February 2010 Archives

Pixel-Based Music Project

I've decided to do some work exploring the relationship between aural and visual language. I have been experimenting with different ways of making sounds based on bitmap images (playing a picture like a musical score).

Through a software program I've been able to open a bitmap file of a photo, where it's then broken down into fewer pixels. The musical "score" is based on these pixels, and played from left to right. The height of each pixel determines the pitch, the color determines where the note will be played on the stereo field (left or right speaker), and the brightness determines the volume.

Within these guidelines, the pitches can be redefined to fit a particular musical scale. Removing specific horizontal lines of pixels accomplishes this by eliminating all notes that do not fit within that scale. Further manipulation of the image results in multiple variations of sounds.

Here are a couple examples, showing the original photograph, the pixelized png (stretched out to match the length of the audio file), the further edited png, and the resulting MP3 file (looped).









Using this method, I plan on composing a longer-length (2-3 minute) song, based on a series of original photographs that will tell a narrative on their own. After this process is complete, I will create a movie file that scrolls through the line of photographs as the resulting audio file plays along in real time, showing both ways of communicating the same story via distinctly different processes.

Digital Focus | Project Overview

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Throughout the next 13 weeks I will be conducting a series of experiments that explore the impact of specific environmental factors on visual communication.

I will be updating my blog on an experiment by experiment basis, documenting my process and reflecting on the conceptual aspects of each.

Some environmental factors that I may explore include:

Forms cut from reflective vinyl laid on plain vinyl of the same color, the image appearing only under certain lighting circumstances. Some of my inspiration:

Bright Bike from Michael Mandiberg on Vimeo.

Freezing images and typography in ice. This idea was inspired by a discarded love letter I noticed frozen under about 1/2 inch of ice on Tischer Creek in Duluth, the translucent nature of ice allowing only certain words to be visible.

Andy Goldsworthy
View image


View image

Recording the audio waveforms of ugly, beautiful, or otherwise pointed phrases, and showing the resulting visual aesthetic, juxtaposed against contrasting words or images to expose new meaning. Here's an example of some of the visual forms audio waveforms can take:

Cymatics - the study of visible sound and vibration

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