Classes of Colors and Timbres: A Clustering Approach

Maria Mannone*, Veronica Distefano, Giovanni Santini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Similarities between different sensory dimensions can be addressed considering common “movements” as causes, and emotional responses as effects. An imaginary movement toward the “dark” produces “dark sounds” and “dark colors,” or, toward the “bright,” “brighter colors” and “brighter sounds.” Following this line of research, we draw upon the confluence of mathematics and cognition, extending to colors and timbres the gestural similarity conjecture, a development of the mathematical theory of musical gestures. Visual “gestures” are seen here as paths in the space of colors, compared with paths in the space of orchestral timbres. We present an approach based on clustering algorithm to evaluate the association between color bands and orchestral timbres. The analysis is based on 8 indicators which represent and describe participants’ background and associations to be tested. The indicators include socio-demographic information and color class options from the color space, to associate with each given timbre class. We clustered responders into homogeneous groups where the within-group-object dissimilarity is minimized and the between-group-object dissimilarity is maximized. The partitions are obtained with k-modes. While participants’ background does have an influence in their answers, the overall behaviors confirms the existence of different space regions for different timbres, supporting our hypothesis of perceived similarities similarities between color and timbre classes. In fact, the cluster analysis confirms identifiable blocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-605
Number of pages18
JournalElectronic Journal of Applied Statistical Analysis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • clusters
  • color
  • crossmodal perception
  • similarity
  • timbre


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