Color–Tone Analogies

Color–tone analogies refer to the association of color scales to musical scales. Throughout history, such analogies have played the most diverse roles with regard to aspects of philosophy, the natural sciences, art theory, and music theory. Depending on the stage of development reached by the theory of colors and optics and the theory of music and acoustics, respectively, a variety of procedures for developing analogies have been applied, while the prevailing understanding of the world was used to justify these comparisons.

Color–sound correspondences appeared in prehistoric times as components of complex symbolic or cosmological analogies. In connection with the planets and different spheres of human existence, they were intended to demonstrate a reflection of the macrocosm within the microcosm or a comprehensive blueprint for nature in the sense of a global harmony.

From the ancient world onward, the number of analogical models was incrementally reduced and the first separate color–tone analogies were developed. These then also led to a definition of color harmonies through the transfer of the musical theory of consonance and to the establishment of a theory of harmony in painting.

It is only since the early eighteenth century that fully independent color–tone analogies have been developed. These were mainly intended to facilitate the visualization of music, usually on the basis of various types of light organ.