Chromicon No. 1

Performance by pianist Valentin Bogolubov. (Please wait for mp3 to load.)

The Three Chromicons were premiered by pianist Valentin Bogolubov at the Société de concerts de St-Bruno, Saint-Bruno, Quebec, Canada, on 27 January 2007. Bogolubov's adventurous, technically demanding program, which also featured the works of Alexander Scriabin and Jean Chatillon, was accompanied by video animation of numerous works of art, four of which were created by the composer (among them, the Chromicon No. 1 pictured above).

Ford explains the significance of these unique scores:

"In both my earliest chromicons, which I had begun to create by the 1980s, and in those I continue to make today, color is the element that links what is seen to what is heard. Unlike composer Alexander Scriabin, who may have been a true synaesthete as the result of a rare neurological condition enabling him actually to hear colors, my approach to color music has been by way of analogy. Although the tones in a musical scale and the colors of a prism both result from specific vibratory frequencies, scales can be replicated in various octaves while there is no comparable transposition observable in the case of the spectrum. However, the analogy between pitch and hue is implicit in the term "chromatic scale" (the Greek chrôma signifies "color"), and on that basis it is possible to equate the twelve tones of Western music with the hues on a twelvefold color wheel: red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, violet, and red-violet."

"By placing the pitch names of the chromatic scale in a separate band around the periphery of a such color wheel, much like the numbers on the face of a clock, and by rotating the central color wheel, it is possible for any given pitch to be aligned and associated with any hue. Such an easily constructed device, which I have dubbed the "chromonomicon," is the key necessary to decipher the musical meaning of my chromicons. The chromicon can be thought of as a calligraphic text in which each discrete area of color is a separate letter."

"Although there are literally millions of possible colors, all of them can be categorized as one of the twelve hues shown on the chromonomicon. Instead of being written from left to right or from right to left, the color-letters in a chromicon are arranged concentrically. The shapes of the individual letters, usually painted in watercolor and "illuminated" with metallic paints, colored pencils, and other media, are the result of each artist's creative meditation. The personal meaning of the chromiconic text as a whole emerges during and after this meditation, and may be expressed by a conventional title or accompanying commentary."

"Now, anyone wishing to realize a chromicon is at liberty to follow any path—straight or curvilinear—from the centermost letter to the periphery, constructing a cantus (melody) by notating the musical pitches associated with each contiguous color-letter encountered along the way. The cantus thereafter serves as the structural basis of a new, freely composed work. The individual pitches in the cantus may be moved to any octave, and may be repeated any number of times before proceeding to the next pitch in the sequence. Customarily, once the final tone of the cantus is reached, the entire melody is heard in reverse (retrograde), resulting in a palindrome. That palindrome is itself subject to varied repetition, so that in formal terms, each realization of a chromicon amounts to a 'mirror' theme with variations."

"Chromicon I was realized as a pathos-laden theme in C minor, followed by five contrasting variations marked Agitato, Feroce, Doloroso, Passionato, and Misterioso. Perhaps the most difficult of the three chromicons from the listener's perspective, it is a microcosmic representation of the psychological distress and violence that has ravaged the physical world throughout its recorded history. Variation II is manifestly ugly and unsettlingly "atonal" in sound, but analysis reveals that beneath its chaotic surface is a version in hocket of the plaintively tonal cantus heard in the first six measures of the movement. The concluding deceptive cadence on A-flat in Variation V seems to bring a glimmer of light into an otherwise dark and turbulent landscape."

Last updated April 25, 2007
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© Copyright 2007 by Joseph Dillon Ford (music and text) and Valentin Bogolubov (performance)