60.1 Color and Musical Tone

(Note: In 1870 there was a discussion as to the correspondences of color and musical tone. The following is that discussion as found in Nature February 10, 1870, taking up Newtons experiment, tones and scales):

..."I do not know how far Newton's measurements are correct; but I find that Professor Zannotti, of Naples, gives for the diameters of the rings from red to red the cube-roots of the numbers 1, 8/9, 5/6, 3/4, 2/3, 3/5, 9/16, 1/2

60.2

The intervals between these, taken successively, are 9/8, 16/15, 10/9, 9/8, 10/9,16/15, 9/8; that is- major-tone, semi-tone, minor- tone, major-tone, minor-tone, 1/2-tone, major-tone. Calling the major-tone M, the minor-tone m and the semi-tone x, for the sake of brevity. I will give the 5 different forms of which the musical scale is capable- expressed by the succession of intervals- and show that the above series of intervals is one of them:

 . D ^ E ^ F ^ G ^ A ^ B ^ C ^ D Comments (1) . m . x . M . m . M . x . M . Or Sintono (2) . M . x . m . M . m . x . M . Or Newtons Scale of Colors (3) . M . x . M . m . M . x . m . . (4) . m . x . M . M . m . x . M . . (5) . M . x . m . M . M . x . m . .

Varieties depending upon the permutation of the quantities M, m and x. The 1st contains the imperfect fifth, DA; the 2nd two such fifths, EB and FC; the 3rd GD; the 4th A sub. 2, E sub. 2; and the 5th the imperfect fifth, C sub. 2, G,- all of course with their corresponding augmented fourths.

Thus, Newton's scale of color is one of a series of 5 scales of sound, all requiring a modification by a comma of one, or at the most two- fifths; but all are found of perfect major and minor tones and major semitones. If the correlation between color and sound exists, I think it will be found here. If this be admitted, the colors and notes corresponding are as follows:

D- Red
E- Orange
F- Yellow
G- Green
A- Blue
B- Indigo
C- Violet
D- Red or better according to

60.3 Diagram. Color Circles  Nature Feb 10, 1870

60.4.1

Thus the series of colors corresponds with the Gregorian Scale of the first mode and not with the modern scale of C. I may remark, by the way, that the ancient Greek plain chant is said sometimes to have a notation in which the notes are distinguished by different colors. It would be interesting to know whether such notation has any scientific foundation.

In conclusion, I would say, that Newton's rings give a far more clear division of the colors that we get in the spectrum and the distinction between blue and indigo is too well defined to warrant them to be treated as Mr. Barrett has done. No doubt the neighborhood of indigo is a difficult one and to make the correlation with sound complete, this color itself aught to be divided into two; indigo-blue and indigo-violet, corresponding to the notes B flat and B sharp, both of which are required to obtain the fourths and fifths all perfect.

Allow me to inquire if there be any marked line in the red, dividing it into two reds separated by the interval 81/80? I ask this question because the Sintono Scale (1) requires two D's differing by this interval, to complete its intervals of fourths and fifths. Also, would the correction of the fifths and &c.(etc.), in the other 4 scales given above, by the introduction of one or two notes, be such that these notes can be made to correspond to marked divisions in the spectrum or to like divisions in the series of colors determined by Newton's method"?

Nature
February 10, 1870

Impossible Correspondence Index