Miqius

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It's not Perfect Color Pitch, but Realtive

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Thing is, we all have perfect color pitch (color-blinds just see less colors). We all know if a yellow is yellow effortlessly, without comparing it to red or blue, just like someone with perfect pitch recognizes a G4 when they hear it. BUT, a grid is needed to express the frequency heard. If that someone comes from a culture with f.e. a 4 note equitempered scale (the first being C) and all their melodies use only those, when they hear a G they will immediately know it's between their 2nd and 3rd notes, closer to the latter than the former, but they'll have no means to pinpoint it exactly. The same happens with colors: a painter may easily tell garnet from ruby, but for me it's just red. That's because I have a low-res grid and my brain cannot store those different shades separately, but not bc I don't have perfect pitch, I still can picture the shade of color in my head without reference like the aforementioned person can sing the note. This video isn't exactly about this but segments 3 and 5 could be useful.

The interesting thing is we don't have relative color pitch, which is what everyone has with sound. That's because light doesn't interact in our cones/receptor system like sound does in our cochlea. We can tell if a sound interval is dissonant or sounds "harmoniously" without training, but no one can tell which shade of green the color-equivalent fifth of garnet's frequency is. And I think this is what Brandon was going for: Relative Color Pitch.

He's always said that color and sound, tones, have a special place in his worldbuilding and the Cosmere. He's very interested in how these are shaped by perception. However, with this magic he aims for the opposite. He wants to show there's something underlying that perception, something objective that follows only the laws of nature.

Quote

 Warbreaker Annotations (Sept. 21, 2010)

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fourteen - Part Two

Vivenna Enters the Court

Color harmonics are one of the things in this book that, I think, have some very interesting philosophical implications. I've always been fascinated by the concept of perfect pitch. Pitches and tones are an absolute; music isn't just something we humans devise and construct out of nothing. It's not arbitrary. Like mathematics, music is based on principles greater than human intervention in the world. Someone with perfect pitch can recognize pure tones, and they exist outside of our perception and division of them. (Unlike something like our appreciation of other kinds of art, which is dealing with things that are far more subjective.)

However, I wondered if—perhaps—there are perfect steps of colors just like there are perfect tones, with color fifths, sevenths, and chords and the like. In our world, nobody has the ability to distinguish these things—but what if there were someone who could? Someone who could tell something innate about color that isn't at all subjective?

I'm not sure if I explained that right, but it intrigued me enough to become part of this book.

 


There's only one problem with all this: we only see the equivalent to an octave. What does this imply? The harmonics of a base frequency that could be grouped into the same color (like different shades of red), would be too far in the harmonic extension, meaning they would be so close that would be dissonant. So the palaces' rooms in Warbreaker would actually be even more hideous to those of 3rd+ Hightening than they are to us.

Comparison to sound
Harmonics of C1: C1 C2 G2 C3 E3 G3 Bb3 C4 D4
Fifths and thirds would be too far off (blue-greens and yellows for a red, respectively), only those within a 2nd would still count as red. Sound-wise, they might add a bit of color (pun intended) to a full chord, but only the tonic and second it's just plain dissonant.

It's a very interesting theme and I love it, but I just think he was a bit too hasty when he introduced it in Warbreaker and it won't work as I would've liked it to. Of course, I respect the fact that Brandon can't go so deep in every aspect of the Cosmere, and some things will need some magical mumbo-jumbo to make them work in a roundabout way and that's fine. I'm just a wee bit disappointed because it seems color and sound will have huge implications in the future and I don't see this part working perfectly.

If someone disagrees or thinks I'm on the wrong path I'd love to discuss!

Edited by Miqius
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Do you have a rough mapping of colours to the 12 chromatic notes? It could be interesting to apply something like set theory to it and see what patterns show up when taking colour theory into account. I don't know much about colour theory but I think colours tend to work together when they're on the opposite side of a colour wheel or form triangles. So we'd be dealing with things like tritones and augmented or diminished chords when thinking about it musically. The connection between colour and sound might be within geometry and not so much to do with harmonics.

