"And what if trade sow cities Like shells along the shore, And thatch with towns the prairie broad With railways ironed o'er; - They are but sailing foambells Along Thought's causing stream, And take their shape and Sun-colour From Him that sends the dream." - Emerson.
"There are things whose strong reality Outshines our fairyland; in shape and hues More beautiful than our fantastic sky, And the strange constellations which the Muse O'er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse."
Going back to a remote past, we not only find many great philosophers who believed in the efficacy of music for the healing of the sick, but also find recorded many notable cases of such healing. And these cures are not confined to any particular clime or country, but seem to have taken place all through the ages, first in one country and then in another. There are so many well-authenticated cases of cures that apparently there can be no valid reason offered either to deny or disprove such claims for music.
Of the use of colour, however, in connection with music as a therapeutic agent, there is apparently no record, and perhaps there may have been a good reason for this, for it is very doubtful if the people of the past saw or appreciated colour as we do in the present. The development of colour seeing is just as much an inner development, and perhaps even more so, than the hearing of musical sounds; and it is singular, to say the least, that, if people of ancient times knew colours and felt them as much as we do, there should be so little record of it in the writings of the past. Our books of the present refer to colour over and over again, in one way or another, but you will find few such references in the Middle Ages, or even in those of a later date, and even those references mention comparatively few colours. It may be argued that the great old masters of painting were in possession of and used even finer colours than those in use by our modern painters. In one way, that is true. They had a knowledge of more enduring colour than we possess at the present time, but it must be quite evident to the student that they used far less variety of colour than our own painters do at the present time. So far as I know, then, colour has never been associated with music for therapeutic purposes. Within recent years, a number of writers of books have dwelt on the value of colours for the healing of the sick; but I have never heard of mental or physical ills being cured solely through the use of colour. In this chapter I (Introduction) offer suggestions as to how colour may be combined with music in such a way as to get the greatest good from both. I have often known the sick to take decided dislikes to objects of different colours in the rooms they occupied, and in some cases the dislike was so great that the distasteful object had to be removed. If, in the treatment of the sick with music, harmonious music is necessary so that the appeal to the ear may have the effect of awakening the inner emotions, then it must also be necessary, in order to engender a harmonious condition of thought and feeling, to make the same appeal through the sight, so that the seeing and the hearing may jointly work together. The subject is so large a one that it will not be possible in this chapter to do other than indicate how colour is to be made to harmonise with music for the healing of the sick.
Everything we see in the world is visible to us because it either absorbs light or reflects light. Almost every object reflects light to some degree, and some objects do so in a very marked way; but every object also absorbs light, some absorbing by far the greater part of the light, and others reflecting the greater part. When a ray of sunshine passes through a glass prism, it is decomposed or separated, and the result is that we have what is called the seven prismatic colours. We have first three colours which we call primary: red, yellow, and blue. Three more we call secondary: orange, green, and violet. From these, we might go on to say, we have the tertiary colours made up of two parts of the secondary colours. We might continue a further analysis of the subject of colour without much gain in doing so.
In music, it is the relation that one note or one chord bears to another that produces melody and harmony of sounds. The same law may be said to prevail in the use of colour. We might say that there is both analogy and contrast between the different colours and different chords; and if we are to get the happiest effects from both, it will be necessary for us to observe the laws of analogy and contrast both in music and in colour. Too often in the furnishing of rooms, comparatively little attention is paid to either one or the other; consequently, a room having everything in it necessary to make it both beautiful and harmonious, is often only incongruous because of things which detract from the harmony and beauty of the rest of the room.
When we speak of the harmonies of analogy we are referring to the colours that are related; such as red and orange yellow, yellow and blue, blue and green, violet and red. Now these colours in the furnishing of a room can usually be made to produce a greater harmony of effect, especially in small rooms, than can be done through contrast of colours. In small rooms, when contrast of colour is used, it has the effect of making the room appear smaller. Harmonious contrast, then, will be best obtained in large rooms, that is, harmonies of contrast from what are called unrelated colours; such as blue and orange, red and green, yellow and violet.
