On Colour in Music



I have been asked several times to explain what is colour in music.  Simply put, colour is the sounds you hear in a piece of music that are in addition to the individual notes and instruments.  Many music theorists refer to this as timbre, but I do not.  Musical colour is experiential; that which can be felt and heard viscerally and physically.  Musical colour is the way notes interact with one another.  Scientifically, much of this has to do with the way the harmonic series works.  On a listening level, colour can be described as the waves and resonances of interacting sonorities.  This is why a piano is more than just a series of buttons and why the "touch" of different pianists sounds distinct and unique.  A piano piece or chord can growl, roar, whine, ring, chime, shimmer, glow and flow right through you.  Waves of harmonics pass, fluxuate and change constantly even in a static note.  Close your eyes, and feel them sparkle in all of their magnificence and dynamic intricacies.  There are never enough listenings of the same work to experience them all.  The experienced composer knows and feels all of this profoundly.  They write all of this into their works on both a conscious and subconscious level.  This is why in only two well composed notes, there are hundreds of things to hear, to experience, to feel and to listen to.  This world of musical colour is magnificent and infinite, and it does so pain me that so few ever fully experience the utter magnitude and splendor of it.  This subtle and often invisible world of musical colour is the vastest element in the musical universe.