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12 hours ago, Kureshi Ironclaw said:

Do you have a rough mapping of colours to the 12 chromatic notes? It could be interesting to apply something like set theory to it and see what patterns show up when taking colour theory into account. I don't know much about colour theory but I think colours tend to work together when they're on the opposite side of a colour wheel or form triangles. So we'd be dealing with things like tritones and augmented or diminished chords when thinking about it musically. The connection between colour and sound might be within geometry and not so much to do with harmonics.

Did someone say something about a set of 12 colors?

My time has come :P

I've had this sitting around just for fun for about a year or so.

12 color spectrum with color names.png

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17 hours ago, Halyo_Alex said:

Did someone say something about a set of 12 colors?

My time has come :P

I've had this sitting around just for fun for about a year or so.

12 color spectrum with color names.png

Thanks! Do you have any insight into how colours work? Like what colours go nicely together and all that. I don't have much of an eye or brain for it.

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Hey @Kureshi Ironclaw! Here's an excerpt of Interference - A grand Scientific Musical Theory that explains how to do the 12 note wheel of colors,

MusicTheory_colorwheel.jpg.60b4d756c7eb2fece584898b2b296d8e.jpgMusicTheory_rainbow.jpg.9fa318aed1f934b6d934c16814305df6.jpg

and here's the combinations on the wheel of colors. As you can see, they don't correspond to any consonant chords, which is what I wanted.

Complementary.gif.166545795457356c6f779ee09754e03d.gifTriad.gif.4b14f088ae2f63c0d561e7d191343339.gifSplitComplementary.gif.be4cc5987c9ab399e276efacbbee8c29.gifSquare.gif.b59f4a7308625f6003f55f218dcbaf78.gif

(Keep in mind that an equitempered scale doesn't respect harmonics, so to make chords we should change them a bit.)

There are some things I still don't understand, like how the transition from a linear spectrum to the wheel works, so I can't make a satisfying comparison to sound yet. I'll have to investigate a little bit more.

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On 6/21/2021 at 0:30 AM, Miqius said:

Hey @Kureshi Ironclaw! Here's an excerpt of Interference - A grand Scientific Musical Theory that explains how to do the 12 note wheel of colors,

MusicTheory_colorwheel.jpg.60b4d756c7eb2fece584898b2b296d8e.jpgMusicTheory_rainbow.jpg.9fa318aed1f934b6d934c16814305df6.jpg

and here's the combinations on the wheel of colors. As you can see, they don't correspond to any consonant chords, which is what I wanted.

Complementary.gif.166545795457356c6f779ee09754e03d.gifTriad.gif.4b14f088ae2f63c0d561e7d191343339.gifSplitComplementary.gif.be4cc5987c9ab399e276efacbbee8c29.gifSquare.gif.b59f4a7308625f6003f55f218dcbaf78.gif

(Keep in mind that an equitempered scale doesn't respect harmonics, so to make chords we should change them a bit.)

There are some things I still don't understand, like how the transition from a linear spectrum to the wheel works, so I can't make a satisfying comparison to sound yet. I'll have to investigate a little bit more.

Awesome! That's really cool!

I don't know about saying that they're not corresponding to consonant chords; that third wheel at the bottom is a suspended chord (although I have no idea whether purple, orange, and green is a 'consonant' colour combination, seems kinda janky now that I think about it). Perception of consonance and dissonance can be quite subjective however. Obviously there are simple mathematical relationships in harmonics that inform that perception but dissonance is something that people can easily build tolerance to and even desire. As a working musician that went through higher education and has a pretty strong ear, traditionally consonant sounds like major triads, octaves and 5ths are a bit bland. What I tend to desire harmonically these days are extended chords, clusters, and interval structures. To relate this to people with higher Hightenings: yeah they can probably perceive more colour dissonance but they also possibly develop a tolerance for it and like those dissonances. Side note, I think 'tolerance' is probably the wrong word here. Dissonance isn't something to be merely tolerated, it is something essential in how music works. Maybe it is better to relate dissonance to something like contrast when thinking about colours. I don't know enough about colours to say.