Just a word of explanation as to why the terms analogy and contrast are used in defining colour harmonies. Red and yellow are the first and third notes in the octave of colour. From them there is produced orange, which partakes of the colour of both; therefore, orange is related to red and is related to yellow as well. Violet draws part of its colour from indigo and part from red. Blue, which is the fifth note in the octave of colour, is related to green on one side and violet on the other. Thus we see how colours are related. Now for contrast or unrelated colour, take as an illustration red and green: green is a combination of yellow and blue, and therefore is in no way related to red. Take yellow and violet: violet is a combination of red and indigo, therefore in no way related to yellow; and orange is a combination of red and yellow and not related to blue, yet from all these colours we may produce a wonderful beauty of contrast, so that analogy and contrast both have their own special harmonies. In juxtaposition with both analogy and contrast of colour, white may be used, as this tends to intensify colour; or black which tends to weaken it, while grey neutralises it. Luminous or warm colours such as red, orange, yellow, and the lighter shades of green tend to enhance one's mental and physical vibration, so that people suffering from loss of vitality may be aided by their use; while people labouring under excitement would be soothed and quieted best through the use of the non-luminous or so-called cold colours. Again, much depends on whether the room receives much or little light. If the light is very strong, then subdued colours will tend to make the room more restful, while if the light is poor, then luminous colours will prove the best. Luminous colours, however, tend to make a small room look smaller, while such colours as greens, blues, and greys have the reverse effect. Again, there is the question of colour in relation to temperature. Cool colours in summer will, as a general thing, give better effect than warm colours. In winter, there is a keener enjoyment derived from warm colours than from those which are considered cold. We need much more colour in our houses in the winter than we do at any other season of the year, because nature, during the winter, gives us little of anything other than cold or neutral colour. I think there is a much keener enjoyment of bright-coloured flowers in the home during winter-time than during the summer season. The interior luminous colours in the house make the necessary contrast with the outside world. While in the late spring, and summer, and early autumn, nature gives such varieties of colours in hues, and shades, and tints, that the cold, subdued, or neutral colours within the home give the needed contrast, causing one to feel more cool and restful than would otherwise prove the case. Great discrimination should be used by those who undertake the use of colour for the treatment of the sick. For the room that would be of the greatest help to one person might prove decidedly the reverse to another. It is my opinion that all bedrooms should be made to look bright and happy, but not stately or cold. To get the effect of brightness and happiness, it is necessary to avoid, in so far as possible, straight lines; circles, curves, loops, etc., can all be used in such a way as to produce beauty of harmony and a happiness that cannot be produced through the use of straight lines. It would seem almost as though nature abhorred the straight line as much as it does a vacuum. Take those trees, mostly of the cedar family, that grow straight up with few branches; their foliage is usually very dark, and they present, more or less, a gloomy appearance. Somehow, they have always seemed to me to have an affinity with cemeteries. While the white birch, in turn, with its twisted and gnarled branches, and its leaves of light green, seem fairly to dance with joy. If you want beauty in a small room, avoid the straight line as much as possible. Give curves to your drapery or festoons, and do away with everything that tends to severity. This is what I call making a happy room. After all, it is not so much a question of the quantity or even the quality of what you have in it as of the judgment you have used in harmonising all its effects. It is a singular thing that the Greeks in their fresco work used red, blue, and yellow, intensified or modified by white or blue. It is singular for this reason, that those are the three primary colours, corresponding in music to the first, third, and fifth notes of the octave, which really form everything that is fundamental both in music and colour. And I have not the slightest doubt that the Greeks had as perfect a foundation for their music as they had for their use of colour. Their use of blue, purple, and gold showed them to be master colourists chief among the nations of the world.