The Color of Sound

July 18th 2015

Readings from the book Mind Over Metal by Scott Von Heldt:

 

Illuminating the Color of Sound

 

    Music is often described as colorful, which implies that sound embodies a particular visible shade of color. In many ways this is true as all color is the reflection of light and shade, and music is the reflection of the light that shines from within the human spirit. Seeing music as colorful is much more than a metaphorical conception of sound, it is a realization that the light of the soul reflects through art and is projected into the minds of others, producing the visual concept of its sonic illumination.

 

“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” ~Leopold Stokowski

 

    Just as we can recognize the presence of energies and the different qualities they represent in musical form, so can color and texture embody sound in a manner that add additional experiential elements to the vibrations of sound. Much like a great painting or sculpture speaks to us through shade and texture, a melody or song speaks to us in the same way. A particular texture or color of sound gives the mind an enhanced visual connection to the music and draws us in to the emotional experience of the artist who created it.

 

The Color of Sound

 

    A prime and simple example of the connection of color and sound is represented in the blues. The music was primarily rooted in the expression of pain and sorrow, which in the era of its origin was often referred to as “feeling blue” or “having the blues”. When this feeling was expressed in musical form no other name could justly suit it but the blues. The mellow and somber vibes of the songs’ stories were directly translated into musical textures of sound and mood .

 

   This is also apparent in black metal, which is a popular sub-genre of heavy metal. The word black refers to the evil nature of the music’s message or black heart. As a dark and ominous form of music it can be said that black metal is appropriately named for its lack of light.

 

 

Russian composer and pianist Alexander Scriabin, best known for developing an atonal music system based on the principles of Mysticism, at one time developed a color-coded circle of fifths influenced by synesthesia and theosophy .

 

    As we learned earlier in the chapter on the alchemy of music and the metaphysics of sound, we know that various notes in the musical scale have a physical and emotional affect upon the energy centers known as chakras. Each chakra also contains a corresponding color (Crown = violet, Third Eye = indigo, Throat = blue, Heart = green, Solar Plexus = yellow, Sacral = orange, Base = red). This color illuminates when its vibratory frequencies are raised. So the vibrations of sound that affect each energy center also quicken the speed of each mental and emotional vibration to invoke its color equivalent, infusing it with the added vibrations of light and shade. Put that all together and NOW we’re working with some seriously HEAVY vibes!

The Texture of Sound

 

    Texture is the other component when mixed with light and shade will add dimension to any form of art. Often the role of a producer is to find ways to conceptualize textures of sound and communicate it to the artist in a way that will expand the sonic vision. It is often difficult for every person to see, or hear, an idea in the same way and that is why it becomes important to be open to and aware of the textural visualization of sound.

 

“It needs more masking tape!”

 

     I’ll give you a personal example of how I came to understand this concept. My fellow band mate and I were trying to describe something we felt was lacking in our guitar tone “When you peel a big strip of masking tape off of the roll,” he said, “it has a very distinct sound of thickness, but not like a weight, more of a thickness that is held up by the fullness of the sound”. Needless to say it took a minute to get it, but as soon as I got my hands on a roll of masking tape and peeled a big piece off I GOT IT! With a picture in my mind of adding more masking tape to my tone I quickly pinpointed what was missing in the way of eq and tone settings and was able to quickly dial it in!

    The idea behind adding texture requires having an open mind. What will add depth to your sound? What can add another layer or dimension that will raise it up from the speakers and reach out and grab your ears? The possibilities are truly limitless. If you can imagine it, you can recreate it as sound!

 

    Adding color and texture to sound is MUCH more than a clever descriptive tool a producer or songwriter uses to express an idea, it is a living infusion of light and dimension with the vibratory frequencies of sound. Those of us who listen to music or even write music never give a thought to the concepts of light and color, even though the vibrations are ALWAYS present. By acknowledging their presence and learning how to use them to serve you, your music will be heard and seen in a whole new light!

