University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley Reuters

What is the colour of your favourite song? Don't be surprised. According to a new research from the University of California (UC), whether we are listening to Bach or the blues, our brains are wired to make music connections depending on how the melodies make us feel.

Using a 37-colour palatte, the study published in News Center found that people tend to pair fast-paced music in a major key with lighter, more vivid, yellow colours, whereas slower-pace music in a minor key is more likely to be teamed up with darker, greyer, bluer colours. The study says that for instance, Mozart's jaunty Flute Concerto No.1 in G major is most often associated with bright yellow and orange, whereas his dour Requiem in D minor is more likely to be linked to dark, bluish grey.

Moreover, people in both United States and Mexico tend to link the same pieces of classical orchestral music with the same colours. This suggests that, when it comes to music and colour, human emotions tend to be intuitive and there could be no cross cultural barriers.

The results were remarkably strong and consistent across individuals and cultures, says UC Berkeley vision scientist Stephen Palmer, who is one of the leading authors of the paper published this week in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This clearly points to the powerful role that emotions play in how the human brain maps from hearing music to seeing colors," he said.

"Surprisingly, we can predict with 95 percent accuracy how happy or sad the colors people pick will be based n how happy or sad the music we are listening to," says Palmer who will present these and related findings at the International Association of Colour Conference at the University of New Castle, UK on 8 July.

The findings could be of benefit to creative therapies, advertising and even music player gadgetry. It could also help in creating more emotionally engaging electronic music visualizers, computer software that generates animated imagery synchronized to the music being played.

Nearly 100 men and women, half from San Francisco Bay Area and the other half from Guadalajara, Mexico participated in the study by the university.

Two subsequent experiments studying music -to-face and face-to colour associations were also conducted. It was found that upbeat music in major keys was constantly paired with happy-looking faces, while subdued music in minor keys were paired with sad-looking faces. Similarly, happy faces were paired with yellow and other bright hues and angry faces with dark red shades.