That said, I don't think our traditional ideas of dissonance really work all that well with colours. Intervals like minor 2nds and Major 7ths are dissonant because of the close proximity of the tones or their strong harmonics, but I think with colours you want proximity. You'd paint a scene using a lot of reds or blues together, from a narrow portion of the spectrum, but musically that would translate to a tight cluster with a range of maybe a minor 3rd. I guess that has to do with how we perceive colours differently to sound, but it seems like colour works more based on zones of colour, and I think the interval between those zones informs more of a perception of consonance than anything to do with harmonics. Hence why I think the link to music is probably within symmetrical structures and geometry. Look at the circles with a triangle and a square (augmented triad and diminished 7th). The colours around the points seem to work pretty well together as a basic palette, and you can probably pick colours from a few degrees around the points that still work. But if you go to far along the sides from any point you might run into dissonance with the rest of the pallet. That's my hypothesis anyway. Can we get an artist in here to check?

I don't know if Brandon will think along those lines in the future of the cosmere. I kind of doubt it because of the amount of jargon I had to use to draw a usable link. It just wouldn't be practical to explain like that in a story. I think he's more likely to sweep it under the rug and hope nobody thinks too hard about it. He may not even try to draw a direct comparison between colour dissonance and sound dissonance.

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1 hour ago, Kureshi Ironclaw said:

Awesome! That's really cool!

I don't know about saying that they're not corresponding to consonant chords; that third wheel at the bottom is a suspended chord (although I have no idea whether purple, orange, and green is a 'consonant' colour combination, seems kinda janky now that I think about it). Perception of consonance and dissonance can be quite subjective however. Obviously there are simple mathematical relationships in harmonics that inform that perception but dissonance is something that people can easily build tolerance to and even desire. As a working musician that went through higher education and has a pretty strong ear, traditionally consonant sounds like major triads, octaves and 5ths are a bit bland. What I tend to desire harmonically these days are extended chords, clusters, and interval structures. To relate this to people with higher Hightenings: yeah they can probably perceive more colour dissonance but they also possibly develop a tolerance for it and like those dissonances. Side note, I think 'tolerance' is probably the wrong word here. Dissonance isn't something to be merely tolerated, it is something essential in how music works. Maybe it is better to relate dissonance to something like contrast when thinking about colours. I don't know enough about colours to say.

That said, I don't think our traditional ideas of dissonance really work all that well with colours. Intervals like minor 2nds and Major 7ths are dissonant because of the close proximity of the tones or their strong harmonics, but I think with colours you want proximity. You'd paint a scene using a lot of reds or blues together, from a narrow portion of the spectrum, but musically that would translate to a tight cluster with a range of maybe a minor 3rd. I guess that has to do with how we perceive colours differently to sound, but it seems like colour works more based on zones of colour, and I think the interval between those zones informs more of a perception of consonance than anything to do with harmonics. Hence why I think the link to music is probably within symmetrical structures and geometry. Look at the circles with a triangle and a square (augmented triad and diminished 7th). The colours around the points seem to work pretty well together as a basic palette, and you can probably pick colours from a few degrees around the points that still work. But if you go to far along the sides from any point you might run into dissonance with the rest of the pallet. That's my hypothesis anyway. Can we get an artist in here to check?

I don't know if Brandon will think along those lines in the future of the cosmere. I kind of doubt it because of the amount of jargon I had to use to draw a usable link. It just wouldn't be practical to explain like that in a story. I think he's more likely to sweep it under the rug and hope nobody thinks too hard about it. He may not even try to draw a direct comparison between colour dissonance and sound dissonance.

