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For Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian painter generally credited as the pioneer of abstract art, music and color were inseparable. So much so that he once remarked, “the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with bass notes or dark lake with treble.”
Kandinsky wasn’t just being poetic. There’s reason to suspect that the artist was a synesthete: a person with synesthesia, a condition in which sensory modalities are cross-wired in the brain. If that’s true, Kandinsky didn’t just see colors. He literally heard them, too. This kind of synesthesia, called “chromesthesia,” is relatively rare. While you might not be the one in three thousand individuals who have chromesthesia, research has demonstrated our brains are constantly processing sensory input to help us make sense of the world, and there are certainly ways in which we might experience consistent music-to-color associations.
Crossmodalism is a growing field of research that examines the ways that various sensory stimuli can alter perception of the world and our experiences in it. When our senses are simulated, our brains look for congruent connections that help inform our perception of what we taste, hear, touch, smell or see. We can use these crossmodal associations to “hack” our sensory perception. For example, we tend to associate high pitched sounds with sweetness, and lower pitched sounds with bitterness. Experiments have demonstrated that same piece of chocolate might taste sweet or bitter, depending what we put into your ears while you’re eating it. Our language is full of these comparisons: we talk about how something might “sound” sweet or dark, or we might refer to the “notes” of flavor and aroma in wine.
The same is true when we examine “crossmodally congruent” sound and color pairings. Fast paced music in a major key is associated with bright, vivid colors like yellow. Increase the tempo and energy and blend in a little distortion and you’ll be seeing red. Slow down the tempo, move into a minor key, lessen the attack of the notes, and you might be feeling blue. The lower the pitch the darker the hue. The higher the pitch, the brighter the hue.
In addition to crossmodal associations, researchers have found that emotion also plays a role in the way we attribute color to music. Red is often associated with anger and excitement. Yellow with happiness. Blue with calm or sadness. There are even styles of music that seem to produce strong color associations: jazz with blue, funk and hip-hop with indigo, bluegrass with green, and salsa with red.
Just as Kandinsky drew on a color palate to paint his masterpieces, composers draw on a sonic palate to paint their masterpieces as well. Color/Music associations are most determined by tempo (slow to fast), dynamics (low to high), volume (soft to loud), modality (major to minor), pitch (low to high), harmony (consonant to dissonant), complexity (simple to complex) and distortion (clear to distorted).
More than just entertaining trivia, crossmodal science has practical implications when it comes to crafting brand experiences. How do your brand colors play into other sensory expressions of your brand identity and personality? We can draw on sound/color research to help guide our sound choices, better aligning brand intent with consumer perception.
To bring the science to life, we’ve used it to inform the curation of seven color matched playlists, based on the seven colors of the visible spectrum (often listed as colors of the rainbow): red, orange, yellow, green blue, indigo and violet. You’ll hear (and see) a lot of difference between the music associated with brighter colors like red and yellow, and darker colors like blue and indigo. Some, like orange and violet, may play with the nuance of sonic colors: orange being a little more relaxed in tempo than red and yellow, and not as bright sonically; violet is in similar tempo territory to indigo, but higher in pitch, as violet tends to be perceived as a brighter color than indigo.
So put on a pair of headphones, close your eyes, and work your way through our color inspired playlists, unleashing your inner Kandinsky as you sonically paint the world around you:
Whiteford, K.L., Schloss, K.B., Helwig, N.E., Palmer, S.E. (2018) Color, Music, and Emotion: Bach to Blues. i-Perception, 9(6), 1-27.
Sun, X. et al. (2018), An Extended Research of Crossmodal Correspondence between Color and Sound in Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics. PeerJ, 6, e4443
Bartram, L., Patra, A., Stone, M. (2017) “Affective Color in Visualization,” in Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM pp. 1364–1374
Playlists designed by Stephanie Elkin, Music Curator, Pandora
It is important to celebrate the cultural pillars that have deeply influenced Asians in history and culture, music especially. As the fastest-growing demographic with a spending power of over 1 trillion, tapping into Asian Americans’ passions and their drive to impact and inspire the broader culture is critical for brands who are looking to engage this audience and beyond.
