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Color Organs

Teun Lucassen
Human Media Interaction University of Twente, the Netherlands

The color organ is a musical instrument which produces visual stimuli such that it corresponds to the sound in a certain manner. Numerous attempts are known to have listeners experience synaesthetic effects. In these effects stimuli in one organ of sense are experienced in another. Several great names in history, such as Plato, Pythagoras and Aristotle have already been working on music-color correspondence. Since the 17th century, a number of attempts have been taken to design and build devices which could simultaneously produce color and music. This paper gives an overview of the various creations of the past and describes a personal exercise to create a new color organ using modern techniques and color-music principles of the past.

when a stimulus in one organ of sense is experienced in another organ [30]. The most common type of synaesthesia is “Audition Color´e”, where subjects experience colors in music or consoe nants. People experience these synaesthetic effects in various degrees. Some might actually see colored panes in the air when hearing music, while others only have an inner feeling about a color. One out of twenty people has natural synaesthetic capabilities, which means that they do not need a device such as a color organ to map colors to music (in the “ Audition Color´e” variant). It has however often e been proven to be hard to show these abilities in a repeatable, significant manner [30]. A simple self-test to investigate whether one is sensitive to synaesthesia is available on [29]. Research on synaesthesia has kept mankind fascinated for centuries. It can basically be divided into two approaches: the artistic approach and the psychological approach. The artistic approach uses art forms such as music to investigate synaesthesia. The color organ has played a big role in this investigation. It can be seen as a real life implementation of the ideas of direct correspondence between color and music. Other genres of art have also been used to exploit the effects. A well-known example is the “gesamtkunstwerke” in which multiple fashions of art have been merged to try and stimulate multiple organs of sense to achieve synaesthetic effects. The concept of “gesamtkunstwerke” was introduced by Richard Wagner in the 19th century [25]. In the psychological approach statistical analyses have been used very often to try to find a direct relationship between for example consonants and colors [30]. The results were often unsatisfactory. Attempts to differentiate synaesthetics from people without these experiences through PET scans of the brain have also failed so far. It has been noticed that emotional responses to parallel auditive and visual stimuli are highly individual, also when measured by EEG scans [10]. A plausible theory to explain why people sometimes have synaesthetic experiences is the Unity Thesis [30]. This states that all five organs of sense can be seen as parts of one integrated organ of sense, instead of five completely autonomic functioning systems (Modularity Thesis). This principle is shown in Figure 1. In the Unity Thesis the synaesthetic effects can be explained by accidental mental associations. In

1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 The Color Organ
A color organ can be defined as an instrument which is able to simultaneously produce color and music. The produced colors are based on the music by a certain mapping. Some mappings, such as a direct color-note correspondence, are rather straight forward. Others are less well-defined, such as colors which are based on the type of instrument or other musical features. The term originates from 1895, where it was introduced by Alexander Wallace Rimington [23, 15, 20]. Before this date, several attempts to create devices which simultaneously produce color and sound had been taken. Even before the introduction of the organ as we know it, people were working on such devices, for example based on clavecimbles. This is the reason why in this paper, the term is stretched slightly. It would be a shame to disregard instruments which are strictly no organs, since the principles of relating sound to music are often very similar.



The primary goal of a color organ is to make listeners experience synaesthetic effects. A synaesthetic reaction occurs

