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Discord





DISCORD


THE natural order of colours seems often to be reversed, but only when the colours appear in small quantities. It is this reversal of the natural order to which the name "Discord" is here given.
Discords are at once the most dangerous and the most delicately beautiful of colour effects. In large masses they are unendurable, but in small quantities they add much to brilliance and help greatly in vibration. Also, when rich harmonies tend to become cloying the use of a small discord will save the situation. For instance, full red, supported by orange and crimson and contrasted with green-blue, may have as a discord a touch of light purple. Now light purple in a mass against full red is simply hideous, but small touches may appear perfectly beautiful.


discord


Discords may be dark as well as light, e.g., a light scheme of blues may have lines or touches of dark red. Here again a mass of dark red against a mass of light blue is horrid, but used in small quantities the red tends to appear so dark that one fails to realize its colour or to be hurt by it. A deep crimson under such conditions will appear like a lustrous black.
It is easy to realize how much a dark discord may help in getting a dark to glow instead of lying dead.


discord and harmonies


The discovery of " Discord " as a law of colour was made after a number of experiments in verification of the natural order. Long continued study showed the regular recurrence of the natural order in both Nature and Art, but it revealed also a frequent reversal of the order in very small quantities where the colours were pure, and in large quantities where it was broken. No explanation of this reversal of the order was forthcoming until an analogy presented itself in the case of music, wherein the use of discords is perfectly well understood?indeed, music without them would seem imperfect. This analogy between music and colour, both requiring a discord to complete the chord, prompted an immediate test; so three schemes, taken at hazard from three different parts of the colour-circle, were tried. Each scheme was composed of three harmonious colours, a contrast, and a discord, and in each case the scheme was so clearly completed by the addition of the discord that the principle was demonstrated. Further experiments served to confirm its truth, while reference to Nature and Art supplied a final proof.
In some mysterious way discord seems necessary to us. Too much sweetness, too much smoothness, too much ease?all alike pall upon us. In sight and sound, in taste and touch, the unexpected has a certain charm. It may be, too, that the mastering of the discordant element, and the compelling of it to take its place and do service, brings with it some of the delights of conquest.
The high-lights on fruit give an example of discord which may easily be referred to. On a full-coloured orange the high-light is not a paler orange, nor a yellow, but a pale red, sometimes inclining to rose. On a red cherry the high-light is a pale purple ; on a purple plum it is a pale violet-blue.
Leaves which are smooth enough to show a concentrated light have the same characteristic colour. The light on a deep green leaf is not a paler green, but a blue, usually very quiet and rather broken, but still blue and not green.
Reflecting surfaces, such as metal, glazed pottery, polished wood, satin, smooth hair or sleek fur, show the same tendency towards colour which in a large mass would be both discordant and unpleasant, .but in a small quantity adds a charm which harmony alone cannot give.
Good examples of the happy use of discord are to be found in certain fine examples of Persian and Japanese art.
Peculiar care is required to use a discord well. It should seldom be allowed to rule a scheme, but should be used when an effect tends to become heavy with richness, or dull from excess of harmony. In a piece of material a small spot may suffice ; in a room a single touch?a vase, a cushion, may be enough. The more prominent its position the less there must be ; the more obscure its situation the more freely it may be used. A discord often offers an opportunity for a sudden change in the strength of light or dark, as well as for a change of colour, thus producing a sparkle where otherwise there would be tameness.
It may here be noted that certain colours, used in certain strengths, are difficult to handle in mass, because it is hard to avoid discord. Very light greens and purples, and, still more, pale blues and violets, must have still paler reds and yellows as companions, or they will look thin and sour.
On the other hand, heavy yellows and oranges, and browns which contain an excess of yellow or orange, are apt to look hot and bilious unless supported by reds, purples, violets, or blues, deep enough to keep them in their place. Ordinary pitch pine offers a problem of this kind. Naturally a hot colour, it is apt to become distressing to the eye if associated with colours which allow it to remain as the lowest note in the scale. It may be put in place by associating with it a certain amount of colour darker than itself (and, of course, darker in the natural order), and, further, by using, as a foil, a cool tint in which the blue is so neutralised as not to make a noticeable discord.
Tiles fixed in a floor, wall, or fireplace frequently offer an opportunity for avoiding a dangerous discord by a careful planning of the general scheme so that the offending note shall be compelled to takes its place.
To make it easier for the student to begin experimenting for himself, the following table of simple discords is given; but it must be remembered that any colour which in the natural order would appear lighter or darker than its neighbour becomes a discord when that order is reversed :

TABLE OF SIMPLE DISCORDS

Series I.

Ground colour.
Yellow.
Orange-yellow.
Orange.
Orange-scarlet.
Red.
Crimson.
Red-purple.
Purple.
Violet.
Discord lighter.
Orange-yellow,
Orange.
Orange-scarlet.
Red.
Crimson.
Red-purple.
Purple.
Violet.
 
Discord darker.

Yellow.
Orange-yellow.
Orange.
Orange-scarlet.
Red.
Crimson.
Red-purple.
Purple.
Series II.
Yellow.
Green-yellow.
Yellow-green.
Green.
Blue-green.
Green-blue.
Blue.
Ultramarine.
Violet.
Green-yellow.
Yellow-green.
Green.
Blue-green.
Green-blue.
Blue.
Ultramarine.
Violet.

Yellow.
Green-yellow.
Yellow-green.
Green.
Blue-green.
Green-blue.
Blue.
Ultramarine.

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