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Blue-Green Composition #1 | by David Lewis-Baker
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Blue-Green Composition #1

One of a long running series of conceptual abstract pieces which are intended to be played as pieces of music by replacing the colours with their equivalent notes. The only problem is that there is no agreed way to translate colours and visual forms into music, or indeed agreement on whether it can be done. But there is a very long tradition of speculating on the links between colours and musical notation. As in so many of my pure abstracts Rothko has had an influence on this piece.


"Musicians and musical theorists had been aware of a relationship between proportion and harmony since antiquity. Western thought, generally, became saturated with notions of harmonic relationships connecting all things - the heavens, the earth below, the human body and soul. In "Timaeus", the only Platonic dialogue known to the West in the Dark Ages, the very structure of the heavens had been described as a cosmic harmony, with Pythagorean musical ratios offsetting the planets and stars from the earth in proper proportions. In the Myth of Er in "Republic X", Plato gave the heavenly bodies colours, as they appeared in the sky (Mars is 'reddish', for example), but each of their orbits was given a siren, singing an eight-fold harmony accompanied by the Fates, while the whole arrangement turned on a spindle:


"a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow, only brighter and purer."


Aristotle, too, had his say: he suggested that colours were related proportionally, like musical notes, though he was sceptical of a Pythagorean music of the spheres."


From Niels Hutchison MUSIC FOR MEASURE – essay ‘On the 300th Anniversary of Newton's "Opticks"’ Part 3: MIXING IT


"In the 17th century, when Sir Isaac Newton first analysed the coloured properties of sunlight. Newton felt obliged to divide the naturally-occurring spectrum into seven colours, one for each note of a musical scale. In this way, the phenomena of light and sound were united in the one mathematical matrix. His simple array has survived as a colour-music code, as well as a commonly-accepted way of describing the rainbow."


From Niels Hutchison MUSIC FOR MEASURE

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Taken on January 12, 2008