Although he is known to have produced only seventeen paintings. 17TH AND 18TH CENTURY 3. 2. Color-music relations were investigated long before Pythagoras and Aristotle. he was very influential in his time. The Chinese were known to relate many observations. so Arcimboldo used a gray scale instead. 17].1 Arcimboldo Arcimboldo was a painter in the late 16th century. who once stated: Figure 2: Chinese Alchemy Body Relations 3. it would take up to the end op the 16th century until such an apparatus would be invented. Other cultures in ancient times were also known for their own interpretations of the combination of color and music. the corresponding piece of paper was shown. Besides Pythagoras and Aristotle. The correspondence between the notes in two octaves and the various tints of gray are displayed in figure 3. in those days mechanics were not advanced enough yet to actually create machinery to produce lights based on music. 17] introduced harmony in music as we know it today by defining intervals between musical notes and grouping them into octaves. Low notes were light. Its main purpose was to aid in his experiments with music and colors. and others through sound. his knowledge about mathematical scales on the brightness of colors. In principle. Figure 2 shows the relation between parts of the body. apart from one detail: The pieces of paper did not show any color. was not sufficient yet when the color harpsichord was build.Figure 1: Unity Thesis versus Modularity Thesis the Modularity Thesis [30] it is much harder to explain these effects since the various organs are not interconnected. it was not his main goal to build such a device for public performances. EARLY APPROACHES TO COLOR MUSIC MAPPING Pythagoras [11. and harmony. When a key was pressed. He believed that everything in the world consisted of numbers. Arcimboldo calculated the corresponding color according to its brightness. the first color instrument was born. They all tried to make a one-to-one mapping between notes and colors. Goethe and Newton [17] were more than interested in the subject. Direct connections with sense of smell and taste were also made. In fact. The next logical step in his eyes was to link the rainbow spectrum of colors directly to his new theory. mostly based on the principles suggested by Pythagoras. The principles of Arcimboldos color-music correspondence were based on the mathematical scales proposed by Pythagoras. in the arts as well. For each note. Several physicians including Persian. However. music and other senses to each other. all of us re-create by means of rhythm. dialogue. Arcimboldo was the first to actually build an instrument which produced light and music simultaneously. Given that some re-create the world through figures and colors. color and musical notes [12]. where high notes were darker. like body parts. It is remarkable to see how many important figures in history have touched the subject of color music. with just as much genuine replica’s. Unfortunately. Chinese alchemy even dates back to the 4th century BC [12. Newton wrote the well known book “Opticks” about the color-music relationship [13]. Figure 3: Gray scale-Note correspondence of Arcimboldo . The work of Pythagoras was basically repeated by the famous philosopher Aristotle [17]. Arcimboldo convinced a musician of the court of Rudolf the second in Prague to attach painted pieces of paper to the jacks of his harpsichord. Greek and Indian [17] worked on this subject. To do so. great names like Da Vinci. He believed in the direct correspondence between musical notes and the rainbow color spectrum. Remarkably. and these or those separately or mingled [27]. colors. so tones could be translated to numbers and then to colors.

Castel became a Jesuit monk when he was 15 years old. The high notes were divided into three bows. listeners or viewers in any way. The initial instrument was not a great success. In his opinion the bass notes were to be connected to white. It was a proposal for a harpsichord with 60 colored panes attached to the notes of the keyboard. The first actual model of the ocular harpsichord was finished on December 21th . One mayor difference with Castel’s version was the new note-color correspondence. which were common in those days. This was however not the last time that people would hear from the ocular harpsichord. He wrote about his work in a short paper titled “Harmony of Light” [3]. Castel died. the same applies to colors. This means that not much is known about the effect it had on people and the general opinion on his work in his time. Several other analogies between light and color were also pointed out by Castel. He was successful in finding various relations in these two. ending in a very big applause. In 1755 Castel reported that he had performed on stage for 50 people. His device was placed in front of a sunny window or an electric light. disregarding the harmony (the combination of notes). It was basically a new interpretation of Castel’s work. A gradually decreasing luminance is still seen as the notes become higher. which were exposed when the corresponding key was struck. It is however clear that he kept working on the theories on color and music and the improvement of his device. He used cylinders filled with chemical fluids to create colors. Despite that. people who saw the work-in-project were mostly very enthusiastic about it. which kept demanding encores. but completely psychological. emphasizing on the use of Newton’s theories. In 1757. In later publications Kr¨ger never mentioned u Castel again. 7] introduced the “Clavecin pour les yeux” which could be translated to “Ocular Harpsichord”. Another device using the basically the same techniques as Castel was later introduced by Karl von Eckartshausen [14]. the correspondence was not a physical analogy. 4. hollow mirrors and lenses to project circles and half circles on a screen. His motivation for the introduction of the ocular harpsichord was that both musical notes and colors are created by vibrations. now using the theories of Newton. Bishop used the direct note-color correspondence displayed in Figure 4. The bass note was used as a background color for the higher notes to be projected on. but his interest never faded. Arcimboldo used the harpsichord for his experiments without the intention to perform for audiences with it. the quintus to blue. all based on the assumption of equality based on vibrations. the altus to gray and the superius to brown. This note-color correspondence was remarkably different from the more common rainbow spectrum. What happened with Castel after the creation of the first prototype is largely unknown. Von Eckartshausen had given credit to the invention of Castel. It was Bainbridge Bishop who started studies on the implementation of a color organ in 1875. He actually gave detailed advise in the construction issues of the device. 3.2 Castel In 1725. which used colored glass panes projected the desired color on a screen. The correct glass panes where opened using shutters attached to the keyboard. which showed he was insecure about the results himself. The success of this version was quite doubtable. In his paper Bishop tells the story where he walked outside in the rain and he saw an amazing spectacle of a rainbow with a reddish glow behind it in the sky. . Two years later. From this moment on he was convinced about the quality of his instrument and his choice of the relation between colors and notes. There is no evidence at all that anyone ever tried to build the instrument. However.Later. Castel did not base his motivation on the light theories of Newton. He used beams created by a combination of candles. On January 1st he would have performed for 200 people. The straw to perfection was very hard on Castel. but on his Jesuit predecessor Athanasius Kircher. Arcimboldo did propose a scale using colors. Castel’s ideas of correspondence between colors and music were only based on melodical aspects (the order in which the notes are played). he did copy a lot of his work in his proposal for an implementation. Furthermore. Some people however were very enthusiastic about it. representing three rainbows. It did not satisfy 4. the tenors to green. The device was now powered by approximately 100 candles. The description of the implementation was quite detailed. In 1743 Johann Gottlob Kr¨ger published a paper in which u he had severe criticism on Castel’s ideas.1 19TH CENTURY . His memoirs state that the last version of the ocular harpsichord was not even a sketch of the intended product.WW1 Bainbridge Bishop The first actual color instrument based on an organ was build even before the name “Color Organ” was introduced. Rondet. an unknown associate of Castel published “Explanation of the ocular harpsichord”. Castel would not work on the project for ten years. such as the fact they both reflect on panes and they both can be concentrated by a hollow mirror. even mentioning the exact dimensions of the device which could be placed on top of a normal harpsichord. By using the rainbow scale. In 1734 Castel performed a series of systematic experiments to determine the precise analogy between color and light. The colors he saw were exactly the ones his color organ uses in certain chords. each with the colors proposed in the score in Figure 4. He suggested that since notes could be arranged in some order to be accepted as an art form (music). Louis-Bertrand Castel [20. 17. He was very interested in mathematics and physics and later he taught colleges in a wide spread of subjects. In his development he constantly faced financial problems and technical implementation issues. it is loosely based on Newton theories. 1734. They were lit from the back using wax candles. such as M. regarding the author’s own written comments on the cover of the publication.

