Google’s Engrossing New Art Project Lets You Hear What Colors Sound Like

Image via Shutterstock

Most people just see color. Others can hear, smell, or even taste it. Abstract act legend Wassily Kandinsky fell into the second group; he had a neurological condition called synesthesia that allowed him to perceive colors with sounds.

His painting, Yellow-Red-Blue (1925), was a phenomenon in the abstract art world. In it, he mixed primary colors with an assortment of shapes, inviting the viewer to associate yellows, reds, and blues with emotion and thought.

Art lovers can now have a taste, or sound bite, of Kandinsky’s world with Play a Kandinsky, an interactive machine learning experiment created by Google Arts & Culture and Centre Pompidou.

Visitors are guided to click on different colors in an animated canvas. There, they’ll learn what each hue represented to the artist—yellow sounded like trumpets to him, red was the color of violins playing, and looking at blue would elicit a melody of organs in his head.

Kandinsky also paired colors with feelings. Yellow evoked cheekiness, red conveyed restlessness, and blue was the color of the heavens. You might be familiar with these concepts, but that’s because Kandinsky helped pioneer color psychology. He believed colors and shapes, and the ways they work together, can trigger an emotional response.

At the latter part of the AI project, visitors can play Yellow-Red-Blue the way Kandinsky heard it, and even orchestrate their own melodic masterpiece.

It is worth noting that the custom sounds in this experiment might not be how Kandinsky would have heard them. They were created by sound artists Antoine Bertin and NSDOS, who relied upon Kandinsky’s extensive writing and machine learning to replicate those sounds.

To explore the experiment, head here.

[via World Economic Forum, cover image via Shutterstock]

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