What's the Colour of Music? Messiaen and Colour

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Many composers over the years have claimed to experience synaesthesia, a condition where one sense is activated by experiencing another, and for music, this normally means that when someone hears sounds, they see colours. Scriabin, Liszt and Ligeti are some well-known examples of synesthetes, but among these composers, there is only one who truly dedicated his life to exploring the colours of music – the 20th century French composer, Oliver Messiaen. In this essay, I explore Messiaen’s music and sound-world through the lens of colour and shape, using an ambitious and wide-reaching project by Håkon Austbø as the basis for my discussion.

VISUALIZING VISIONS: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MESSIAEN’S COLOURS, Håkon Austbø, Ricardo del Pozo: https://www.musicandpractice.org/volume-2/visualizing-visions-the-significance-of-messiaens-colours/

Watch my Kandinsky video here: watch.php?v=/2xDnxkzQtdI

Thank you to Juan Brizuela for providing the Spanish subtitles.

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FURTHER WATCHING
Messiaen on Debussy and Colour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTtz76AFfw4
Messiaen - a life in colour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX5pA3TVFsU&t=304s

FURTHER RESEARCH
Color Harmonies and Color Spaces Used by Olivier Messiaen in Couleurs de la cité céleste [Paul E Dworak]: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tqxhvz7le0c1wwu/54258777-Mess-Colour.pdf?dl=0
Messiaen's Synesthesia: The Correspondence between Colour and Sound Structure in His Music [Bernard]: https://www.dropbox.com/s/d4ourucz9b3evr7/388256426-Correspondence-Between-Color-and-Sound-Structure-in-His-Music-Author.pdf?dl=0
Messiaen's Chord Tables: Ordering the Disordered [Cheong Wai-Ling]: https://www.dropbox.com/s/pfc9oiu24im557l/messiaens_chord_tables_ordering_the_disordered.pdf?dl=0
Messiaen's Technique and Visions [Ng Mei Chu]: https://www.dropbox.com/s/u41v53oxlzocgby/48533907.pdf?dl=0

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