Alexander Wallace Rimington had already passed away. In contrary to earlier attempts to create such an instrument. which switched colors by filters in various color dyes. However. For example the blast of a trumpet would give a intense orange color. The theories Rimington used to match colors on music were rather vague. but when both of them are stimulated at the same wavelength. consuming over 150 amps of electricity. namely that both music and colors are created by vibrations. This new art genre is often referred to as “Visual Music” since the similarities between music and colors suggested by earlier studies on this subject is quite obvious in these paintings. Rimington’s theories were based on the same principles as for example those of Castel. the project might have been a much bigger success. Many later implementations of organs were still (partly) based on his theories. often directly painted on film stock. He is seen as the patron for color music since the beginning of the 20th century. Rimington build the device in his own home. Later. The Poem of Fire”. 4. a specialist in electrical lighting who worked at the Modest Altschuler. many artists. Scriabin wanted to perform this piece with the usage of colors at all costs. If this setup would have been used initially. color organs only used colors to enhance the synaesthestetic effect on the listening and visual senses. the color part of the performance did not work due to a machine failure [20]. so a second attempt to create a color organ to produce colors along to the music was taken. . At the time the paintings were finished. His e device was for the first time based on a modern piano. In figure 5 an example of a painting in this series is given. 4. A well-known example is “Rythme Color´” [17] by Leopold e Survage [21]. moving shapes and colors. to get people enthusiastic about color music. the small screen was replaced by a few white curtains. the term “Color Organ” was first introduced by Alexander Wallace Rimington [23.4 Visual Music In the first two decades of the 20th century.3 Preston Millar Figure 4: Color-Note correspondence of Bainbridge Bishop In 1911. It was however possible to set up the device in such a way that the rainbow scale was mapped to the notes. The initial performance using the Chromola was not a big success. one to play the music and one to “play colors”. It is said that if he would have lived into the 1920’s. All this power was used to lighten the arc lamps. 4. Everyone was asked to wear white clothes. He most certainly got people interested in the concept of color and music. When the violins start the screen is pulsating with pale lemon. which moved in the wind generated by some fans at a small distance. tried to take advantage of a newly introduced technique: film. The result was mostly abstract. he would have had started his own 4. His paintings were never actually caught on film. Later. 15. this color organ has stated the beginning of a large number of attempts to create such devices. By that time however. The audience was not impressed by the projection of the colors on a small screen in front of the musicians. Preston Millar. 17]. mostly Rimington of color music in London. Electricity was becoming available to the public and Rimington showed them what could be done with it. in a very dark room. This shows that the determination of which color to play on a specific note is mostly done by the performer. Scriabin had created a special score to “play” the colors along with the music. Twelve differently colored lights were operated by a keyboard of 15 keys (the first three lights were repeated on the remaining keys). his paintings were sold separately. He had performed to the public before. since the only goal was to serve the wish of Scriabin to accompany his music with light.2 Alexander Wallace Rimington Although Bainbridge Bishop introduced a color instrument based on an organ. The mapping that he used was entirely based on his own feelings. Rimington’s device in principle did not use a direct colornote correspondence. World War I had started and this performance never took place. this would intensify the experience as intended by the original composer. No specific color-music mapping was created for this device.5 Vladimir Baranoff Rossiné Up until the 1910s. mostly painters. The first to introduced patterns and shapes into a color organ was the Russian Vladimir Baranoff Rossin´ [24]. Rimington however kept his status of the patron of color music after his death. By the end of World War I. composer Alexander Scriabin [22] wanted to perform a color-music piece called “Prometheus. to enrich the experience of the colors. World War I had started. was contacted to supervise the project which would finally result in an instrument called the “Chromola”. Instead he used two keyboards. thus called the “Optophonic Piano”. According to some reviews. Rimington had planned a grand public demonstration in 1914. People have different nerve endings for these stimuli. making the actual creation of a movie even harder.

