Music - colour and sound correlation

Miscellaneous topics on Carnatic music
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vgovindan
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#1 Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

I came across this interesting website, dedicated to flute music of native American Indians. There is a page dedicated to development of music - from animals to birds, to early man, and the traces which are still found in some music production - like gutteral and lips etc - in other countries.

The most important observation that I could make was, as in the case of colour spectrum whose colours are man-defined and not natural, so also it seems that musical 'notes' also might be man-defined according to the acoustic mechanism of humans. And, there may be a strong correlation between seven colours and seven svaras - is it something to do with human perceptional limitations?

https://www.flutopedia.com/sound_color.htm

Nick H
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#2 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by Nick H »

vgovindan wrote: 28 Apr 2020, 09:45... ... ... seven colours and seven svaras - is it something to do with human perceptional limitations?
One has to enquire how arbitrary the division is? The colour spectrum is continuous and exists in more than one dimension. Is there even any formal definition of the points in it that people call red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet? I don't think so, but is there anyone here who with a knowledge of colour science who can confirm that?

vgovindan
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#3 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

More about the correlation - colour and sound perception -

http://www.people.vcu.edu/~djbromle/col ... smith.html

shankarank
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#4 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

The correct comparison should be between "color" and "note" and not "color" and "sound".

Color is what is NOT resonating, where-as a "note" (not "sound") is what IS resonating or consonating.

https://www.universetoday.com/87943/abs ... -of-light/

Color is more of illusion and "note" is more of a real thing. Color is NOT the color of an object, but what is NOT the color of an object.

Magnetic resonance also exists and allows for a scan of invisible malignancies!

As regards limitations, if humans can perceive "sa-pa-sa" - that is 1, 3/2 and 2, great progress has been made :D and if they further produce a rich set of resonances (tone) - even greater progress has been made.

Vengala pAnai or bell metal ringing voice , the gaNir SArIram is rich in harmonics!

vgovindan
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#5 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

Probably, I have not been able to convey my query in the right terms. I did not seek to know whether colour spectrum and sound - would 'audio' be more appropriate? - spectrum have any direct correlation with one another. But, it is about our limitations in perceiving both light and sound. There are a few reasons for this. Though light and sound propagate differently, there is a spectrum in both cases. In case of light, the colours have been proved to be a perceptional myth, which we exploit to 'see' the World around us as colours rather than mere vibrations. Similarly, in the spectrum of sound, we have constructed our theories of svara - notes? - as if they exist in nature as such. In my humble opinion, it is perceptional limitation that we cannot hear sound vibrations as such, because, they are in no way different from light. So we have, evolutionarily developed an auditory mechanism which 'interprets' sounds by differentiating their properties - pitch etc. Therefore, my query is whether these svara sthanas do really exist in nature or whether these are our constructs to distinguish one from another, like the colours of light. This is more so because there is a 'loop back' and 'amplification' in sound perception. Also, there is the common 'perceptional delay' which is there for all kinds of perceptions - they are not real time, in the true sense of the word.

PS - would the heading be better if it is 'light and sound'?

shankarank
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#6 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

Maxima and minima are special!

Resonance produces maximum transfer of energy.
vgovindan wrote: 28 Apr 2020, 23:35 http://www.people.vcu.edu/~djbromle/col ... smith.html
In that article , it is claimed that colors are continuous, but sounds (notes I guess) are discrete. Actually sound is the one that is continuous. Only when you pick a base frequency or a natural frequency then you get other resonating frequencies where the energy (amplitude) is maximum.

Whereas light emerges from discreteness , because there are discrete jumps of energy. The very idea of discrete states of energy came about because of vibrations (waves!).

On the emission side, where Sun Light is white - that many discrete states are actually there in nature to fill the spectrum! - that is indeed remarkable.
vgovindan wrote: 29 Apr 2020, 06:36 In case of light, the colours have been proved to be a perceptional myth
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativis ... _chemistry

The color of gold to explain itself, required at least two distinct physical theories and the philately of chemistry, is indeed remarkable! It seems gold is yellow and Silver is white - are all due to Einstein! And Dirac was wrong! And they precisely know why Gold absorbs lot of the blue light.

I just said color is an illusion in jest!

So before we get to our perceptional differentiation of colors, nature already created physical infrastructure required!

It seems the eye is the counterpart of the Sun ( in terms of Sun light), may be the ancestors were poetic enough to compare it to Sun ( sUrya candra nEtram), since it has the ability to see every color emitted in that range.

