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Colour and music

Tom Service investigates the link between music and colour. He asks if music can ever be colourful and if so, whether is it the same colour for all of us.

Tom Service listens to the world in glorious technicolor as he investigates the link between music and colour.

We put music and colour together all the time. A piece of music can be 'dark' or 'bright' or we could be singing the 'Blues' - but what does that mean? Professor Jamie Ward - an expert in synaesthesia - is on hand to help. While Tom delves into a world of musical colour from Messiaen and Copland, Scriabin and Ravel to David Bowie and Beyoncé to discover whether music can ever be colourful.

Available now

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Claude Debussy

    Fêtes (Nocturnes)

    Orchestra: Cleveland Orchestra. Conductor: Pierre Boulez.
    • Debussy: Nocturnes/La Mer/Jeux: Boulez.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 2.
  • Miles Davis


    Performer: Miles Davis Quartet.
    • The Essential Miles Davis.
    • Columbia.
    • 9.
  • Bee Gees

    Stayin' Alive

    • Saturday Night Fever [Original Soundtrack].
    • Polydor.
  • Michael Torke


    Performer: Baltimore SO. Performer: David Zinman.
    • Torke: Colour Music.
    • Argo.
  • Olivier Messiaen

    Trois Petites Liturgies de la presence divine

    Performer: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France. Performer: Myung-Whun Chung.
    • Trois Petites Liturgies.
    • DG.
  • Kanye West

    Homecoming (feat. Chris Martin)

    • Graduation.
    • Mercury.
  • Hector Berlioz

    Symphonie Fantastique

    Performer: Swedish RSO. Performer: Daniel Harding.
    • Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique / Daniel Harding.
    • HMC.
  • Claude Debussy

    Preludes - book 2, no.5; Bruyeres

    Performer: Marc-André Hamelin.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Mass in B minor BWV.232: Pt.4; Sanctus....Pleni sunt coeli [chorus]

    Choir: Monteverdi Choir. Orchestra: English Baroque Soloists. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • J.S. Bach - Mass in B minor (II).
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 10.
  • Björk

    Venus As A Boy

    • Venus as a Boy.
    • Elektra.
  • Steve Reich

    Violin Phase

    Performer: Ensemble Modern.
    • RCA.
  • Elton John

    I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

    • Greatest Hits 1970-2002.
    • Mercury.
  • Camille Saint‐Saëns

    Aquarium (Carnival of the Animals)

    Orchestra: Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse. Conductor: Michel Plasson.
    • EMI.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    The Lark Ascending

    Performer: Tasmin Little. Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis.
    • WARNER.
  • Igor Stravinsky

    The Firebird (General Thanksgiving)

    Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle. Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
    • Simon Rattle on EMI Classics.
    • EMI Classics.
    • 8.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    24 Preludes for piano (Op.28); no.11 in B major

    Performer: Martha Argerich.
    • Chopin: 26 Preludes Scherzo NR. 2 - Martha Argerich.
    • Deutsche Grammaphon.
    • 11.
  • Alexander Scriabin

    Prometheus - The Poem Of Fire, Op.60

    Performer: Martha Argerich. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Claudio Abbado.
    • SONY: 88985320352.
    • Sony.
    • 2.
  • Beyoncé

    Crazy in Love (feat. JAY-Z)

    • Dangerously In Love.
    • Columbia.
  • Olivier Messiaen

    Couleurs de la cite Celeste

    Performer: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France. Performer: Myung-Whun Chung.
    • MESSIAEN Trois Petites Liturgies.
    • DG.
  • Arthur Bliss

    Colour Symphony

    Performer: BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Performer: Richard Hickox.
    • Bliss: A Colour Symphony/ Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.
    • Chandos.
  • Ken Nordine


    • Colors: A Sensuous Listening Experience.
    • Asphodel.
  • Prince & The Revolution

    Purple Rain

    • Prince And The Revolution - Purple Rain.
    • Warner.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Flute Concerto - K313

    Performer: Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Performer: Alison Mitchell.
    • Mozart: Wind Concertos.
    • Linn.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Requiem: Introitus

    Singer: Barbara Bonney. Choir: Monteverdi Choir. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Orchestra: English Baroque Soloists.
    • Mozart: Requiem K626/Kyrie K341: Monteverdi Choir/John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Philips.
    • 1.
  • Giacomo Puccini

    Tosca - Act 2; Vissi d'arte [Tosca]

    Singer: Kiri Te Kanawa. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Lorin Maazel.
    • Great performances: Kiri Te Kanawa.
    • Sony Classical.
    • 1.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg concerto no. 5 (BWV.1050) in D major, 3rd movement; Allegro

    Orchestra: Concerto Italiano. Conductor: Rinaldo Alessandrini.
    • J. S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos: Concerto Italiano.
    • Naive.
    • 6.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Concerto in F minor for bass tuba - 2nd movement; Romanza (Andante sostenuto)

    Performer: Patrick Harrild. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Bryden Thomson.
    • Vaughan Williams: The 9 Symphonies: LSO, Bryden Thomson.
    • Chandos.
  • Antonio Vivaldi

    Concerto for vln & orch (RV.269) (Op.8`1) "La Primavera" - 1st mvt

    Performer: Nigel Kennedy. Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • Vivaldi: Nigel Kennedy, Berliner Philharmoniker.
    • EMI.
    • 4.
  • Maurice Ravel

    Ma mere l'oye - suite vers. for piano duet, Le Jardin feerique

    Ensemble: Katia & Marielle Labèque.
    • Maurice Ravel Katia Et Marielle Labeque.
    • KML.
  • Maurice Ravel

    Le jardin féerique (Ma mère l'oye)

    Orchestra: Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Yannick Nézet‐Séguin.
    • Yannick Nezet-Seguin Ravel Rotterdam Phiharmonic Orchestra.
    • EMI.
    • 17.
  • Franz Schubert

    Erlkönig, D 328

    Performer: Andreas Haeifliger. Singer: Matthias Goerne.
    • Schubert Lieder Volume 7: Erlkönig.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • 9.
  • Hope Lies Within


    • Hope Lies Within.
    • Hope Lies Within.
  • Aaron Copland

    Appalachian Spring Suite (No 6; No 7; No 8)

    Orchestra: Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Antal Doráti.
    • Copland: Appalachian Spring, Stravinsky: Apollon Musagete: Dorati.
    • Decca.
    • 6-8.
  • Marcel Tournier

    Vers la source dans le bois

    Performer: Judith Hall. Performer: Elinor Bennett.
    • Images and Impressions: Music for Flute & Harp.
    • Nimbus.
    • 17.
  • Olivier Messiaen

    Joie du sang des étoiles (Turangalîla-Symphonie)

    Performer: Steven Osborne. Performer: Cynthia Millar. Orchestra: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Juanjo Mena.
    • Messiaen: Turangalila Symphonie: Osborne/Millar/Bergen Philharmonic Orch/Mena.
    • Hyperion.
    • 5.
  • David Bowie

    Sound And Vision

    • Low.
    • Parlophone.


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