Writing about the Colour of Sound: an ABC Radio National feature

catchin the light

Image: Catching the light (Jacqueline Foss/Getty Images)

To accompany the Colour of Sound series on ABC Radio National I was asked to write an article describing the process behind the compositions and text. You can read this now as a featured article on the ABC Radio National website.

Here is a short excerpt:

Colour envelops us. A multitude of hues, both vivid and subtle, silently enter our visual system and affect our emotional states. We attach meaning to them; they become signifiers on a personal and cultural level.

And there is sound, a mercurial force. Its physical nature is elusive; once pronounced it ceases to exist. Sonic trails pass through us, raising emotions from personal histories.

A division: deaf to the world

We live in a visually-oriented culture, navigating the world with our eyes. This reliance on sight illustrates a disconnection that exists between the senses. Here listening is reduced to a secondary position.

The consequence? Our capacity to understand the spaces we inhabit is limited. Performing our daily tasks, this visual bias leaves us living in the shadows.

How much richer our lives would be if we perceived layers of visual and sonic matter equally. A rush of sound would reinvigorate our spatial perceptions and if we listened closely, really closely, might we hear the sound of colour?

To read the article in full please go to ABC Radio National.

Colour of Sound: Indigo


A short sample from Indigo. To listen to the full version go to ABC Soundproof.

In this penultimate episode of the Colour of Sound series we visit Isaac Newton as he investigates the nature of light and colour. It was Newton who formally identified the ROY-G-BIV colour spectrum after his experiments passing light through glass prisms.

Newton also attempted to connect colour with sound, a move which is often seen as an embarrassing blip in his career. He described each of the seven colours as musical intervals. Indigo, the colour of the supernatural, was described as a 6th interval.

Please go to ABC Soundproof to hear the episode in its entirety.

The colour of sound: orange


A short sample from the colour of sound: orange

To listen to the full version go to the Radio National Soundproof program.


Orange is the next colour to feature on the ABC Radio National series on colour and sound. In this episode we follow the story of Bainbridge Bishop who believed that sound could best be heard where two colours meet, that sonic energy vibrates between the shades of one colour to the next.

His inspiration?


Bishop describes the orange seen at twilight, a soft warm colour. It is this description that set the tone for this latest instalment in the Colour of Sound series.

I was happy to get the talented Australian actress Belinda McClory to read for this episode. Belinda might be familiar to you as the character Switch in The Matrix.

Only two more colours to go in the series, Indigo and Violet. I hope you get the chance to listen to them in the coming weeks.



The colour of sound: green


A short sample of Green.

To hear the full track go to the Soundproof website.

The second series of The Colour of Sound has commenced on Radio National’s Soundproof program. The first episode in the series is Green.

Green charts the story of the German scientist and philosopher David Gottlob Diez as he deliberates on the connection between sound, the planets, and colour. Diez connected green with Venus, its aurora shrouding the planet in a veil of celestial static.

Tune in to the rest of the ROY-G-BIV colour and sound spectrum over the next few weeks.

Australian Gothic: a new Unfathomless release

U27_Jay-Dea Lopez_The Australian Gothic_CD onbody artwork


My latest work, The Australian Gothic, has recently been released on the Unfathomless label. Read below about the historical context of the Australian Gothic genre and the process of producing this particular composition.

Long before the fact of Australia was ever confirmed by explorers and cartographers it had already been imagined as a grotesque space, a land peopled by monsters. The idea of its existence was disputed, was even heretical for a time, and with the advent of the transportation of convicts its darkness seemed confirmed. The Antipodes was a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was, for all intents and purposes, Gothic par excellence, the dungeon of the world.

Gerry Turcotte (Australian Gothic. University of Wollongong.1998).

The Australian Gothic : a creative genre emphasising the terrors of isolation in this post-colonial land. The Australian Gothic exposes a tormented communal psyche weighted by dark secrets.

Australia, a country colonised in 1788 by unwilling convicts and prison guards. For these unfortunates Australia was a nightmarish location, its foreign terrain provoked feelings of fear and alienation. Gone was the British gothic landscape of moors and heaths. In its place were dangerous animals, deserts, bush-fires, floods and droughts. The comfortability of the known European landscape was replaced by this new unstable setting.

Integral to the colonisers’ sense of dislocation and dread was the Australian soundscape. Reading journals and novels from this era it is evident that the aural dimensions of the Australian landscape were strongly perceived in gothic terms of enclosure and entrapment. The vastness of the deserts unsettled the first colonisers who remarked upon its deathlike silence, while in the forests the mass of unfamiliar sounds induced intense feelings of fear and disorientation. This sparked feelings of loathing towards the newly colonised space, including the Aboriginal people. In the Australian Gothic tradition the landscape sounded alive, it surrounded and entrapped with suffocating force.

Growing up in a region where Aboriginal artifacts from the pre-colonial era could readily be found under shallow soil the bloody layers of history have always sat uncomfortably with me. We live on stolen land, a place where immoral and bloody actions happened in the recent past. We have a sense of un-belonging to this country. It is part of the Australian Gothic experience.

With this in mind I collected field recordings in my local valley of Main Arm, a place like much of Australia, partly suburban, partly open for farming. I wanted to create a composition that featured field recordings, both modified and unmodified, of sounds from local farms. Could we imagine ourselves in the past, a time when the steady expansion of the frontier into traditional Aboriginal land was a primary source of conflict?

Listening to the composition I hope a sense of unease and dread is provoked through its combination of sounds. Yet somewhere underneath its layers there is the suggestion of beauty, of what could have been. Listen and be transported into the fabric of Australia’s Gothic experience.

ABC Radio National: the sound of red

deep red colour


Red. A colour of extremes …

In this, the final episode of the primary colour series, we listen to the story of Russian composer and synaesthete Alexander Scriabin. Scriabin claimed to hear colour as different tones on the chromatic scale. He heard the colour deep red as “F” on the keyboard.

Over the next few months I will be working on the other colours in the ROYGBIV spectrum. Until then please visit Radio National to listen to Red, Yellow, and Blue.

ABC Radio National: the sound of yellow



Yellow, a colour that can provoke joy and nausea. Artists have used its binary shades to reflect summer’s vitality and our gradual decay. The negative connotations of yellow are quite strong in the English language. Consider: yellow-bellied, yellow-streak, yellow-journalism, yellow-fever.

If we were to imagine the sound of yellow, what would we hear? Viewing fields of sunflowers we might connect them with pleasant high pulses of energy; yet as their petals begin to fade their former sound could be replaced with low murky drones.

“Yellow” is the latest colour to be heard in my “Sound of Colour” series on ABC Radio National’s Soundproof. To listen or to download this piece please click here.

Next week, the colour red.