent colors that make sense mentally but not when communicated in physical reality.

Synesthesia is an intriguing topic in itself. I have a mild form of synesthesia and can sometimes see or feel different colors depending on which key a piece may be in. I feel that it may have a lot more to with emotion in my case though. When I listen to something bright or loud and brassy I imagine more yellows and oranges while some Lush Debussy is more dark hues of purple or blue.

It is hard to pick a favorite piece but lately I have been very interested in Wagner and with Tristan and Isolde specifically. The opening to the prelude is a wash of sounds as he throws you into a suspension of a German Augmented sixth chord. Not to drown my post in theory but it makes me feel a dark blue or purpleish grey that seems to lighten up. I feel that the colors are as malleable as the harmony.

Thinking about colors and music is not a new concept. I believe that certain types of music brings out different emotions. When I am happy I listen to Ska and it makes me think of the color red, because it is one of my favorite colors and it usually brightens up my day.

My favourite music is mostly from Chopin. I like his nocturnes. Since this series of songs shape a tranquil and elegant environment, I would prefer lilac. However, if talking about his etudes, especially op.10 nr.12, I would think of dark red.

Synesthesia is one of my favorite phenomenons to ponder. When I hear music or watch films sometimes I can almost taste them. I definitely hear music in colors, and I truly believe that many composers write music with colors in mind. A friend of mine composed a piece called "Sunset" and the words describe different colors. But it is not the words that evoke the presence of color, but the music itself. It's such a fascinating idea.

Synesthesia is one of my favorite phenomenons to ponder. When I hear music or watch films sometimes I can almost taste them. I definitely hear music in colors, and I truly believe that many composers write music with colors in mind. A friend of mine composed a piece called "Sunset" and the words describe different colors. But it is not the words that evoke the presence of color, but the music itself. It's such a fascinating idea.

Synesthesia is one of my favorite phenomenons to ponder. When I hear music or watch films sometimes I can almost taste them. I definitely hear music in colors, and I truly believe that many composers write music with colors in mind. A friend of mine composed a piece called "Sunset" and the words describe different colors. But it is not the words that evoke the presence of color, but the music itself. It's such a fascinating idea.

May of the greatest artists of our time have had synesthesia: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Mangum, etc. etc. I think synesthesia is fascinating because it highlights the interconnectedness of all experience, of the ultimate free-play of signification. Every signifier is but a stand-in for an absent signified - just as music and many other abstract arts are the embodiment of a signifier without a signified. I am intrigued by what may lie in the space between signifier and signified.



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