The Sound of Blue







I heard my good friend and jazz saxophonist, Paul Winter, play last Saturday at a benefit concert in southern Vermont. His lyrical music reflected the same vibrant blue of his shirt, reminding me of a brilliant sky on an autumn afternoon, the sounds of whales in the vast blue ocean, and the distant vista of planet Earth from outer space.









The first piece he played was like an old friend. I had heard “Journey Through the Longest Night: Belly of the Whale” many times before at his annual winter solstice concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York City.  The blue colors coursed through the sounds.

I invite you now to get comfortable and take five minutes to listen as if in meditation. See what color comes to you as you hear the sounds of whales blending with the cello.


My parents once bought a Picasso painting from his “blue” period, depicting a nubile girl. It was hung in the red library of my childhood home. Each time I saw it I couldn’t help but wonder: Why did he paint her blue? Was the girl feeling blue as she stepped into her teens, or was Picasso himself feeling blue?

Each time I saw this painting I was reminded of the blue hues I envisioned while playing Chopin’s Nocturne Op 9 No. 2 in E-flat; a piece I enjoyed playing regularly throughout my 22 years of piano instruction. 

Color in art is one thing, but in music? As an emotional person, I have often equated color with music. This correlation is called Synesthesia. I was influenced as a child by my mother’s sensitive piano playing, and by the memorable impression Arthur Rubinstein left upon me when he played at our house in New York City.

Listen to the way he plays the Nocturne in E-flat:


What colors did you see?

Frederick Chopin was called “the poet of the piano.” He and his friend Eugene Delecroix became famous for their ability to express emotion through music and art. Delacroix once wrote a friend after visiting Chopin, “Every so often, from the window open onto the garden there would come gusts of the music of Chopin…and this blended with the song of the nightingale and the scents of the rose garden.”

Can scent be equated with color as well as sound?  Can we taste the blue, briny ocean, the indigo chocolate of dusk, or the lemon-scented dawn on a spring morning? There is so much more to a color than a hue. I believe that all our senses are interwoven.

What do you equate with the color blue?







P.S. If you are planning a trip to New York City over December, or are looking for something inspiring to do over the holidays, I highly recommend going online to buy tickets for the Paul Winter solstice concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, playing December 18, 19 & 20.

This entry was posted in Eileen's Armchair and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Sound of Blue

  1. thank U for this
    Yes … to blue
    Paul Winter, too

  2. Hi Eileen, Thank you for sharing your weavings of music, color and sound. I listened to Paul Winter’s piece and was reminded of the colors of each season. As for Rubinstein, what can I say that has not been said by the greatest in the world? Rubinstein carries the entire palette and spectrum of colors. Once, during my college years I attended a concert at which Rubinstein played for the entire concert– unforgettable.

    Blue is part of my happy emotional world– college colors, beautiful skies, mohair yarn, the blues in paintings and the jazz blues that make me want to sing and dance. I liken the blues to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn…

    Stay an “emotional person”. It becomes your Americanism and ancestries. Accomplishment and emotion… do they weave together like a Nantucket Loom shawl?

    Until next week’s article– be well and regards to your husband Paul.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Thank you Elaine for being such a loyal reader. Every week I know I can count on hearing from you! You and Phyll get the prize for regularity in response! I agree with you about Rubinstein’s palette and spectrum of colors in his performances. What a giant of an artist he was in his music. And as for the Nantucket Loom shawl…sounds like a great idea for this time of year. I once wove a shawl out of mohair that I gave to a woman I met in Russia It was yellow!

  3. Phyll says:

    Dear Eileen, your blog on blues made me feel in the pink! Listening to the eerie yet enchanting sound of whales, along with Paul Winter’s cello, swept me to a beautiful place within my heart and soul. Their cries and sighs, laughter and lightness was a balm to the cares and concerns of everyday life. So happy you posted this song and let us know about his upcoming concert in NYC in December. And, for sharing Chopin’s “Nocturne in E-Flat”, a hauntingly melodic, hypnotic, quixotic interlude that evoked sweet harmony and heavenly joy. I listened to it over-and-over, again. You must love playing it on the piano! All in all, a precious gift wrapped in blog-form. Thank you so very much! 🙂

  4. louisegil5 says:

    Dear Eileen, today’s blog evoked a precious memory. I was invited to attend a Navajo friend’s healing ceremony at Canyon de Chelly, N.M.. It lasted 8 days and nights. We were the only non Navajo’s invited to her healing ceremonies but only for the last 48 hours. The most moving and culminating dance was at about 5am when the vast night sky was indigo blue and the stars shined brightly. It was called, I believe, the Nightway Dance, where the women and men wore indigo blue clothing and masks and danced slowly together for the first time against the blue indigo sky…..then dawn broke and our friend was surrounded and pronounced healed by the Yeibetchei dancers and the medicine men who were chanting in the background. Thank you. Your friend, Louise

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Louise, your story is amazing. How I envy you the experience. You are lucky to have this memory for the rest of your life. Happy Halloween!!!!

  5. eileenrockefeller says:

    Dear Phyll, So glad you enjoyed the music. I listened to it last night with Paul and it had a delightfully soporific effect. I love hearing from you!

  6. Judith A. Meyncke says:

    Dear Eileen, Thank you so much for taking the time to share and send..The photos were beautiful!. As an animal lover and rescuer when hearing the whale in the background, to me, it sounded like it was crying or maybe in distress. Therefore, I was unable to formulate a color in my mind. Is that silly? Chopin’s Nocturne was absolutely exquisite! One of my favorites!..And to think you were able to play that on the piano? How gifted you are. I must confess, upon hearing such beautiful music I opened my eyes and immediately saw gold. When I closed my eyes once again I saw gold and white.. Blue reminds me of the Jersey Shore where I grew up. It is calming and lovely. Wonderful tip about tickets to the Cathedral of St.John the Divine. You bring such joy to us all! Many Blessings, Judy .

  7. eileenrockefeller says:

    Dear Judith, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! No need to feel bad if you didn’t see color while listening. The beautiful thing about us humans is how unique we each are. I have a dear friend who never visualizes at all. It’s just not how she’s constructed. Yet she connects to spirit. I suspect you do the same.

    With blessings to you, Eileen

  8. Paul Binder says:

    Wonderful Eileen
    Love Paul Winter…and blue.


  9. Shyla Nelson says:

    Dear Eileen,

    I of course read this post with particular interest, and am delighted that you had the chance to hear our dear friend Paul play last weekend.

    I am reminded of the fascinating phenomenon of synesthesia as I read your post — the brain’s ability to connect different tonalities or musical keys with different colors. In his book, “Musicophilia,” Oliver Sacks addresses this relatively unknown aspect of human cognition/perception , as well as many other dimensions of the power of music as a force for healing, integration, and enhanced emotional and mental resilience.

    Thank you, as always, for enriching our lives, and our Earth, with your eloquent voice.

    In gratitude,

  10. eileenrockefeller says:

    Dear Shyla, thank you for alerting me to Oliver Sacks’ latest book on Musicophilia. I just read the review and found it very interesting. Thanks so much and all the best to you!

Comments are closed.