Hear what colours sound like with this Google Arts and Culture tool

Image Credit: Google

New Google tool lets you ‘play’ a Kandinsky painting and experience synesthesia.

What’s it like to ‘hear’ colours? A new interactive tool from Google Arts & Culture gives you an insight. The immersive experiment, a collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, uses machine learning to let you click on sections of Kandinsky painting ‘Yellow-Red-Blue’ to produce difference musical phrases and sounds, exploring the link between music and art.

Abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) had synesthesia, a neurological condition where one sense triggers another. Billie Eilish, Lorde and Pharrell Williams are famous fellow synesthetes.

Kandinsky didn’t just see colours, but heard, tasted and smelt them too – and when he heard music, he saw colours. High trumpet notes were lemon yellow, and deep organ a deep, solemn blue. Forms and colours were to him the strings and keys of instruments. In his works, he arranged the sounds as colours to make ‘colour symphonies’.

For Kandinsky, each colour’s character reflected melodic harmonies and dissonances, and now you can explore a little of what he experienced by using Google Arts & Culture’s AI tool. It’s a psychedelic immersion in sound, shapes and colour. Combine elements of the painting to create emotional, ambient phrases.

Click here to try it out.

Kandinsky was a master of the Bauhaus movement. The original oil painting of ‘Yellow-Red-Blue’, 1925, resides in the Centre Pompidou. You can learn more about how Kandinsky’s life links to music with other tools in the project, including your very own augmented reality Kandinsky exhibition.

The Google tool is slightly more intellectual than the Blob Opera Google tool from last year which is still available if you’re on the lookout for further distraction, this time in the form of playable operatic blob creatures. Previous fun musical experiments from Google have included a Lo-Fi hip-hop beatmaker and their Chrome Music Lab.

Madeleine Amos
I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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