I agree with everything you said. I also have high studies in music and was thinking along the same lines. There's no reason why the palettes above should be related to harmonic consonance, in fact some seem quite vibrant and others are close together (which gives a sense of cohesion you don't get in music for those intervals). And that is why I had an issue with Brandon's approach, because it seemed to me he was trying to justify the sense of beauty someone from 3rd+ Hightening gets from the palaces' rooms palettes with harmonic consonance. So yeah I agree you could twist it saying that it's not about consonance, but more like being able to see the palettes like you and I can hear a diminished 7th chord and find beauty in it.

But like you said, two musicians won't go much further without a visual artist.

I'm also a physicist and I've tried to find correlation between these two concepts from that side, but to no avail. When I discover how the transition from the linear spectrum to the color wheel works I'll try to apply the geometry patterns you mentioned. (All this more for my own satisfaction than to unveil the next step in the Cosmere, since I too believe we'll get another "sweep under the rug" move from Brandon, like with red-shift in time bubbles.)

Btw, I like your take on having an interval of proximity for each point of a palette, where if you go further you find "dissonance" within that palette, hadn't thought about it that way. I'll try the physics approach and see if I have more luck. The thing is though, again, Brandon is quite specific on the reason to finding beauty in those rooms' palettes being the ability to recognize the specific shades and the harmonic relation to one another, so having an interval of proximity wouldn't work here. I agree this is the case for real live color compositions, but well, it is what it is. We'll see what Brandon has in store for us in a couple of years or decades xd. I'm sure he surprises us somehow.

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22 hours ago, Miqius said:

I agree with everything you said. I also have high studies in music and was thinking along the same lines. There's no reason why the palettes above should be related to harmonic consonance, in fact some seem quite vibrant and others are close together (which gives a sense of cohesion you don't get in music for those intervals). And that is why I had an issue with Brandon's approach, because it seemed to me he was trying to justify the sense of beauty someone from 3rd+ Hightening gets from the palaces' rooms palettes with harmonic consonance. So yeah I agree you could twist it saying that it's not about consonance, but more like being able to see the palettes like you and I can hear a diminished 7th chord and find beauty in it.

But like you said, two musicians won't go much further without a visual artist.

I'm also a physicist and I've tried to find correlation between these two concepts from that side, but to no avail. When I discover how the transition from the linear spectrum to the color wheel works I'll try to apply the geometry patterns you mentioned. (All this more for my own satisfaction than to unveil the next step in the Cosmere, since I too believe we'll get another "sweep under the rug" move from Brandon, like with red-shift in time bubbles.)

Btw, I like your take on having an interval of proximity for each point of a palette, where if you go further you find "dissonance" within that palette, hadn't thought about it that way. I'll try the physics approach and see if I have more luck. The thing is though, again, Brandon is quite specific on the reason to finding beauty in those rooms' palettes being the ability to recognize the specific shades and the harmonic relation to one another, so having an interval of proximity wouldn't work here. I agree this is the case for real live color compositions, but well, it is what it is. We'll see what Brandon has in store for us in a couple of years or decades xd. I'm sure he surprises us somehow.

I think the transition from a linear spectrum to a colour wheel happens because our brain fills in fake colours to connect each end of the spectrum. I'm pretty sure that's how we get magenta. There's not actually a wavelength associated with magenta, it's somehow filled in by our brain. Idk for certain if that is correct though.

It's interesting as well that our eyes pick up colour based on three colour cones within our eyes, but I don't think our ears have a similar mechanism. Like we don't have a 200hz cone, a 4khz cone, and a 15khz cone that pick up specifically those frequencies and then the brain does brain magic to give the illusion of an entire spectrum. I could be wrong about that too though, it's been a long time since I was in physics or biology classes.

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I've heard about that mental filling of fake colors, I think you're right. I'd like to study it a bit more, though. It just dawned on me writing this! hahaha. The problem I had was I was thinking about color combination mathematically (it can be proved that the combination of two different frequencies gives an envelope wave of the frequency exactly in the middle, so blue and red should make green, not magenta) but thinking about the 3 cones, maybe it's just that one picks the blue part, the other the red part, and since the green one detects nothing, the brain goes haywire and invents magenta. (I think something similar happens with yellow.)

