Music Visualization in Computer Software

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Music Visualization
in computer generated software
N. R.
The German University in Cairo, Egypt

Nissmah Roshdy
Abstract—This paper summarizes the history of music visualization in computer software and recent work from artists today that present the variety of concepts used in the field.

I.

INTRODUCTION

the frequency of a specific amount of audio data, and then the programmer assigns certain graphical elements to be displayed repeatedly, varying with the amplification of the sound volume. History Many artists, composers and philosophers have approached the combination between music and visual art for centuries. From abstract paintings to the 3 dimensional multimedia environments, the idea of putting musical notes into a color, space and motion to create a feeling of transcendence and poetry has long been experimented (Brougher 213). It began in the 18th century when some people attempted to associate specific colors to specific pitches. Sir Isaac Newton had come up with an original concept in 1704 that created a one-to-one mapping of the seven piano notes to the seven rainbow colors (Collopy), this concept was known as a Color Mapping Scheme, which was replicated by other artists like Castel, Bainbridge, and Rimington and was is still used till today (Brougher). Another artist called Georgia O’Keeffe had her own approach of interpreting and painting music. In the 1730’s, the “light organ” was invented by Louis Bertrand Castel, which allocated sound with colored light.

Across the last century, the digital world of real-time computing and graphical interfaces has trespassed the borders of human imagination in the earliest of centuries. After we were introduced to multimedia players software, it wasn’t long until the world became familiar with the term Music visualizations (aka Music animation), a feature in the software where colorful, and often flowing projections are displayed when a sound file is played. Who could have ever imagined in the earlier times that the ever so fervently capturing Sonatas of Beethoven could not only be listened to, but seen as well? Nowadays, visualizing music has not just become an attribute to the electronic and technical dimension, but an entire evolution in the sensation of music and how we define it, interpret it, and possibly perceive it. Music, by itself, has expressive and emotive qualities that inspire many artists to manifest in their works, one of them is artist Wassily Kandinsky who believed there was a strong emotional connection between music and the human soul and that a visual artistic representation of music can generate a sensual experience and spiritual awakening saying in one of his works in 1911 “Color is the keyboard. The eye is the hammer. The soul is the piano, with its many strings. The artist is the hand that purposefully sets the soul vibrating by means of this or that key. Thus it is clear that the harmony of colors can only be based upon the principle of purposefully touching the human soul” (Brougher 31). The structural core of music can be seen through the motions of passion made by a musician when performing live. Every musical instrument has a unique expressive body language that the musician with his energy and amid the euphoria of playing music does unintentionally with his body. These movements can often inspire some the concepts of music visualizations. The basic description of Music visualizations is an animated imagery generated in the software and rendered in real time. Its techniques vary from simple displays like an oscilloscope simulation, to sophisticated and elaborate ones, which combine several composited effects. Its generation mainly depends on the loudness of the music track, and the frequency spectrum. In most cases an FFT is used to analyze

Fig. 1: Wilfred’s Clavilux device that created his art form “Lumia”

A similar device was created later on in 1921 by Thomas Wilfred, which was called a Clavilux, resembled a small...
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