The Blue Hour.
Have you ever thought how many emotions, states of mind or being, or times are associated with colors? One is tickled pink, green with envy, purple with rage. When someone is angry it is said that they “see red”, if one is depressed, one is blue, which can sometimes slide down into black despair. Picasso had a blue period as well as a period where he painted in rose. Certain colors are part of stages of life in many places – blue for a baby boy, pink for a girl (except in Belgium, where it is the opposite!), white for a bride, black for funerals and mourning.
Songs, music styles, stories, colloquial sayings, quotes and more focus on color. But one stands above the rest for some reason. Blue. It is seen by some as a symbol for depression, one can be “singing the blues” when they open up about things that are going wrong, things that don’t happen very often are said to occur “once in a blue moon”, and as early as the middle ages was considered a color of status and wealth, and came to represent virtue and humility – there is a reason why in almost every painting done has the Virgin Mary wearing blue! Starting in the 17th century, many military uniforms became blue – William of Brandenburg decided on blue in an attempt protect the dye industry in the German states. The Prussians copied them and even today, when the country is but a memory you will still find the color labeled as Prussian blue in many crayon boxes and other art mediums like color pencil, paint and ink. Blue was the favored color in most countries, which carried over into law enforcement, which is why most cops are known as the “boys in blue”. If you are born into the aristocracy you are considered “blue-blooded”, “Blues”, “bluegrass” and other music utilizes the name, and from a particular piece of blues music, St. Louis’ hometown NHL team, the St. Louis Blues.
Blue is a favorite color in nature – water, sky, bluebirds, bluejays, bluebonnets…but oddly, blue is rarely seen in edible produce such as vegetables and fruit. Manmade blues include the most popular pants in the world, the blue jean. It’s a patriotic color as well, according to colormatters.com, 53% of the world’s flags contain some shade of blue.
But depending on where you go, be careful about how you use the phrases with blue or the color itself – if you say you are blue in German - “blau sein” – you are saying you are drunk, not sad, and if you refer to light blue in Russian, it means you are homosexual . In Greece, the color blue is said to ward off the evil eye, in Korea, deep blue is a color worn for mourning.
But there is one aspect of the color blue that is more famous than all the rest put together - L’Heure Bleu. The Blue Hour. That magical time around sunrise or sunset when it is hard to tell for sure whether it is night or day. This is probably the most famous color combination of all. It has inspired painters, photographers and other artists, writers, fashion designers, and there is even a perfume named after it.
Many poets wrote verses about the blue hour, especially as a time for lovers or remembrances of love lost. The famous poem James Joyce wrote a poem entitled “The Twilight Turns” which captures the essesnce of the blue hour -
“The twilight turns from amethyst
To deep and deeper blue,
The lamp fills with a pale green glow
The trees of the avenue.
The old piano plays an air,
Sedate and slow and gay;
She bends upon the yellow keys,
Her head inclines this way.
Shy thought and grave wide eyes and hands
That wander as they list -- -
The twilight turns to darker blue
With lights of amethyst.”
There are many books with the title, theme or some variations thereof, from authors such h as David Mamet, Edward Gorey, T. Jefferson Parker, and more, several films, and it is also a popular theme in music – songs with the title “blue hour” or “L’Heure Bleue”, came from artist such as Pete Anderson, Vanessa Daou, Christian Death, Francoise Hardy, John Mackey, Roy Orbison, Radiohead, and more….The list is quite long. The Platters had a hit with “Twilight Time”. My personal favorite is Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” which begins:
“ And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadow of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart…”
The Blue Hour is mysterious, and sparks love, imagination and thought.
It may not be easy being green, but it seems that blue has a lot to live up to as well.
Bonus for making it this far - my favorite song about the blue hour, sung by Hoagy Carmichael himself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em3xyZz_mow