If physical reality is real, then colors are real things!

shankarank
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#7 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

Now for sounds or notes or svaras:

In Indian classical music, with sa-pa-sa on background , we are atuned to listen to one note at a time, with a note itself being defined in relation to those 3 notes (Adhara Sruti).

Pancamam has defined universal value - (3/2) - and that is the right answer to what is pancamam - not 660 Hertz.

In Western they have chords where multiple notes are sounded together. This is a different musical effect than each pure note in isolation. The beats will add to additional notes ( just like your mixing colors) being heard. In tambura R2 is heard. So we are going to say sound is continuous now?

So what is perceived as distinct in each system is by training/acculturation as well.

Ilayaraja ( as noted by our old @cmlover) - produces a tad dissonant sound on his janani janani song throughout and that his music. And people have received that as well. Unless you are trained to listen to a "Sruti" aligned classical music, you will not see it as dissonant also.

You are mixing up human perception at higher level to human intellectual activity at an investigational level.

vgovindan
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#8 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

Shankarank,
About Ilayaraja, I just could not stand that rendering. It is surprising that with such a dissonant voice - apasvara? - himself, he could produce a lot of good music in films - rendered by others. There is one more song - ammA endrazhaikkAda.

My query was more philosophical than musical - how deficient, and yet how confident we are!

shankarank
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#9 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

shankarank wrote: 29 Apr 2020, 08:53 It seems gold is yellow and Silver is white - are all due to Einstein!
After all that whatever quantum physics they talked, finally Einstein came and found a place in their margin of error - like the (1/2) Akshara, that makes wonders in music ;) :mrgreen: :D :lol:

shankarank
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#10 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

vgovindan wrote: 29 Apr 2020, 06:36 which we exploit to 'see' the World around us as colours rather than mere vibrations.
When you say mere "vibrations" - I don't know how that is more real than colors. You may feel the vibrations of earth quake - because they are in the natural frequency range of your whole body.

Or when they chant "Om" in new age meditation, at a very low frequency from belly up. In otherwise the usual traditional chanting , we say Om , matter-of-factly and our body may not feel any vibration, even anything beyond vocal chords may not vibrate. Still we hear that as sound, the ear drum vibrates and senses it.

So are you ascribing "reality" to one sense organ - vs. - falsity to others? This whole vibration thing has become too mystical.

In museums, they have the earth quake simulator for different Richter scales. One can feel it in the whole body and it takes a ice skater stability sense to be there beyond 4 or 4.5!

vgovindan
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#11 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

"This whole vibration thing has become too mystical."

This has relevance in another thread on SRngAra. I am gathering materials.

uday_shankar
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#12 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by uday_shankar »

shankarank wrote: 29 Apr 2020, 04:41 The correct comparison should be between "color" and "note" and not "color" and "sound".
That too is weak and inadequate since the experiences are not exactly analogous due to the cyclic nature and of the "sameness" of the tonal experience of octaves in a musical context. Furthermore, similar to octaves, but a little more subtle, there is the universal experience of simple consonances, such as the fifth (3/2 or Sa-Pa).

Electromagnetic wave is exactly analogous to sound (i.e., acoustic pressure wave). The eyes perceive frequencies of electromagnetic waves in the range 400THz (red) to 800Thz (violet); the ears perceive frequencies of pressure waves in the range 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Analogous. End of story.

Coming to "notes", they exist only in a musical context. Therefore, fundamental musical ideas like octave etc must also have an analog, to call color an analog of "note". Our eyes perceive approximately only one "octave" of color. Therefore the octave experience of color, if any, is barely testable. And so, if some shade of Red were to be keezh-Sa at 400THz, then some shade of violet would be mel-Sa at 800THz. And if somebody tells you that the Red and Violet experience are analogous in a deep psycho-optic sense, I want to meet that person. Similarly, some shade of blue at 600THz would be Pa, and anybody who "feels" a deep Red-Blue consonance could be a potent political force in these tumultuous times ;-p.

Generalizing the problem with the "note" analog, the crux of it is the issue of relative frequency. Every musical tradition known to man, even those that emphasize absolute pitch, rely heavily on relative frequencies. A note is always a relative frequency, i.e., a fraction or some irrational number (as in equal temperament). There is absolutely no relativity as far as I know in the experience of color.

