Louis-Bertrand Castel has proclaimed the very idea of "viewing" music for the first time in the world, this giving credit to France. This idea is known to be of pioneering value, but speculative and not relating directly to the art. Or, speaking more precisely and in more simple way, no artistical result could be obtained using the algorithm "colour-sound". Nevertheless, ideas of Castel have" stirred up" Europnian artistical culture, making it to "stand still" in expectance of possibility to become the witness of music "visualized".
L-B.Castel's ideas attracted acute interest in Russia. At the same time there was an understanding of the fact that those ones are ungroundless artistically. The next step towards the actual embodiment of light-music synthesis idea was made by great Russian composer A.N.Scriabin. To Russia credit, he created original light-musical piece - "Prometei" (its another title is "Poem of fire") for the first time in the world in 1910. There is unusual light string "Luce", designated for rendering by means of a light organ - "tasteria per luce", in the score of the symphonic piece besides the other usual instruments parts. Light string "Luce" is represented by the sequence of notes used as conventional signs for colors. But it is not specified in score what color is designated by the specific note. It was due to this reason that the myth about enigmatic character of "Luce" was born.
Several such conventional signs for colors were established using articles and reminisciences of Scriabin's contemporaries and his own preliminary writings: "c - red, g - orange, d - yellow and so on". But there are similar preliminary writings where near colors are placed similar notes capitalized; they are known to be used usually for designating tonalities (C- red, G- orange and so on). What preliminary writings are more correct? Why did Scriabin decide to use here signs of tonalities ?
All this puzzled the investigators of his creative work. Some of them decided simply that Scriabin followed Castel's footsteps in his writings "c - red, g - orange and so on". Besides, the investigators proposed colouring all notes, all complex chords according to the scheme "sound - colour" in music itself, not taking into account the "Luce" string. I know that it was planned to perform music of Scriabin in similar way at one of the jubilee concerts devoted to 100-th anniversary of the composer in the US. Thanks God, we succeeded in dissuading the organizers from doing so.
We have reliable information that Scriabin's attitude to idea of light-sound "translation" a la Castel light-sound transformation was the negative one. It is known that his friends brought him a book on light organ in English, written possibly, by his contemporary Remington, follower of Castel, but he rejected it.
.So, one can not consider Scriabin to be a direct follower of L-B.Castel. This gives us right to suppose that table "c - red, g -orange and so on" contains, in fact, mere conventional signs designating colors in "Luce" string. It seems that archiveinvestigations confirm this supposition. It was very convenient for Scriabin as musician to use notes, sings of notes exactly for colors designation. Though this was the very reason why great mushmare arouse and the notes of "Luce" were mixed up with notes of the music itself. No problems would arise and no myths would be created if Scriabin designated colours in "Luce" with other signs. So, no perlexity provokes, for example, string "Luce" in Shedrin's "Poetoria". Color dynamics is fixed by means of color lines drawn along the traditional musical score in it. Other composers used only verbal descriptions. But what shall we do with the Scriabin's tables containing designations in capital letters: "C - red, G - orange and so on" in this case? Perhaps, he had certain system of "color-tonality" correspondances ? If so what relationship exists between the tables containing small letters and capital letters? Why are they so similar ? In order to comprehend it we must consuder the genesis of idea of inclusion of light score in "Prometei".
The common place in the special Scriabinologistic literature is to state the special interest of great composer in philosophy. For all this, some people make reservation that philosophy was the guide factor of entire Scriabin's creative work and that his music is in its way "philosophy in sounds". Some other people are prone to consider his music as quite self-sufficient and they think it is absolutely unnecessary to have any knowledge of the composer's philosophic passions to comprehend them. One can see the appraisals are quite contradictory with the problem lying just between them. Many attempts have been made to solve it. Our task is to reveal and explain its specific aspect, mentioned in the title of the present paper.
Composer had been selecting and imbibing those moments from the numerous teachings of both the past and the present which could explain and justify his doom to the feat - to realize by himself an unique artistic action (he called it "Mystery") which could accomplish crucial transformation of the whole mankind owing to its influence. We have the comprehension of an artist as a High Person here. This was called also artistical Messiahnism, Orphism (whimsical interpretation of the ideas of Fichte, Schopenhauer and Nietzsshe). However, these supertasks, perhaps, could be realized only by using corresponding "super means". This was the reason of arousing the idea of mysterial All-art which could provide fundamental unity of possibilities of all kinds of creativite activities, both conventional and new ones (this idea was also prompted, obviously, by Wagner's concept of "Gesamtkunstwerk" also). One of the unconventional means Scriabin planed to use was so called "Light Symphony", dress rehersal of which had been the "Prometei".