In the first two decades of the 20th century. It was in a completely different league than the Chopin-like complexity of the piano music. but there is also a story known where the judge had denied the case. forms and patterns on them created a completely new experience. because the lights were activated and deactivated instantly. but his work was displayed in several museums in Europe and the US from 1966 to 1975. Not only were the colors changing over time. In 1946 she published her book. WW1-WW2 5. Figure 5: Rythme Color´ by Survage e Rossin´’s piano used a beam of light projected on a white e screen.2 Thomas Wilfred The first person to attempt taking color music to the homes of people was Thomas Wilfred. Her first attempt failed. the shapes and patterns were also constantly transforming as they were rotated and moved. She wanted to create a device to control the lightning of the concert hall while performing. dependent on factors like the ability and temperament of a performer. he composed and performed music for various films. It is unclear what happened when Mary Hallock-Greenewalt tried to sue them. combining multiple colors in one picture.a theoretical text on color-light-music theories called “Farblichtmusik”. Sarabet. Multiple extra slide projectors and overlapping projection lights were added to increase the complexity and the number of possible colors. based on the normal music score.1 Mary Hallock-Greenewalt It was quite a shock when the first woman appeared in the field of color music in 1918. Figure 6 gives an example of a used filter. 5. No direct note-color links were used because she was convinced that this relationship was variable. Despite the fact that in these days films were still silent. there should be a clear relation between the film and the music. 17] was a soloist on the piano and had a great concert career. His device consisted of a few switches above his piano. The theories were brought into practice in a series of performances across Europe. Others have also based their own interpretations of a color organ on a piano. Mary Hallock-Greenewalt [20.6 Alexander Laszlo Alexander Laszlo [20. This component is still used today. a Hungarian raised in Germany. Some sources state that the eventually won the case in 1934. To do so. called a “Disque Optophonique”. was a fine pianist and orchestra conductor. This resulted in a great visual spectacle which completely turned the reviews over [17]. A couple of lenses with colors. Mary Hallock-Greenewalt kept performing on her Sarabet for several years. Hallock-Greenewalt invented a notation for the control of the lights. In those days Oskar Fischinger was experimenting with abstract films. Figure 6: Disque Optophonique by Rossin´ e Several performances were given by Rossin´. Unfortunately very little is known about this device. controlling a few projection lights and a slide projector lightning the stage above the piano. because the inventions were too complex to be invented by a woman [17]. entitled “Nourathar: The Fine Art of Light-Color Playing” [9]. The principle of the rheostat was infringed by General Electric some years later. To fade the lights in and out. Mary named the device after her mother. Both Laszlo and Fischinger have taken the show on tour successfully. starting in 1912 e in Paris. 17]. such as the liquid-mercury switch. a new electrical component had to be designed: the rheostat. such as Arthur C. 4. When the first reviews arrived. Vinageras’ chromopiano in 1921. the main remark was that the projections were too simple. apart from the fact that it was at the time unique in the feature of showing chords of lights. sometimes ranked in the same order as the more famous Liszt. Other components were also patented by Hallock-Greenewalt. He performed until the late 1920s. Alexander Laszlo contacted him to help improve his performance. In 1922 he introduced the . This inspired Laszlo to write 5.

