We see the sound
1. “Sound + color”?
The property of sounds to evoke color images has been noticed a long time ago. Much has been written about the color rumor of A. Scriabin, who saw musical sounds in color. The whole direction in art – color music – is based on this property of music sounds.
There is evidence that speech sounds, especially vowels, can also be perceived in color. A. Rimbaud even wrote a vowels sonnet, in which he so colored the sounds:
A is black; white – E; And – red; Y is green;
Oh – blue: I’ll tell them their secret in my turn …
But the French linguist K. Nirope attributed very different colors to vowels: he considered I – blue, U – bright yellow, A – red. The German linguist A. Schlegel wrote that for him, And – sky blue, A – red, O – purple. But the Russian poet A. Bely claimed that he sees A as white, E as yellow-green, I as blue, U as black, O as bright orange. If we continue to call individual judgments about the color of vowels, then each sound will be painted in all the colors of the rainbows.
So, in that case, are there any specific sound-color correspondences at all? Isn’t that fantasy? Or, perhaps, randomly arising unstable associations between sound and color? And is it possible that sound communications are the result of exceptionally delicate perception mechanisms of individuals? Different answers were given to these questions, but more often they agreed that the connection “speech sound – color” is a rare purely individual phenomenon.
2. General provisions of the theory
Modern science recognizes a phenomenon as existing only when it is either directly observed, or reproducibly manifests itself in experiments, or is strictly calculated. Moreover, in any case, the last word remains with practice: it is necessary that the phenomenon functioned observably or that traces of its action are detected.
But where it comes to the human psyche, everything looks different. Science, as a “picnic on the sidelines” zone, still rarely penetrates with difficulty, but, having penetrated, it stumbles upon incomprehensible “complete soothers” which it cannot open with its tools.
Mental phenomena are most often not directly observed, in experiments they either appear or not, they are difficult to calculate, and the traces of their functioning are vague, unsteady, irregular. Especially in the field of the subconscious. Here, say, intuition. Everyone can recall cases when, it seems to us, the right decision or deed was prompted to us by intuition.
Moreover, as it turned out during the work on artificial intelligence, a person in difficult situations makes a decision not by trying all possible options, but heuristically, subconsciously, intuitively finds the right path. But on the other hand, intuition often fails. How to understand when intuition whispers to us the right decision, and when trickyly push us into a dead end?
So it is with sound color matching. If they exist, then who is right – A. Rimbaud or A. Bely? Whose intuition is more correct?
The idea of the experiments is simple: the reactions of many subjects to a specific stimulus are recorded, and then statistical processing of the obtained material follows to identify the main trends in the reactions. The registration technique is diverse: the subjects are presented with speech sounds – they need to choose colors for them, or different color cards are presented – they need to write sounds on them, or they are given the task of arranging the sounds by color, say, from “the redest” to “the least red”, from the “blueest” to the “least blue”, etc.
Many such experiments with thousands of informants showed that the vast majority of subjects stain at least vowels quite definitely. Especially unanimous are the opinions regarding the three vowels – A, E, I. The sound and letter (sound letter) A are quite consistently called red, E is clearly green, and I is definitely blue. Everyone considers the sound letter О light and bright, but although most of the subjects call it yellow, the answers are quite often found: “white”. It turns out that it is sunny.
Note that linguists consider the vowels A, O, E, and I to be the main ones, supportive for the human vocal apparatus and the main ones in all languages. And physicists consider the colors that correspond to these vowels to be the main ones, because their combinations give all other colors and shades. What uses color photography, color television. Is it not surprising that in the language of correspondence, it was the main colors that turned out to be the most distinct?
Apparently, the “collective intuition” of people appears here: the color device of the world is reflected in the color device of the language. The names of the main colors are found most often in speech, and the sounds A, O, E, and I are the most frequent of the vowels. And between the names of the primary colors and these vowels, in turn, there is a connection: the name of a certain color contains a correspondingly “colored” sound, and it occupies the most important, stressed position in the word: red, blue.