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

in Multisensory Research
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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/fast), note-density (sparse/dense), mode (major/minor) and pitch-height (low/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 cross-modal 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/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 cross-modal bridge between highly disparate sensory inputs.

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

in Multisensory Research

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Figures

  • View in gallery

    The 37 colors used in this experiment. The spatial array had black and white at the top, with the other colors arranged in quadrants that constituted the colors for each ‘cut’ (saturated, light, muted, and dark, going clockwise from top-left). Within these quadrants, the hues were ordered clockwise from the upper-left corner, starting with long-wavelengths: red (R), orange (O), yellow (Y), chartreuse (H), green (G), cyan (C), blue (B), and purple (P). (NB: The letters and the lines around the S, M, L, and D colors were not present in the display presented during the experiment).

  • View in gallery

    Results of the music-to-color association task. Average color appearance ratings (saturation, lightness, yellow–blue and red–green) for the colors chosen as going best with the melodies are plotted as a function of the note-rate, mode, and pitch-height of the melodies. Error bars represent standard errors of the means.

  • View in gallery

    Scatter plots of the relation between the emotional ratings of the music and the emotional ratings of the colors chosen as going best with the melodies as a function of mode (red = major; blue = minor), note-rate (slow = dark; medium = medium; fast = light) and pitch-height (low = circles; high = triangles) for the four emotional dimensions rated (happy/sad, agitated/calm, angry/not-angry, and strong/weak).

  • View in gallery

    Average emotional ratings (happy/sad, agitated/calm, angry/not-angry, and strong/weak) of the colors chosen as going best with the 16 types of melodies as a function of the note-rate, mode, and pitch-height of the melodies. Error bars represent standard errors of the means. The tables below each graph show the results of forward-stepping multiple linear regression analyses to predict the Music-to-Color Association (MCA) values of the colors chosen as going best/worst with the melodies from the musical attributes of the melodies.

  • View in gallery

    Average emotional ratings of the melodies as a function of note-rate, mode, and pitch-height, including the results of multiple linear regression analyses for each emotional dimension. Error bars represent standard errors of the mean. The tables below each graph show the results of forward-stepping multiple linear regression analyses to predict the emotional ratings from the musical features of the melodies.

  • View in gallery

    Emotional multidimensional spaces (MDSs) for the 16 melody types and the 37 colors, showing the best-fitting central axis orientations for the rated emotional dimensions (happy/sad, agitated/calm, angry/not-angry, and strong/weak).

  • View in gallery

    Ratings of the 37 colors for each of the four emotional dimensions: happy/sad, agitated/calm, angry/not-angry, and strong/weak. The tables below each graph show the results of forward-stepping multiple linear regression analyses to predict the emotional ratings from the color appearance ratings of the colors.

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