Color of Music: An Investigation of Musical Timbre and Color Association
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In the world of music, the metaphor “the color of music” has been vastly used to describe characteristics of sound such as tone quality, pitch, and timbre. Timbre can be described as a mixture of frequencies including the fundamental pitch that makes up what we hear when music is played by a particular instrument. While this notion that timbre evokes different color associations is not necessarily a new idea, research is limited outside of experiments based on pitch and other various musical characteristics. This study investigated color association solely based on musical instrument differentiation, or timbre as well as assessing the level of musical experience and training of each subject who participated. Three experiments were utilized including instrument images and sounds with the resulting duty of choosing a color on a color wheel. Findings contributed to the popular knowledge base of music and the brain by signifying a possible, though not well-defined perceptual correlate between musical timbre and color association. Based on the results obtained, the scientific vindication and perceptual basis for the continued use of the metaphor “the color of music” was tentatively upheld based on individual experience, but also signified a need for much more in depth research in timbre processing.