Exploring the Transformative Visualization of Music

Data can be used to generate artistic, sculptural and architectural forms. Each data type, such as, numeric, text, sound, temperature, or wind is unique and can suggest a form or a method to visualize which is beyond the actual meaning and purpose of the data itself. The value of the data can be viewed two dimensionally or three dimensionally. At times the relationship of data to physical form is obvious, at other times it is very subtle and abstract. The challenge is to develop both at the same time and to attempt to extract the beauty in the data itself.

A classic example is the Walt Disney's 1940 animation Fantasia. Its first musical piece Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" includes animation of abstract patterns of color following sound frequency. Animation has a continuous property of time as music.
This research explores how such data can be made static and in a form that could be fabricated as sculptural or architectural elements.  

Music can be expressed digitally in a MIDI file format. A MIDI file contains for each individual instrument each note played including its frequency, timings, and velocity. Preliminary explorations of this data have shown that there is a large rich set of physical forms possible using such simple data. Color and frequency is just one approach; other forms can be also investigated: starting with simple bars as in a piano roll, note frequency as elliptical and rectangular forms,
and elliptical rings in a circular arrangement. Both two dimensional and three dimensional representations have been explored.

The dynamic nature and the linearity of music offer some challenges in exploring the concept of scale and to make static a dynamic form.  Music lends itself to this exploration since some pieces are short but many, as in a symphony composition, long with many instruments. The complexity of these types of pieces and the sheer volume of data requires the development of appropriate representations. How do you freeze into one static compact form data that is experienced moment by moment over time? The internal repeating musical patterns on large pieces will also offer
opportunities not found in shorter work.

This initial work covers a number of different forms and interpretative explorations and a number of different musical types; from simple children songs to jazz, rock, country and western, and classical. Each may suggest their own interpretations. One overriding question is
“Can music look like it sounds?”
Visualizing music introduces another dimension to an already rich art form.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star CII
Canvas Print

Paper presented at the 2012 Bridges Conference
Exploring the Visualization of Music

BitArtWorks, Robert J. Krawczyk, St. Charles IL

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