Chords and Color

Les Paul said “Paint pictures with sound. First, find your white—the deepest, roundest sound you can play on the guitar. Then, find your black—which is the most extreme tonal difference from white you can play. Now, just pick the note where you’ve got white, pick it where you’ve got black, and then find all those colors in between. Get those colors down, and you’ll be able to express almost any emotion on the guitar.”

John Ridley worked with cinematic tools to capture Hendrix’s style — he noted the unfocused approach of Hendrix, toying with the guitar to form an electrifying, sinewy jam. Hendrix described his music to John as “It’s just colors, that’s it.”

Painters have carried opinions on color theory for eons. From a consumer vantage point, a reasonable knowledge of color theory provides a platform to understand some artists and to understand how artists influence other artists that use color theory as part of their design process.  The language of color has become part of our image vocabulary when describing emotions.  Jimi Hendrix quotes abound with him talking about music as a series of colors.  He even hosted a concert where the audience participated by flying flags of different colors and stretched material of different colors to interpret his songs.  In many cases, we use colors with musical phrases to help define our emotions.  Cartoonists use red to depict rage and green to depict envy.  They associate blue with depression and gray with ‘sad’ days.  They often use bright colors to reflect cheerful feelings and dark colors to reveal sadness and depression.

Some people say the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh demonstrate a solid understanding of the emotive properties of color. Consider the painting ‘Sunflowers’. Van Gogh uses warm yellows to display feelings of hope and joy.  How about Pablo Picasso (between 1901 and 1904) using monochrome tones of blue.  Some have suggested his color choice was a response to the death of his friend, Carlos Casagemas.  In Picasso’s painting ‘The Tragedy’ (1903), the blue shades evoke feelings of sadness and despair.  Derain was associated with the artists group called that ‘Les Fauves that believed color had a direct link to emotions. Derain painted with color to express their feelings about objects in the paintings.

Tori Amos said, “The song appears as light filament once I’ve cracked it. As long as I’ve been doing this, which is more than thirty-five years, I’ve never seen a duplicate song structure. I’ve never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns, but try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever.”

Light, sound, color all seem to blend and communicate the artist message.

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