Alexander Scriabin probably was not a synesthete, but, rather, was highly influenced by the French and Russian salon fashions. Most noticeably, Scriabin seems to have been strongly influenced by the writings and talks of the Russian mystic, Helena P. Blavatsky, founder of The Theosophical Society and author of such works as Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine (see Dann 1998). The synesthetic motifs found in Scriabin’s compositions – most noticeably in Prometheus, composed in 1911 – are developed off of ideas from Newton, and follow a basic mathematical musical algorithm, called a circle of fifths (see ???; ???; and, of course, ???). The score of ??? contains a line designated «Luce»; this was for a light organ, playing two lines: one to correspond to Scriabin’s concepts of the «correct» colors for each musical key, as he modulated from key to key; the other, to counter the first lines colors. Scriabin and others were unable to realize a light-music performance of Prometheus until its premier performance in New York, in 1915, where, rather than using a color organ, colored light was projected onto a screen set above the orchestra performers’ heads, using a system designed by Preston S. Millar, W.F. Little, and William McKay (see ???).
Scriabin’s system of colored musical keys:
|Db||Purple (same as C#)|
|Gb||Bright Blue/Violet (same as F#)|
Amy Beach (1867-1944), American pianist and composer, who flourished c. 1900 – 1920’s, was unquestionably a true synesthete. It turns out that Beach had both perfect pitch and a set of colors for musical keys.
“Other interesting stories about Amy’s musical personality and her astounding abilities as a prodigy are recounted in almost all previous biographical writings. One such story is Amy’s association of certain colors with certain keys. For instance, Amy might ask her mother to play the ‘purple music’ or the ‘green music.’ The most popular story, however, seems to be the one about Amy’s going on a trip to California and notating on staff paper the exact pitches of bird calls she heard” (Brown 1994: 16).
“Amy’s mother encouraged her to relate melodies to the colors blue, pink, or purple, but before long Amy had a wider range of colors, which she associated with certain major keys. Thus C was white, F-sharp black, E yellow, G red, A green, A-flat blue, D-flat violet or purple, and E-flat pink. Until the end of her life she associated these colors with those keys” (Jenkins 1994: 5-6).