Music to Color Associations of Single Line Piano Melodies in Non synesthetes

Abstract

Prior research has shown that non-synesthetes’ color associations to classical orchestral music are strongly mediated by emotion. The present study examines similar cross-modal music-to-color associations for much better controlled musical stimuli: 64 single line piano melodies that were generated from four basic melodies by Mozart, whose global musical parameters were manipulated in tempo (slow or fast), note density (sparse or dense), mode (major or minor) and pitch height (low or high). Participants first chose the three colors (from 37) that they judged to be most consistent with (and, later, the three that were most inconsistent with) the music they were hearing. They later rated each melody and each color for the strength of its association along four emotional dimensions: happy-sad, agitated-calm, angry-not angry and strong-weak. The crossmodal choices showed that faster music in the major mode was associated with lighter, more saturated, yellower (warmer) colors than slower music in the minor mode. These results replicate and extend those of Palmer et al. (2013, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. 110, 8836–8841) with more precisely controlled musical stimuli. Further results replicated strong evidence for emotional mediation of these cross-modal associations, in that the emotional ratings of the melodies were very highly correlated with the emotional associations of the colors chosen as going best or worst with the melodies (r = 0.92, 0.85, 0.82 and 0.70 for happy-sad, strong-weak, angry-not angry and agitated-calm, respectively). The results are discussed in terms of common emotional associations forming a crossmodal bridge between highly disparate sensory inputs.

Publication
In Multisensory Research.