This question follows me everywhere for quite a while now because as an improviser to create music on the themes of artwork is very beautiful. I started thinking about it because my dad was a painter and I wanted to figure out the way to improvise on his artwork.
So I think it's possible, especially if it's a non-abstract painting where you can understand what is going on in the painting in term of action, or a feeling, a mood, what kind of subject is depicted in the painting.
But what if the painting is abstract, what if there would be a way to assign a specific note with a specific color? My friend Ron also is also concerned with this idea. Here's what he wrote to me:
"I thought I would send you this “color mixing method” I put together. Your nice drawings prompted me, seeing the creativity spill over. Colors aren’t the same as sounds, but they have some things in common.
Here is an idea for the student: From these twelve colors, and the way they mix, see if one can create a melody from color that makes sense (is explainable) and sounds interesting on the organ.
A second part of this is: How can one approach such an assignment and make it worthwhile, say, as a crossover between two disciplines?
Anyway, it’s not an assignment! It’s something I can share. I hope you find it interesting."
Anyway, some composers, like Skriabin or Messiaen really felt that a specific chord would go with a specific color. But what Ron proposes is to take 12 chromatic notes of the scale and assign 12 different colors to them.
Here's a challenge, though. The music is an art form which unfolds in time while the painting - not really (or am I wrong?). Therefore, anyone interested should figure out how to "read" the painting - from left to right, from right to left, from top to bottom, from center to the edges.
I don't know the answer yet. I'm not even sure there should be one definite answer to these complex questions as we try to connect the two great art forms and make into something new.
But the question is worth asking.
What do you think?
So, can you hear the color?
[HT to Ron]