 

Readings from The Mysticism of Sound and Music by Pir O Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan:

 

 

Volume II - The Mysticism of Music, Sound and Word

Part II: Music
Chapter XI
THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF SOUND AND COLOR

 

It seems that what science realizes in the end, mysticism realizes from the beginning, according to the saying of Christ, 'First seek ye the Kingdom of God and all will be added.' When one hears of the present discoveries about sound and color from the scientific point of view, one begins by being surprised. One says, 'What! A new discovery, something we have never heard of? It is something quite new.' And yet when you open the Bible, there it says, 'First was the Word, and the Word was God,' and if you open the still older scriptures of the Vedanta, you read in their verses that in the Creator there was that word, or that vibration. And when we come to the Quran we read there, 'First there was the word 'Be' and then it became.' The religions of the world, the prophets and mystics who existed thousands of years ago, knew of these things. Today a man comes with a photographic plate and says, 'Here I have a photograph ofsound. This shows how important is vibration and its action upon the plate.' He does not realize that it is something which has always been known, only it has been spoken of in spiritual terms. What has been spoken man does not think about. What is being spoken he thinks is something new. But when we realize, as Solomon has said, that there is nothing new under the sun, we begin to enjoy life, seeing how time after time the same wisdom is revealed to man. The one who seeks truth through science, the one who searches for it through religion, the one who finds it through philosophy, the one who finds it through mysticism, in whatever manner they seek truth, they find it in the end.

 

Once I was introduced in New York to a scientist who was also a philosopher, and the first thing he said about his accomplishments was, 'I have discovered the soul.' It amused me very much that while all the scriptures, thinkers, mystics and prophets have spoken about it, this man should come and say, 'I have discovered the soul!' I thought, 'Yes, that was the new discovery that we were expecting, something that we never knew.' Such is the attitude of mind today, the childish attitude. When one looks into the past, the present and the future, one sees that life is eternal. And what one can discover is that which has always been discovered by those who seek. Philosophy or science, mysticism or esotericism, will all agree on one point if they touch the summit of their knowledge. And that point is that behind the whole of creation, behind the whole of manifestation, if there is any subtle trace of life that can be found, it is motion, it is movement, it is vibration.

 

Now this motion has two aspects. And this is because we have developed two principal faculties, sight and hearing. One aspect appeals to hearing, the other to sight. The aspect of movement or vibration which appeals to our hearing is what we call audible, or sound. The aspect which appeals to our sight we call light or color, and we call it visible. In point of fact what is the origin of all that is visible, all that is audible? It is motion, it is movement, it is vibration. It is one and the same thing. Therefore, those who can see can trace color even in that which is audible, and which is called sound. And to those who can hear even the sound of color is audible.

Is there anything that unites these two things? Yes, there is. And what is it? It is harmony. It is not a particular color which is in itself harmonious or which lacks harmony. It is the blending of that color,it is in what frame it is placed, how the color is arranged. In accordance with that it has its effect upon the one who sees. And so it is with sound. There is not any sound which is harmonious or inharmonious in itself. It is the relation of one sound to another sound that creates harmony. Therefore one cannot point out that this or that certain thing is harmony. Harmony is a fact. Harmony is the result of the relation between color and color, the relation between sound and sound, and the relation between color and sound.

 

The most interesting aspect of this knowledge is how different colors appeal to different people, and how different people enjoy different sounds. The more one studies this, the more one finds its relation with the particular advancement of a man's evolution. For instance one will find that at a certain stage of one's evolution one loved a certain color and then one lost contact with that color. With one's growth and evolution in life one begins to like some other color. It also depends upon a person's condition, whether he is emotional, passionate, romantic, warm or cold. Whether sympathetic or disagreeable. Whatever be his emotional condition, in accordance with that he has his likes or dislikes in colors. It is that which makes it easy for the seer, for the knower, to read the character of man even before having seen his face, by only seeing his clothes. His preference for a certain color expresses what the person is like, and what is his liking. His liking for a certain flower, his liking for a certain gem or jewel, his liking for a certain environment in his room, the color on his wall, all that shows what a person is like, what is his preference.

