SPETTRO by Milana Zilnik

“Spettro,” a collection of fifteen piano pieces that musically describe various colors, is the twelfth release from the multi-talented and wonderfully creative pianist and composer Milana Zilnik. “Chromesthesia” is the technical term for the phenomenon of people seeing sounds in shapes and colors; in this project, Milana uses the piano to evoke specific characteristics of the fifteen chosen colors, named in Italian. This album is an incredible sonic adventure; although it would certainly work as background music, I found myself listening with eyes closed, my mind wandering with fascination in and out of many and varied nooks and crannies of sound.

The album opens with “Rosso” (Red)– a relaxed, gentle waltz, warm and velvety smooth like a glass of fine red wine. The mellow mood changes with “Arancione” (Orange); the sound is ethereal but has sharp edges, like shards of glass. In “Giallo” (Yellow), a gently rolling left hand is topped with a sweet single note melody played in the upper register of the piano – a buttery yellow in my mind’s eye. “Verde” (Green) is calming and soothing, like strolling through a fragrant forest in springtime, lost in thought. The dreamy waltz “Blu” (Blue) contrasts vividly with its dark and somber cousin “Indaco” (Indigo).

One of my favorite pieces on the album, “Violetto” (Violet) is mysterious with a touch of whimsy, the music quite coquettish at times. In “Rosa” (Pink), another favorite, the piano sounds harp-like, wispy and delicate. The soporific “Acqua” (Aqua), the name often used to describe the color of the sea, is as peaceful and tranquillizing and the gentle lapping of ocean waves. “Lime” is somber and melancholy, and this mood is enhanced by the use of many open intervals.

“Beige,” often thought of as a dull and boring color, is anything but nondescript here; there is both the warmth of the color brown as well as the crispness and coolness of the color white. Similarly, “Bruno” (Brown) is neither drab nor dull; this piece put me in mind of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, its haunting melody over a juxtaposition of major and minor chords like a dark cup of coffee with just the tiniest hint of cream stirred in. This is followed by “Grigio” (Gray) – yet another color that often has negative connotations, associated with things that are dirty and dingy or monotonous, like a string of cloudy, gray days. The music here, though, is elegant and stately, and reminded me that in many cultures there is a great respect for the wisdom that comes with age – and graying hair.

“Nero” (Black) is dark and somber, almost apocalyptic in its hopelessness. But all ends well with the peaceful “Bianca” (White), which put me in mind of the blanket of peace that seems to cover the world after a winter snowfall.

Milana Zilnik is a trailblazer to be sure and it was a delightful pleasure to partake of her musical exploration of sound and color. Very highly recommended!

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