The Analogy of Sound and Colour:Table of Contents, Preface

Gosport: Printed by E. Groves, 31, High Street.
By John Denis Macdonald, M.D., F. R. S.,
Staff-surgeon, R.N.
London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer.
Gosport: Groves, High Street 1869.


Agreement of the Musical and Colorific ratios of vibration, the basis of the
analogy of Sound and Colour.
Sec i- Introductory Remarks, and exposition of the Ratios of Musical
Sec. ii.- The Ratios of Colorific vibration, and their comparison with
those of the Musical Scale.
Sec iii.- Probable nonexistence of luminiferous ether, and the consistency
of such a doctrine with the exposition of all the known
phenomena of light.

Analogy of Sound and Colour.
Sec i.- Agreement of the Musical and Colorific Scales
Sec ii.- Constitution of the Musical Scale.
Sec hi.- The Principles of Musical Harmony in their relation to the
agreeable association of Colours.
Sec iv.- Complementary Sounds.
Sec v.- Complementary Colours.

Comparison of the Organs of Vision and Hearing, in relation to their
appropriate stimuli, Light and Sound.
Sec i.- External Ear and its Optical Analogue
Sec. ii.- Middle Ear and its Optical Analogue.
Sec iii.- Internal Ear and its Optical Analogue
Sec iv.- Perception of the Pitch, Distance and Position of Sounds
by the Ear;and analogous faculties of vision.
Sec. v.- Sympathetic Vibration.
Sec. vi.- Acoustic properties of the ordinary Drum Head, as applied to
the physiology of the membrana tympani.
Sec vii.- Laws of Rhythm and Time, in relation to Organic Structure.

Practical application of the foregoing principles, with ^special reference to
the works of the Great Masters in the Fine Arts.
Sec i.- A kindredness observable in the Arts of Music and Painting.
Sec ii. - Ordinary Vision and Hearing.
Sec hi. -Perspective of Natural Objects and Sounds.
Sec iv. - Refraugibility of Colours.
Sec v. - Determination of Key.
Sec. vi. -Quality of Tone, and Compass.
Sec vii. -Grace and Style.
Sec viii. -Basis of Shadow in Colours.
Sec ix. -Black and White.
Sec x. - Special Reference to works of excellence.


It has long impressed the Author, that, if the modulatory theory were applicable to Light and Sound, in all their bearings, the seven colours of the rainbow and the seven notes in the musical scale might prove to be perfectly analogious in their relative properties and effects, either in single sequence, or in combination. Thus, the law of interference, which so fully explains the nature of consonance and dissonance in music, if it be alike applicable to colours, will enable us to make practical use of the principles of Musical Harmony in Painting, or the association of colours in matters of dress or decoration. It will be perceived however, that unless the particular number of vibrations producing the several notes of the musical scale can be shewn to hold an exact relation to the ratio of vibrations calculated in the intervals of the prismatic series, there would be no premiss from which an inference like the above could be drawn. To this desideratum special attention has been given in the first chapter, and it is presumed that the arguments there adduced, are sufficiently conclusive to warrant the further development of the subject in the succeeding chapters.

Painting, as an Art, may be at least on a par with Music;but Music as a Science, is certainly in advance of the fine Arts, its most essential principles admitting of mathematical expression. This last remark, however, has special reference to harmony, for we are still almost quite ignorant of the philosophy of the representative or allegorical power of music;and design and drawing in the arts, as regulated by precept and principle, are much more intelligible than the essential nature of subject and theme in music.

Coincidentally with the reception of Painting and Music, as sister arts, their votaries have intuitively felt the existence of a striking analogy between them, an analogy which is more particularly traceable in the phenomena of sound and colour. Since the time of Newton, various systems have been advanced in elucidation of this analogy, each assuming a colorific scale of its own, but, with the exception of the remarkable results obtained by Newton himself, with the prism and monochord, no purely scientific application of the principles of Musical Harmony to Painting appears to have been made. A reliable theory of harmonious colouring is therefore most desirable in the Arts, as there exists at present no rule to guide the Painter in his selection of colours, but a certain notion of a beau ideal, gained from the example of others, or originating in his own taste, fancy, or caprice.

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