We decided to dot our "i's" and cross our "t's" in myth of enigmatic "Luce" string. This turned out to be complicated task. We had been searching for and analyzing Scriabin's documents and preliminary writings during several years. We had been analyzing light string at simultanious studying the harmonic language of "Prometei". All this taken together resulted in considerable scientific work, published as monograph of about 200 pages in volume (1). It is some kind of detective novel devoted to art criticism. I am not Agatha Cristy that's why I shall not retall the entire book and and only give short conclusions. Like in every detective piece, it turned out that intrigue was complex but the conclusions rather simple. Our analysis showed that note signs in "Luce" string correspond to basic tones of chords, whose changes were interpreted by Scriabin as changes of tonalities. (This is very important and I shall repeat this conclusion once more, more slowly: the signs whose changes were interpreted by Scriabin as changes of tonalities.) Thus, he visualized in colors tonality modulation plan of music of "Prometei"; this "visualization" was based in this case on his own system of relationships between tonalities and colores.
System of Scriabin's "colored hearing" was as follows:
G-dur - orange
D-dur - yellow
A-dur - green
E-dur - sky blue
H-dur - blue, pale
Fis-dur - blue
Des-dur - violet
As-dur - purple violet
Es-dur - glitter
B-dur - of steel
F-dur - red
How did such correspondances between colors and tonalities form in Scriabin's mind?
It is well-known that many musicians attribute certain emotional states and certain meanings to tonalities. Scriabin, for example, described C-dur as "simple", "earhtly" and Fis-dur as more "complex", "spiritual" one.
Besides, all of us attribute certain emotional features to colors. We all describe red as exciting color and blue as quite, lofty one. These common features serve as base for comparision between colors and tonalities of such type as "C-dur - red and so on". This is very similar to determination of colors of days of a week. Of what color is Sunday? And of what color is Monday?
I think it is enough to make jokes and we should proceed to Scriabin's table of correspondances between colors and tonalities.
As you know, the tonalities are written down by capitals only at times. (C, G, and so on) without adding the sign "dur". This is the explanation why at first appeared obscure, at first, table "C- red, G-orange and so on" appeared in Scriabin's preliminary writings. What shall we do now with the table "c - red, g - orange and so on"? Really, as we see, it has no relation to Castel. On the one hand we can consider it to be merely conventional record of colores by means of notes in "Luce". On the other hand these note signs in "Luce" represent the basic tones of chords of sounding music (changes of chords being interpreted by composer as change of tonalities and I would like to emphasize this fact once more again.) Such situation takes place only for music of "Prometei" (1).
How and why did the composer arrive at the idea of color visualization of modulation plan of tonalities of musical piece in accordance with his own system of "color-tonality" hearing?
The tirm "aura" is known to be one of the basic concepts of the tesaurus of theosophy. Every person is considered to be encircled with a kind of incorporeal halo, that represents color visualization of this person soul visible only for initiated. This aura being, supposedly, "simple" (of red, dirty, brute color) around primitive persons and "complex" (of blue, pure, lofty color) around spiritual persons. Scriabin himself did not use the term "aura" when talking on art. However, Siril Scott, English scientist who knew about Scriabin's interest in theosophy, and who was intimated himself with it too, made a very delicate remark in his work "Philosophy of modernism" (1919) that not only man can have aura but also the results of his creative activities and he cited in this connection, as the example, the Promethean "Luce" . Really, it strikes one's eye, when analyizing jointly the structure of "Luce" and the philosophic program of "Prometei", that both tonal plan and color dynamics of the "Luce" are aimed equally at incarnation of this program (Spirit is overthrown into the Matter and then follows his revival). In modulation plan of music of "Prometei" it is realized by the movement from "spiritual" tonality (Fis) to the "material" one with the following ascent back to the "spiritual" tonality (Fis). The structure of "Luce" also corresponds to this program: fis-as-b - spiritual colors (violet, blue); e-d - material colors (red, yellow) and e-fis - spiritual colors (blue, violet). Thus, the "Luce" string may be regarded actually as a materialized aura of the music of "Prometei". But if we translate this into everyday language it turns here to be evident that Scriabin and the theosophists were based on the trite color symbolism, relying upon elementary associations ( "simplicisity" of warm, earthly, red color and "complexity" of cold, sky, blue color is marked even in the perception of children).
