Do music and art influence one another? Measuring cross-modal similarities in music and art

Duthie, Amanda
Major Professor
John Cunnally
Committee Member
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Theses & dissertations (Interdisciplinary)

The visual arts and music are known to interact with one another on both an individual scale (such as music-inspired synesthetes and artist-musician duos) and on a grand scale (such as the art movement Baroque, wherein abstract qualities such as "ornamentation" permeate both media). The aim of this paper was to find a means to measure similarities and differences between music and visual art. This is ultimately to both reveal any direct cross-modal influences between the media, and to apply them on a temporal scale to determine whether these connections became stronger or weaker throughout time. I examined the cross-modally linked continuums of lightness of color and height of pitch within comparable paintings and music of a time-determined art movement. The model of comparison extracted, measured, and contrasted the attributes of brightness of color and height of pitch in works from two countries in the same era. The model was then applied to Russian and French music and visual art created between 1870 and 1920. It was ensured that each work chosen conformed to specific criteria (such as similar chemical composition, subject matter, and timbal uniformity) that would qualify them for analysis and cross-comparison. While Russian visual art was measurably darker in value than French visual art of the same time, no significant differences were found between Russian and French music. While the model does not suggest that there were direct influences manifesting differently in each medium, these results demonstrate the use of the lightness-pitch model. This can be applied to other eras to measure potential cross-modal convergence and divergence through time, manifesting in value brightness and height of pitch.