 

And as man evolves spiritually through life, so his choice of color changes. With each step forward he changes. His ideas about color become different. There are some to whom striking colors appeal. To others pale colors. The reason is that the striking colors have intense vibrations, and the pale colorshave smooth and harmonious vibrations, and it is according to the emotional condition of man that he enjoys different colors.

It is the same with sound. Every person, whether he knows it or not, has a predilection for a certainsound. Although most people do not study this subject and therefore man usually remains ignorant of the idea, yet every person has a special liking for a certain sound. This explains the saying or belief that each person has his note. The fact is that each person has his sound, a sound which is akin to his particular evolution. Besides all the divisions that have been made such as tenor, bass or baritone, each person has his particular pitch and each person has his special note on which he speaks, and that particular note is expressive of his life's evolution, expressive of his soul, of the condition of his feelings and of his thoughts.

 

It not only has effect upon people to hear certain sounds and to see certain colors, but it also has effect upon animals. Colors have a great effect and influence upon all living creatures, animals or birds or human beings. Without their knowing it the influence of colors works in their lives, turning them to this or that inclination. Once I was visiting a house which had been taken by a certain club, and one of the members told me, 'It is a very great pity, since we have taken this house there is always disagreement in our committee.' I said, 'No wonder. I see it.' They asked, 'Why?' I said, 'The walls are red, they make you inclined to fight.'

 

A striking color from all around gives you the inclination to disagree. The emotions are touched by it, and certainly those inclined to disagreement are helped by it. And it is from this psychological point of view that one finds in the East the ancient custom, especially at weddings of a certain color being chosen for the time of wedding and certain colors for other times and festivities. It all has its meaning. It has a psychological significance at the back of it.

 

Since both color and sound are perceived differently, and we have different senses to perceive them, we have made a distinction, between visible and audible things. But in reality those who meditate, who concentrate, who enter within themselves, those who trace the origin of life, begin to see that behind these outer five senses there is one sense hidden. And this sense is capable of doing everything which we seem to do or to experience.

 

We distinguish five external senses. They are five because we know five organs of sense. But in reality there is only one sense. It is that sense which through these five different organs experiences life, and distinguishes life in five different forms. And so all that is audible and all that is visible is one and the same. It is this which is called in Sanskrit Purusha and Prakriti. And in the terms of the Sufis, Zat andSifat. The manifested aspect is called Sifat, the outer appearance. It is in the manifestation as Sifat that one sees the distinction or the difference between what is visible and what is audible. In their real aspect of being they are one and the same. According to Sufi mystics the plane of existence where they are one and the same is called Zat, that knowledge of the inner existence in which one sees the source and goal of all things.

 

Color and sound are a language which can be understood, not only in the external life, but also in the inner life. For the physician and the chemist color has a great significance. The deeper one goes into the science of medicine and of chemistry, the more one recognizes the value of color. And that each element and the development or change of each object is distinguishable by the changing of color. The physicians of old used to recognize diseases by the color of the face and the body. Even today there are physicians whose principal way of recognizing a man's complaint is from the color in his eyes, of the tongue, the nails, and the skin. In every condition it is color which is expressive of man's condition. Also in objects the condition and the change of the object is recognized by the change of color. The psychologists have recognized the condition of objects by their sound, and of people by their voice. What kind of person a man is, whether strong or weak, what his character is, what his inclinations are, and what his attitude is towards life, all this can be known and understood through his voice.

 

Color and sound are not only the language by which one communicates with external life, but also the language by which one communicates with the inner life. One might ask how it is done. The answer is found in certain scientific experiments: special plates are made, and by speaking near such a plate, one makes marks upon it with sound and with vibration. And those marks make either harmonious forms or inharmonious forms. But every person from morning till night is making an invisible form in space by what he says. He is creating invisible vibrations around him and he is thereby producing an atmosphere. Somebody may come into the house and before he speaks you are tired of him, you wish to get rid of him. Before he has said or done anything you are finished with him, you would like him to go away. For he is creating in his atmosphere a sound and this sound is disagreeable. There may be another person with whom you feel sympathy, to whom you feel drawn, whose friendship you value, whose presence you long for. Harmony is continually created through him. That is a sound too.