Asian Americans are deeply passionate about music. It is one of the many ways they are able to stay rooted in both their Asian and American identities. From the global phenomena of K-POP to Asian influences in Indie Techno Pop, Hip-Hop & R&B music, their passion and influence in music has become transcendent. Brands can harness the power of music and sound to engage them on a deeper level.
To learn more about the Asian American audience and the role music plays in their lives, we joined forces with Intertrend, a full-service Asian-American communications agency that understands the intersection of cultures, emerging trends, and the interaction between brands and consumers. We leveraged our Pandora Soundboard panel to survey 635 Asian Americans, unearthing insights that will help advertisers use the universal language of music to win their hearts and minds.
“There is no doubt that the power of music can offer comfort, inspiration, and create community. Pandora conducting the Asian American User Study with Intertrend further reinforces that. As we continue to see people of all ethnicities groove to the beat of K-Pop, Bollywood, C-Pop and Japanese Techno, it is hard to find a more powerful cultural connector than music that transcends all racial barriers”, said Julia Huang, President & CEO of Intertrend Communications
The power of music in creating connections with your Asian American audience is clear — but what next? We’ll be diving into even more insights and tips, with multicultural agency Intertrend Communications, on Thursday, July 16. Register for our webinar here.
It’s safe to say that in this new world of staying home, we’re really missing live concerts. Enter Pandora Live’s new virtual concert series, the latest way to rock out from the comfort of your couch. ![KaneBrown mock animation](//images.ctfassets.net/nh8g790vi8yy/5IVvqban2pBcF4eDdgUSt7/2a258fa80dc5bb63540c98bdb299e041/KaneBrown_mock_animation.gif) Pandora is pioneering the next era of music experiences with the launch of a virtual concert series that stays true to our core values of bringing fans closer to their favorite artists and delivering unforgettable content experiences. The inaugural concert took place on July 28th and our listeners were ready—THOUSANDS of fans tuned in to this one-of-a-kind show, garnering coverage from [Forbes](https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathyolson/2020/07/23/new-pandora-virtual-concert-series-promises-deeper-engagement-for-sponsoring-brands/#273e77746bf0), [Variety](https://variety.com/2020/music/news/kane-brown-pandora-concert-series-1234714014/), [Billboard](https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/9424752/livestream-concerts-week-of-july-27), and over 50 additional publications. Country singer Kane Brown kicked off the concert series, joined by SiriusXM’s The Highway host Storme Warren. Special guests Restless Road made a special appearance with a surprise collab, along with a whole host of other celebrities who shared their favorite memories with Kane; including Khalid, Thomas Rhett, Russell Dickerson, Florida Georgia Line, Lauren Alaina, Chris Lane, Becky G, Hoda, and Lonnie Chavis from This is Us. The show featured a special animated short film—based on true events narrated by Kane’s wife and best friend—created exclusively for the show. Those who know Pandora Live events know that the swag and sponsor enhancements are always a highlight—and at a virtual event, this was no different. Kingsford shared tips to create an at-home concert cookout before the show, provided select superfans with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Kane virtually, and kicked off the night with pre-show “Get Grilled” trivia where fans tested their Kane Brown superfan knowledge. ![KaneBrown LIVE iphone mockup](//images.ctfassets.net/nh8g790vi8yy/13GBHc88Vw2OdV8lpDZlX8/b12e73d52d9fbea4ff6435b5da9dc38f/KaneBrown_LIVE_iphone_mockup.jpg) Persil Laundry Detergent treated fans to free custom Pandora Live Kane Brown t-shirts, mailed directly to fan homes with a complimentary sample of their new detergent to keep them looking fresh! The shirts were a huge hit—with the fan chat going wild with excitement for them—and were gone within an hour! After the show, Men’s grooming company Cremo, invited fans to continue the party, driving them to a custom listening station [Pandora Live: Backstage with Kane Brown](https://www.pandora.com/station/play/4517380680341882611?_branch_match_id=538477016227318174), which features more Kane Brown music and commentary, PLUS the live performance tracks from the event! Music may look different this year, but it’s still here. Live concerts, celebrity guests, and free merch delivered directly to your home—if this is the future of concerts, sign us up! Pandora will continue to bring at-home performances to life via a robust slate of virtual event offerings. Check in with your Sales partners to find out how your brand can get involved!
*Comscore Media Metrix, September 2019, Total Audience (P13+ on mobile)