Charles Dockum gave several performances on the MobilColor. although not in the traditional layout. It was based on a moving 100 watt bulb projecting light on an opaque screen using colored filters. which inspired him even more. The home version of the Clavilux (Home Clavilux or Clavilux Junior) looked like an old-fashioned TV set. or even months without showing the same imagery twice. being accepted by the public very well. Some parts were given away. she granted him with a Guggenheim funding to create a MobilColor machine which could be installed and play in the Guggenheim Museum. the rest was thrown away. Clavilux [20. even the traditional keys where used. comparable to music. only 14 Home Clavilux were ever made and sold. These filters were painted glass discs which could be interchanged by the user. Some versions even had a TV-like remote control (although not wireless). the MobilColor was put into storage instead of displaying it in the Guggenheim Museum. 20] (see Figure 8). The tower was . this device was used to control stage lights instead of producing music. 5. The introduction of the device at the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia in 1939 was quite impressive. Portugal and Venezuela. his machine was already quite old-fashioned because of the introduction of the computer. When she saw that the machine needed at least one operator to produce the imagery. After this. but also in Turkey. 31. 17]. allowing him to move to California. Although the inventor claimed the device to be a great success.3 Charles Dockum Charles Dockum [17] was an electrical engineer from Texas. as he called this art form. Amongst them was Baroness Rebay. Similar to Visual Music. were quite successful. One of them was caught on film. Dockum gave a demonstration to an audience. He also met Oskar Fischinger here. 5. accompanied by music. It is remarkable that since the death of Thomas Wilfred in 1968 not one Clavilux has ever been put up for sale or auction. mostly in Great Britain. Wilfred claimed that his invention could play for days. At this time. The result was the “Light Console and Compton Organ for Colour Music” [2. she was very disappointed. Many fundamental principles in the design of this control device were based on the ideas of Rimington. but it produced imagery solely based on light and color. this device did not make any actual music. In California Dockum continued working on the MobilColor. was given on a transparent perspex tower. His first attempts on this “MobilColor” machine. from a place where the stage can be directly observed. A light show. the machine was dismantled. covering multiple storeys. The Clavilux Junior along with its creator is shown in figure 7. He was forced to move to Arizona because of health issues. Dockum kept working on a MobilColor machine for the rest of his life until 1977. Their goal was to create a device that would be able to control stage lighting in a more direct manner. When Baroness Rebay from the Guggenheim Museum saw his work in 1942.When the machine was finally finished in 1950. Some years later. However. Figure 8: Light Console and Compton Organ for Colour Music Various versions of this device where installed all over the world. He started working on a machine here which produced moving abstract images and color in harmony. The control device looked very much like a conventional church organ. many years earlier.4 Strand Electric Figure 7: Thomas Wilfred in front of his Clavilux Junior In 1932 Fred Bentham joined Strand Electric. The number of controlled lights varied from 60 to 216. a company working in the area of light technology.

