Books & Literature

Book Review: The Colour of Music, by Lisa Tiffen

PICTURE BOOK: Molly can see music; colours flash brilliantly as she listens, revealing connections between music, emotions, and the world we live in.

A visually stunning look at music through the eyes of child with synaesthesia, seeing sound as colour.

Synaesthesia is a quirky condition that affects between 2-4% of the population. It’s not a disease or a disorder, but an extraordinary gift that allows senses to merge, for example sounds being visualised as colours.

The Colour of Music attempts to recreate this experience in printed form and it succeeds admirably with the striking double-page spreads of Matt Ottley’s emotive illustrations.

More of an experience than a story, it follows Molly as she lies on the floor listening to classical music through her headphones. We see her lifted and floating through stunning landscapes of colour and imagery as each movement changes the mood. There’s the “deep rumbling waves of the bass,” the “stabbing, sickly daggers” that attack with sharp, loud sounds, the echoing of “a lonely drop of water” through weeping broken chords, and more.

Tiffen’s prose is poetic but it does require some basic knowledge of music, with terms like arpeggios and triads scattered through the text, and ironically, the colour contrast is appalling. Some text is difficult to find or follow on the page despite the large font size. The few pages with no text still need to be scanned in case there’s any text that’s not immediately noticeable. These are both major concerns for a picture book which is otherwise a delightful and immersive experience.

The Colour of Music fills a gap in storytelling for those young people who experience sound differently. It tells it well and opens up the experience to others. If only the colour of the text had been taken into consideration as much as the colour of the music.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: MidnightSun Publishing
Released: June 2021
RRP: $29.99

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