Recent research has suggested that the similarity of the octave experience is deeply cultural and experiments with un-contacted Indian tribes in the tiny Amazon region of northern Bolivia show that it is not "universal". Haha, wow !!! This research is absolutely fascinating, and I now have my own theories of why octaves are so imbued in Indo-European musical traditions. Anyways, here's an article on that most fascinating research:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/percepti ... -20191030/

vgovindan
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#13 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

Uday,
While in case of colour, there is only vision. On the other hand, auditory system has a direct correspondence with vocal system. Therefore, articulation of sound has to take note of vocal chords, larynx and lip mobility. For example, when I went to Gaya (Bihar), I found that children born there of brahmins of South, are not able to open their mouths fully (similar to Biharis) - for uttering mantras. Their vocal movements are very constricted. Similarly, the Chinese and Japanese have typical vocal movements which we seem to lack. Therefore, due to reciprocity between auditory and vocal apparatus, there is bound to be cultural influences on sound perception and reproduction.

It may be interesting to note that in case of some African tribes who are isolated, perception of some colours - or distinguishing some colours - is found to be deficient. The sound which whales make are beyond human range of perception. Even some bird sounds are beyond human range.

Btw, our wearing of earphones is having a telling effect on our auditory perceptions, particularly, soft sounds. Maybe one day our own sense of pitch has to shift to higher levels.

Ranganayaki
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#14 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by Ranganayaki »

vgovindan wrote: 05 May 2020, 06:16 For example, when I went to Gaya (Bihar), I found that children born there of brahmins of South, are not able to open their mouths fully (similar to Biharis) - for uttering mantras. Their vocal movements are very constricted.
What exactly do you attribute this transformation to? That part is not very clear to me. Also what exactly do you mean by “vocal movements?” How did these children do while speaking South Indian languages?

vgovindan
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#15 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

I think it is much to do with the habit chewing paan.
Unlike we who chew paan in one go, they keep it in their mouths for long and 'enjoy the 'ras' - and add khatta to it. This seems to have created a mannerism that even when there is no paan in their mouth, they speak as if paan is there. Their mouths are always full with paan. This is true of Kashi area also. It is in a strange way they utter Veda mantras. They speak their mother tongue also similarly. I stayed in a Kannadiga chatram for Pind-daan.
Last edited by vgovindan on 05 May 2020, 09:12, edited 1 time in total.

uday_shankar
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#16 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by uday_shankar »

govindan sir,
I agree that the process of vocalization is likely deeply intertwined with the process of hearing, a case of WYHIWYG as far as speech is concerned and vice versa :)

Ranganayaki
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#17 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by Ranganayaki »

I think it is much to do with the habit chewing paan.
(...)
They speak their morher tongue also similarly.
Yes, in that case, it is a cultural acquisition for the South Indian child there. I imagine that by vocal movements you mean the range of movement of mouth parts. This is a cultural acquisition too, and every human without a problematic physical condition of the mouth can lean and speak any language perfectly.

The normal range of movement of mouth parts in the predominant (first) language and the muscle memory that develops as years pass make it increasingly difficult to make other sets of movements, as the tongue and lips tend to settle into their habitual movements of the first language. This inflexibility is related to the length of time one has been speaking one’s first language. That’s why children are better at acquiring new languages. They are less settled into habitual movements.
Therefore, due to reciprocity between auditory and vocal apparatus, there is bound to be cultural influences on sound perception and reproduction.
This statement appears to be half wrong and half perfectly right. The auditory and vocal apparatus is identical for everyone. They do not negatively influence language acquisition. But there is a cultural influence on sound perception and reproduction and that belongs to the predominant language and also related cultural influences such your example of the habit of paan-chewing affecting the pronunciation of even non-chewing kids.
Last edited by Ranganayaki on 05 May 2020, 09:08, edited 2 times in total.

Ranganayaki
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#18 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by Ranganayaki »

It may be interesting to note that in case of some African tribes who are isolated, perception of some colours - or distinguishing some colours - is found to be deficient.
This feels odd to read. There is no deficiency to talk about. Color discrimination is mainly cultural. It is related to the richness of a language in having words for colors, which is in turn related to the usefulness to the people, of recognizing subtler differences in shades. It’s cultural.

shankarank
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#19 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

uday_shankar wrote: 05 May 2020, 02:12
shankarank wrote: 29 Apr 2020, 04:41 The correct comparison should be between "color" and "note" and not "color" and "sound".
That too is weak and inadequate since the experiences are not exactly analogous due to the cyclic nature and of the "sameness" of the tonal experience of octaves in a musical context.
Well, I was only fixing equivalence of terminology there and suggested a comparison which you have done and I agree. Closest to color in light is note in sound.

uday_shankar wrote: 05 May 2020, 02:12 A note is always a relative frequency, i.e., a fraction or some irrational number (as in equal temperament). There is absolutely no relativity as far as I know in the experience of color.
Well well, forgotten doppler effect? Red Shift, blue Shift. That is the closest analog you can get for Sruti bhEdam :D

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02 ... black-hole

That's all microwave @ 3 Deg Kelvin, turned into light! And good old Albert adds his corrections to that also!