When colors are created based on sound.5 Oskar Fischinger Oskar Fischinger [17] was involved in the creation of animated film before World War II. . Three kinds of mappings from different features of music to different visualizations were implemented to experiment with in real-time. 7. Unfortunately. However. This allowed the user to create his own imagery. A PERSONAL EXERCISE This section describes my attempt to create a virtual color organ based on a painting by Picabia [8]. placed in space based on musical features. Disappointingly a second operator was needed to control the color of the light on cue. Visual imagery was created from vocal features. Today we can still enjoy the work of Fischinger. After the war Disney released the Fantasia movie [5]. quite many examples of feasible mappings have been proposed in the past. It did not produce any music. Finally. The result is a spectacle where the performer is much more active and thus entertaining to the public than when he would have stand behind a synthesizer. Figure 9: Jean-Michel Jarre playing the Laser Harp His goal was to create a color organ for commercial use. When a beam is interrupted by for example a hand. His laser harp (see Figure 9) consists of several vertical parallel laser beams. chords or instrument types. 6. three years before the death of Oskar Fischinger. It uses multiple features extracted from the music. the Lumigraph. After his death. The result is a 3D virtual landscape. a DVD with some of his original animated films has been released in 2006 [6]. The possibilities implied by the usage of virtual organs are ways beyond those of mechanical solutions. Also. Another interpretation on the virtual color organ is done by Taylor et al [28]. created on basis of pencil drawn textures. For example: The saturation of the colors reflects the dynamics (loud versus soft) of the music. Wellknown visualizations are found in popular music players such as Windows Media Player of Nullsoft Winamp. Bernard Szajner [26] did the opposite in 1981. In this movie. Color organs are devices that create colors based on music. it was later replaced by a normal set of faders. changes in dynamics and rhythmic aspects.2 Virtual color organ As already stated earlier. Some examples of the resulting landscapes created by this organ can be found in [18]. but Fischinger had a new project to set his mind to. such as patterns of rising and falling melody lines. the device was introduced as a love machine. The intention was to accompany the performance of the Lumigraph by music. Other musical sources like vocals can also be used. Visualizations distinguish the sound levels in various frequency ranges. not sound. it is called a (music) visualization. who mocks the idea of color-music correspondence. The touched place by the operator was the only place to show light. using similar techniques as Fischinger and others. capable of producing love for anyone near it. instead of a machine for visual music. a 3D environment was created based on several musical features. MODERN INTERPRETATIONS 6. However.standing in the middle of an artificial lake and was lit from the inside. his son built two more machines in different sizes. such as Blanc-Gatti (who actually talked with Disney about the concept of visual music).1 Bernard Szajner Where most artists tried to convert music to the visual area. The introduction of the computer enables the option to create virtual color organs. this was one of the first devices ever to use a touch screen. for one of his devices is still accidentally played in the Deutsches Filmmuseum [1] in Frankfurt. a musician specialized in electronic music. One important distinction has to be made when looking at virtual color organs. when attempts to create color organs are taken in these days. Sueing Disney had failed. or a mirror. The input for color organs are higher-level musical features. it is not necessary to create complex mechanical devices anymore. A virtual character reacted to the emotional content of a sung melody. 6. such as notes. His main concern is the apparent arbitrariness between the musical features and the visual stimuli which is connected to it. An example of a virtual color organ is “The 21th Century Virtual Reality Color Organ” by Jack Ox and David Britton [19]. Thomas Ciufo [4] has also investigated the possibilities to generate visual stimuli based on musical features in realtime. The laser harp has become famous by Jean-Michel Jarre. Although the Light Console was quite a success. the corresponding note on a synthesizer plays. 5. The biggest success the Lumigraph ever had was the appearance in the movie “The Time Travelers” in 1964. the principle of one man being able to control all the stage lighting by himself from a position where the stage could be directly observed remained from this point on. In fact. His wife and daughter did some performances accross Europe and the United States. This project shows that these types of visualization are no longer strictly bounded to organ-like devices. he never found a manufacturer to support him.

The combination of Java with a MIDI [16] keyboard is very suitable for this. half circles to the right and curves to the left. If all octaves where squeezed in next to eachother. where high tones will be the straight lines on the right. The title is the exact reverse of the more commonly accepted note-color correspondence. Given these two observations. Just like many implementations of color organs in history. To prevent a chaos of numerous lines in the painting.7. I chose to create a direct note-color correspondance. Given this information. stating that colors are like music. Picabia seems to mock the idea of color-music correspondence. I applied the following mapping: • Tonal height: straight vertical lines • Duration: half circles to the right • Loudness: curves to the left In the painting. it would be nice to show that the painting produced by Picabia can actually be used to create some sort of a digital version of a color organ.1 Picabia In 1915. The velocity of each stroke is mapped so that the size of the radius of the circle gets bigger when a key is hit harder. a painter from France named Francis Picabia drew a painting titled “Music is like Painting” (see Figure 10). short and long notes. • Tonal height: hue • Duration: saturation Figure 10: Music is like painting by Francis Picabia Figure 11: Behavior of particles in a magnetic field • Loudness: value . and soft and hard strokes. which directly responds to the strokes of keys on a keyboard.2 Design and Implementation A real-time working system is created. which is not the style op Picabias painting. which reaches all the way to the side of the painting represents the longest duration which has occurred so far in the music. The curves to the left can be seen as parts of a circle. are remarkably similar to the scientific model of the behavior of alpha. Java is able to capture the strokes of the keys in real-time. beta and gamma particles in a magnetic field as shown in Figure 11. Shorter notes will have proportional smaller half circles. The three characteristics of the notes are mapped to the hue. this would generate many lines close to each other. providing information about the tonal height. saturation and value components of a HSV color model. only the last 20 notes are drawn on the canvas. The mapping applies to the notes from A to G. The shape in which the colors of the painting are captured. doubting the credibility of those who work on it. It is however not based on the tonal height only. This is also a nice exercise in the implementation of such a system. straight vertical lines. we may assume that Picabia did not believe in the relevance of such color-music models. velocity and duration of each stroke. or believe in such a direct correspondence. Low tones will be the left straight lines. Using only intuition as a background. Using a MIDI cable between a keyboard and the sound card in a PC. cut off on a specific line. I propose to use this to create a difference between low and high tones. In my opinion. Note that Francis Picabia used three types of lines in his painting. The biggest half circle. we see that each of the line types has multiple instances. There is no difference in regard to the octave in which a certain note is played. 7.

