A Noteworthy Garden

A Noteworthy Garden

Flowers = Color = Music

Above photo shows Log House garden with piano planted in an octave of color

The folks at Log House Plants, a wholesale nursery in Cottage Grove, rescued this piano when its strings were broken and it was headed for the dump. They made the piano into a planter because they were excited about color and music.

Every color in your garden, every color in the world, corresponds to a musical note. This piano planter represents an octave in C Major. From the left, red is C, orange is D, yellow E, green F, blue G, indigo A, violet B, and back to red, C, again. Each octave repeats these light waves. This pattern is repeated in many ways in nature and spirituality, for example, in the colors of the rainbow and the colors of chakras.

People have thought about these connections for a long time. Ancient Greek philosophers speculated that there must be a correlation between the musical scale and the colors of the rainbow. This idea fascinated several Renaissance philosophers and artists as well, including Leonardo da Vinci, who produced elaborate sound and light shows for court festivals.

Louis Bertrand Castel, a French Jesuit, built his Ocular Harpsichord around 1730. It consisted of a normal harpsichord with a 6-foot-square frame above it. The frame contained 60 small windows, each with a different-colored glass pane and a small curtain attached by pulleys to one specific key. Each time that key was struck, that curtain lifted briefly to show a flash of corresponding color. The Ocular Harpsichord produced a color symphony floating in the air, music surrounding and blending with the color spectrum. The German composer, Telemann, traveled to France to see this elaborate contraption and composed several pieces to be performed on it.

Other innovators experimented with colored liquids, and daylight filtered through colored glass. In the Victorian era, chromatrope slides for magic lanterns combined sounds and colors. Electricity opened new possibilities for projected light and sound. The moving lights of Wallace Remington’s Color Organ accompanied the 1915 New York premiere of Scriabin’s symphony, “Prometheus: A Poem of Fire,” which included notations for precise colors in its score.

In the 1920’s, several film makers began to combine visual imagery, color, and music. Swiss musicalist-artist Charles Blanc-Gatti invented a color-organ called the Chromophonic Orchestra, with images of musical instruments around the screen and colors based on a system that equated the frequencies of sound with color vibrations. Low tones were red, medium tones yellow and green, and high notes violet.

Walt Disney came to an exhibition of Blanc-Gatti’s paintings in Paris during the early 1930’s. The Swiss artist talked with Disney about his ambition to make a feature-length musical animation film. Walt Disney borrowed Blanc-Giatti’s idea and soon created the first musically animated film. “Fantasia” integrated sound, color tones, animation, and flower colors showing the tones in the musical scale. Disney’s flowers waltzed colorfully along on their musical scale and had everyone listening and singing along.

To compose your own musical garden, follow the colors of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Each flower color has its own musical tone. Of course, it never hurts to sing along as you plant your new composition.
Copyright 2002 written by Twilo Scofield for Log House Plants