And you're somewhat right about cones. Each type picks up the intensity of light of the frequency they're tuned in, but that frequency is actually a range, and the three ranges overlap with each other. They then send the signals, and then the brain reconstructs the original combination. In our ear, it's actually similar, but we only have one receptor with the whole continuum of frequencies (each frequency of the sound that enters the ear makes the fluid within the cochlea vibrate in a different segment --due to its spiral shape-- and there's "little hairs" that pick up that vibration and send the signal), and that's why I think we have relative pitch with sound, you can compare the different patterns of vibration within the cochlea, f.e. a note will create vibrations in similar sectors than its fifth, whereas with light the signal gets separated in reception and arrives disassembled to the brain, so yeah what you said.

But returning to the Cosmere, I think stuff like the fake colors enters the realm of perceptions, and we're looking for something beyond, or not influenced by, that. It's really hard...

I'm really intrigued about this so I'm happy to be able to discuss it with someone ^_^. Sorry if it has veered off too much from the Cosmere.

Edit: Hey @Kureshi Ironclaw, tagging you in case you didn't get a notification without a quote. Sorry if it's a bother you don't need to answer <3.

Edited by Miqius
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Yeah I'm sort of out of my depth now with what I can contribute. I don't know enough about colours to take it much further than what I've conjectured. Maybe there is something useful in the harmonics on particular colour cones and dissonance with different cones, if that makes sense? If there is even a way to define harmonics on a single cone, but that seems like it would account for all the reds working together. On the visual spectrum they're together so when translated to sound create dissonance, but when interpreted from a single cone maybe everything works out nicely harmonically. I really don't know though, I'm doing a lot of pseudo-science here

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On 6/23/2021 at 7:48 AM, Miqius said:

maybe it's just that one picks the blue part, the other the red part, and since the green one detects nothing, the brain goes haywire and invents magenta.

This is correct.

I mean, imagine if everything that reflected red and blue light looked green, when every single photosynthetic plant ALREADY reflects green light. It'd just blend right in.

Hence, magenta. Which is what we perceive as the "opposite" of green. Anti-green, if you will.

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11 hours ago, Halyo_Alex said:

This is correct.

I mean, imagine if everything that reflected red and blue light looked green, when every single photosynthetic plant ALREADY reflects green light. It'd just blend right in.

Hence, magenta. Which is what we perceive as the "opposite" of green. Anti-green, if you will.

Nice! So there lies the main reason comparing sound to color is so difficult. Since it has to do with perception, Brandon could somehow bypass it. I'd like to discover a way myself, though.

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1 minute ago, Miqius said:

Nice! So there lies the main reason comparing sound to color is so difficult. Since it has to do with perception, Brandon could somehow bypass it. I'd like to discover a way myself, though.

So the equivalent would be... uh. I don't know music terms. Low pitch plus high pitch equals something that's the opposite of medium pitch.

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2 minutes ago, Halyo_Alex said:

So the equivalent would be... uh. I don't know music terms. Low pitch plus high pitch equals something that's the opposite of medium pitch.

Yeah it just doesn't work that way (color neither it's our perception of it that does that). So frustrating hahaha.

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Just now, Miqius said:

Yeah it just doesn't work that way (color neither it's our perception of it that does that). So frustrating hahaha.

anti-tone of medium pitch? :P

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7 hours ago, Miqius said:

Yeah it just doesn't work that way (color neither it's our perception of it that does that). So frustrating hahaha.

Difference tones maybe? High and low with a difference tone somewhere in the middle.

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11 hours ago, Kureshi Ironclaw said:

Difference tones maybe? High and low with a difference tone somewhere in the middle.

Hmm yes somewhere around an augmented fifth I think. I guess you could draw some formal similarities to that, but it terms of perception I don't see how they relate.

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