On the whole, this a private right of artist, certainly, to use these or those color correspondances. But such, theosophy-based approach made Scriabin sure, without any ground, of his "color hearing" universality. Besides, such theosophical, "aureal" explanation of "Luce", of light-music nature resulted in limitation of functions of light in synthetical piece. As the matter of fact light was here also simple dubbing of music, as with Castel.
Castel dubbed in colors the tones, separate notes, sounds of music.
Scriabin provided dubbing in colors the tonalities by color in the "Prometei". Certainly the level of synthesis was less mechanistical and more artistical. But there was common feature in Castel's approach and the theosophical approach, namely, color subordination to music. Color was the duplicate of music. Music was treated as argument while color was its function, if to express in terms of mathematics.
As an artist Scriabin felt that such approach was of limited nature. Already at the time he worked over "Prometei he told his friend Sabaneyev that he did not need color as simple duplicate of music. Besides, he made up his mind to introduce complex visual images - somewhat of "rays", "clouds", "lightnings" in Prometheus "Luce". It was this way that he planned to execute for performing synthesis of music and light (to wit synthesis rather than the translation of "music into light") in his future work "Preliminary Act", over which he begun working after finishing "Prometei". Unfortunately, he had not succeeded finishing it because of his unpredictable death in 1915.
Thus, we can see that theosophical origins or, so to say "aural" genesis of "Luce" in "Prometei" are appparent, but this fact may be considered as transient and occasional for both the history of light-music and for Scriabin himself. This statement is confirmed by the fact that he gave up his idea of music dubbing by color at all. Turning to audio-visual counterpoint, he dreamed to include not only color, but also complex plastics of abstract forms in light party of his works.
It was the idea of "audio-visual poliphony" that became his main contribution to the development of light-music. Thus, one cannot explain it by means of the theosophy alone. I should underline the fact that Scriabin had to traite as theosophist and become guided by his intuition of the genuine artist, I should underline here. It brought him to the right path and made it possible to him to reach more high levels in development of the idea of polyphonic synthesis, levels which still remain unsurmontable for many of present-day composers.
So, the history repeats itself.
Being the pioneer of the new art, Castel could not escape the "childish seekness" of analogism, though he also attempted to break away beyond limits of mechancism (synaesthetical moments in his speculations, ideas about possible relations between music, color, and the like).
In early stages of creative formation of his light-music ideas Scriabin has also experienced influence by "childish seekness" of analogism in his light-musical ideas formation. But he succeeded in overcoming it rather quickly.
Besides , I would like to express the idea, that seems to be paradoxial. I think that the relationship of light-musical idea in "Prometei" with "color hearing", more specifically, with tonality-color correspondances, was also temporal and transient fact in his developement of ideas of synthesis.
"Color hearing" is known to be special case of synaethesia and color synaesthesia was not the most important for Scriabin, being forced and schematic in many aspects. We must turn one's attention to the more important kind of synaesthesia - light synaesthesia. Scriabin had been always striving to realize idea of light in his music. It was this task that he subordinated his harmonic thinking. He had been striving to achieve maximal synaesthetic effect when construing his lightbearing chords. Each sound and each chord are as if they were saturated with light (a syneathetic light).
Let us listen to the beginning of his fourth sonate: "I am drinking you oh, sea of light!" - he spoke while explaining his music essence. We hear even in such piece as "Dark flame" that the flame is the flickering one, that this is the fire, though the dark one.
His temporal music structure is also subordinated to his idea of rendering the idea of light. Rythm gets upper hand over meter in his works, and "danciness" inherent to traditional European music is substituted for "flightness" (the term used by him) in his works. As a result, his ephemeral and lightbearing sound breaks away into outer space overcoming earth gravity. Scriabin's Music was itself as if imaginary, metaphorical light-music. It was on the point of lighting up with actual light. That's why Scriabin's decision to include real light also in score of "Prometei" was quite natural. It is his really revolutionary merit in art and not his trivial idea of Prometheus "Luce" string, where he became victim of primitive theosophical analogism. To do him credit, he overcame it quickly large potentialities of complex lightmusical poliphony.
(Published in the book: "From Castel to our days", Proceedings of International Symposium "Autour du Pere Castel et du Clavecin Oculaire", Clermont-Ferrand, 1-3 Dec. 1994, ed. M.Naranjo, pp. 23-29.)