The Music of Colour and Motion


    AT the Physical Society, on November 23, 1878, Prof. W. E. Ayrton, late of the Imperial Engineering College, Tokio, Japan, read a paper, written by himself and Prof. J. Perry, of the same college, on “The Music of Colour and of Visible Motion.” The authors began by pointing out the well-known fact that emotion is excited by moving bodies, and they believed that, upon this basis, a new emotional art would be created which would receive a high development in the far distant future. All methods of exciting emotion could be cultivated; but of these, music, by reason of the facility with which its effects could be produced, had alone been highly perfected by the bulk of mankind. Sculpture and painting are not purely emotional arts, like music, inasmuch as they involve thought. It would take a long time and much culture for the eye to behold moving figures with similar emotional results to those of the ear on hearing sweet sounds; but time and culture only might be necessary. It might be due to their neglect of this emotional tendency that the Western nations felt little emotion at moving visual displays. For among the Eastern nations they had entertainments consisting of motions and dumb show, which, although incomprehensible and even ludicrous to the European, powerfully affected the feelings of a native audience. In Japan the authors had seen whole operas of “melodious motion” performed in the theatres, the emotions being expressed by movements of the body, affecting to the audience, which were quite strange to them. The accompanying orchestral music was, withal, displeasing to the authors, while, on the other hand, Western music is mostly displeasing to the Japanese.

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