 

If this be true, then it is not only the external signs, but also the inner condition which is audible and visible. Though not visible to the eyes and not audible to the ears, yet it is audible and visible to the soul. We say, 'I feel his vibrations, I feel this person's presence, I feel sympathy, or antipathy towards that person.' There is a feeling. And a person creates a feeling without having said anything or done anything. Therefore a person whose vibration is wrong, without doing or saying anything wrong, creates the wrong atmosphere. And you find fault with him. It is most amusing to see how people may come to you with a complaint: 'I have said nothing, I have done nothing, and yet people dislike me and are against me!' That person does not understand that it is not what he says or does. It is what one is which speaks louder than anything one says. It is being. It is life itself which has its tone, its color, its vibration. It speaks aloud.

 

One may wonder what it is, and where it is to be found. And the answer is, that what little man knows about himself is only about his body. If you ask someone to say where he is, he will point at his arm, his hand, his body. He knows little beyond that. There are many who if asked, 'But where do you think you are in your body?' will say, 'In my brain.' They limit themselves to that small physical region which is called body, thus making themselves much smaller than they really are. The truth is that man is one individual with two aspects, just like one line with two ends. If you look at the ends, it is two. If you look at the line, it is one. One end of the line is limited, the other end of the line is unlimited. One end is man, the other end is God. Man forgets that end, and knows only the end of which he is conscious. And it is the consciousness of limitation which makes him more limited. Otherwise he would have far greater means of approaching the Unlimited which is within himself, which is only the other end of the same line, the line which he calls, or which he considers to be, himself. And when a mystic speaks of self-knowledge this does not mean knowing how old one is or how good one is or how bad, or how right or how wrong. It means knowing the other part of one's being, that deeper, subtler aspect. It is upon the knowledge of that being that the fulfillment of life depends.

 

One might ask, 'How can one get closer to it?' The way that has been found, by those who searched after truth, those who sought after God, those who wished to analyze themselves, those who wished to sympathize with life, is one single way. And that is the way of vibrations. It is the same way as of old. By the help of sound they have prepared themselves. They made these physical atoms, which had gradually become deadened, live again by the help of sound. They have worked with the power ofsound. As Zebunnisa says, 'Say continually that sacred name which will make thee sacred.' The Hindus have called it Mantra Yoga. The Sufis have termed it Wazifa. It is the power of the word which works upon each atom of the body, making it sonorous, making it a medium of communication between the external life and the inner life.

 

What one realizes as the first experience of one's spiritual development, is that one begins to feel in communion with living beings. Not only with human beings, but with animals, with birds, with trees and with plants. It is not a fairy tale that the saints used to speak with the trees and the plants. You can speak today with them if you are in communication. It was not only the ancient times which were thus blessed with the old blessing. The old blessing is not old today, it is new. It is the same ancient one that was, that is, and that will be. And no privilege was ever limited to any period of the world's history. Man has the same privilege today if he will realize that he is privileged. When he himself closes his heart, when he allows himself to be covered by the life within and without, no doubt he becomes exclusive, no doubt he is cut off from the whole of manifestation, which is one whole and is not divided. It is man himself who divides himself. For life is undivided, indivisible.

And it is opening the communication with external life which makes man wider. Then, he does not say of his friend, 'This is my friend, I love him,' but he says, 'This is myself, I love him.' When he has reached this point he can say that he has arrived at the realization of love. As long as he says, 'I feel sympathy with him because he is my friend,' his sympathy has not yet been fully wakened. The real wakening of his sympathy is on that day when he sees his friend and says this is himself. Then the sympathy is wakened. Then there is the communication within oneself. Man does not close himself only from external life, but also from the inner part which is still more important. That inner part is also sound, that inner part is light. And when one realizes this one knows that language which is the language of heaven, a language which is expressive of the past and the present and the future. A language which reveals the secret and the character of nature, a language which is always receiving and giving the divine Message which the prophets have tried at times to reveal.

 

 

 

 

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