1991. without the desire to perform to an audience on it (such as the device by Arcimboldo). one can develop a program which produces colors based on music in real-time quite fast. the current knowledge about mechanics was often not sufficient enough to actually build the intended devices Figure 12: Screen shot of the Interactive Picabia Painting In Picabia’s painting. trying to achieve synaesthetic effects. This does not necessarily mean that the painting failed.synaesthesia. The system should not be used for live performances because it lacks nice effects such as fading in of the lines or drawing effects. In order to investigate how these effects can be optimized. Some color organs have a direct color-note correspondence (such as the “clavicin pour les yeux”). H. http://www. as shown in Figure Nourathar. as implementations of color organs. [8] M. Ciufo. Lights!. Electrophysiological and autonomic indicators of human emotional response to dynamic . Bishop. the used techniques became outdated by the introduction of the computer. Most devices simultaneously produce music and sound. Fuchs. Bentham. http://www. Another varying factor is the ability to actually produce music. [4] T. Fantasia. (3):15–77. A third type was only intended for research on the relationship between color and music. No probable possible shadow of a doubt. Where some devices are intended to be used at home (such as the Clavilux Junior). [6] O. lines do not cross. Input/output . Westbrook publishing company. [3] B. When the first ideas on color instruments by Arcimboldo arrived. Proceedings of the Fourth International Digital Arts and Culture Conference. On the other hand. Greenewalt. S. advanced psychological research would be needed. as a source of entertainment. http://creativetechnology. Others let the combination of colors and music to the performer (such as the color organ by Rimington). Some devices are only based on the similarity between sound and colors.3 Results The result of striking some notes or chords on the keyboard is a canvas which resembles the Picabia painting very much. The harmony of light. 2002. so the process of creation can be followed). 2006. REFERENCES 8. [2] F. Y. Real-time sound/image manipulation and mapping in a performance setting. A. [5] W.deutschesfilmmuseum. The purposes of the various instruments are also very different. [9] M. it his highly doubtable whether it will inflict synaesthetic effects. Fast.htm. Ten films. modules/input_output/Synaesthesia/color_ music1. the Fine Art of Light Color Playing. CONCLUSIONS The development of the color organ has been slowed down engineering issues in multiple occasions. [7] M. 1946. They produce colors in a way which resembles music. V.salford. 9. Tractrix. The ocular harpsichord of louis-bertrand castel. 7. [10] V. Because this implementation is actually based on notes played on a keyboard. 1992. (It does however use live feed. 1893. and K. Color organs can be divided into several classes. Gumenyuk. Semenova. Sudakov. but it is different from Picabia. one should play with the system for a while and store the nicer results. dynamic music will result in a “painting” which changes more often. other are meant to light stage performances based on the simultaneously played music (such as the Light Console by Strand Electric). Not every result is great. Using basic techniques such as Java and MIDI. Franssen.It is also possible to use random colors by starting the program in random mode. it may occur for example that a short high note crosses with a long low note. There are however some differences. 2001. It is hard to distinguish various types of music in the visualization. An exercise in the form of the design and implementation of a virtual color organ has shown that the techniques of these days make this fairly easy. during the late days of mechanical devices [1] Deutsches filmmuseum. Although the created virtual color organ is able to produce nice pictures.

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