As regards the studies on remote populations, even in our midst we hear people, who cannot align in a temple group singing , for example of Aarti. Sense of Sruti is not given to everyone!

shankarank
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#20 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

uday_shankar wrote: 05 May 2020, 02:12 Recent research has suggested that the similarity of the octave experience is deeply cultural and experiments with un-contacted Indian tribes in the tiny Amazon region of northern Bolivia show that it is not "universal". Haha, wow !!! This research is absolutely fascinating, and I now have my own theories of why octaves are so imbued in Indo-European musical traditions.
Interesting how the "Indo" seeks the high seat with "European" and then participates in the consumption of the rank racist subaltern-ist anthropological studies peddled by the investigators to whom the natives are just informants.

Indo was/is "ethno" music - as evidenced by [:cough;] all the Phd(s) strutting around Chennai now!.

Is there an Indo-European layam? Oh! Only Sruti is music!

Ranganayaki
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#21 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by Ranganayaki »

I wonder how one recognizes the strut of a PhD.

shankarank
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#22 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

Check the dictionary will you? I didn't before using the word. As Cho used to say of politicians in his parody "without being aware he spoke right". ellAmE oru (a)lakshyattulE aDiccu viDaratutAn :P

You could recognize it from their gait as they enter the sabhas , more so as they get grumpier discussing rAga lakshaNas year on year! :lol:

shankarank
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#23 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

There! This scholar working on tamizh village (grameeya) music, is beginning to codify it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayalak ... hakrishnan

Any music that has a regularity or finality to it, whether that conforms to sound resonance properties or NOT (For e.g even with concept of Sruti, you also have gamaka which is already a conundrum enough!) will lend itself to codification - akin to SAstrAs.

Illayaraja's janani has a definitive finality to it, even if it does not conform.

Every tribe will have a priestly person or a paNDAram who guards their treasures! If they evolve a sutra form of language like samskrit or archaic tamizh to express it, we get SAStra.

It is very much like a math equation that expresses a physical concept in science. A concise form - that gets expounded in plain English. Do we speak Math? And there is the Engineering aspect of it - the practical usage in real life conditions.

A SAstra is mostly used with a teacher in place, as a reference and an additional aid. The lived practice of the teacher goes along with it and not in isolation.

If it is held as a custom/tradition then it acquires a certain sacredness to it, as anything that lasts beyond a lifetime is closer to the sacred, philosophically.

We twist this attribute and bring in Caste discussions into it, anthropology into it , and deny something it's legitimacy as a knowledge system in it's own right!

Notes:
1. Here the word tribe was not used in it's pejorative sense - for once brahmins or any group were tribes. Our ancestry just two generations up would form a tribe to us - for we cannot stand them - except if they could appear on a stage and disappear from our practical lives immediately thereafter. But we do revere and remember them! Bit of Advaita in it? We cannot bear with their bodies, but we cherish their conscious?

shankarank
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#24 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by shankarank »

The first article by Sri S.Y Krishnaswamy here says words didn't matter for Tiger.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/rvzkjxwrfujl5 ... 5.pdf?dl=0

But it also further says part of the rAgA lakshna , the selection of notes didn't matter for him. May be he saw new colors in Vasanta. Some extra sensory perception beyond ordinary sound of notes.

If somebody can transcend lakshana of rAgA itself like that, they also transcend words. Else words are music as much as rAgAs are.

vgovindan
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#25 Re: Music - colour and sound correlation

Post by vgovindan »

'..beyond the ordinary sound of notes'

Beyond and encompassing the notes, lie nAda. For example the word nAda has underlying Sabda or dhwani of which nA da are the distinct syllables. Connecting these syllables is the dhwani mixed with emotive content, connecting the speaker and listener communicating the exact intention. (Please do not take the example literally). Alongside, the facial expression - particularly that of eyes - and bodily gestures add up to make a whole experience which gets registered as coordinates in the memory - recollectable and reenactable. Rest are just passing show - not registered for recollection - probably intellectually satisfying for the moment.

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