Color Chords and Music

Three Chord Ode Version II II

Digital Composition
October 2012


I began doing digital compositions as a way to make quick compositional and color decisions: Photoshop enables the artist to make rapid decisions over a few minutes that might take days or weeks when done in paint. I began doing compositions of arranged abstract elements put together to create a meaningful composition.
Doors2
Beginning in 2008, I was inspired by two musical references: the first was an off hand remark by some commentator that a renowned composer had recommended to the composer of “Porgie and Bess” the use of the diminished fifth; the second was listening to Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah” wherein he sings of “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift” (up to now, I thought that was “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fourth, the major fifth”; so my compositions were worked out accordingly).
August_Oxblood_III_small
I continued my experiments in composition and rhythm but now included using the color triangle to realize what I thought corresponded to Cohen’s musical reference. I began doing research on the musical chords using the piano keyboard as a guide. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ask a rocker musician, friend Tom Chaffee about the color chords. He quickly drew a circle and laid out the twelve chords around it. This was major revelation for me; I had never seen them laid out in this manner.
Tom explained how a musician might decide to play with the intervals between the notes to arrive at unique styles. I took this chart home and superimposed the color over the notes:
Chords_YisA_II
PianoKeys_colors
One can come up with a different layout, but I was interested in relationships and intervals.
After creating this color/chord wheel, I decided to experiment using my favorite country singer Emmylou Harris: I was curious about her statement about “singing the three chord blues” from her song “The Road.” I then located on line lyrics to a few of her songs and noted the chord changes and experimented with corresponding color changes.
Below: my most recent piece:
Composition-IV

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