Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Well, I thought it was time for a change of tack. Of course, there are many different avenues of entry into investigating the visual presentation of music, so I thought i'd veer into the territory of computer generated visualisations. You know, the pretty swirly patterns of colours that seem to dance with the music emanating from your computer. According to this website the idea for this technology began in the 1970's but the first fully functioning software for a 'Music Animation Machine' wasn't developed until 1991.

According to Stephen Malinowski, the inventor of this technology, the idea grew out of an hallucination....

"The idea for the Music Animation Machine started with a hallucination that happened while I was listening to one of Bach’s sonatas for unaccompanied violin ...

As I listened to the music, the notes on the page were dancing to the music — but at the same time, they were the music. It was so charming and graceful — the flag of an eighth note extending like a ballet dancer's arm; pairs of notes moving in parallel thirds and sixths like pairs of dancers stepping hand-in-hand ... I was delighted!

But ... what would a more complicated score look like ... ?"

This really is an interesting website and worth exploring for the full story on the development of this software, and discussion of the more technical aspects of whats involved, ie., sine waves, spectograms, harmonics, chords, octaves, psychoacoustic dissonance, etc.(you can even download some short movies of simple versions of the animator). This is all over my head, so I won't even attempt to explain what's going on.

Originally, this version of a music visualiser was conceived just to see what it would be like, and then progressed into an aid for teaching music. Most recently the same technology has been extended into applications like human and machine voice interaction and transmission.

More interesting though is what people actually do with the technology. At one of my previous share houses we put the windows media player visualiser to effective use. We were fortunate enough to have a large queenslander with a cement floored self contained flat underneath. When we had to evict our drug addicted flatmate from the premises, my mate and I decided to utilise the space for better purposes (than solo drug taking and not paying the rent). It was to be our den of iniquity for wooing women and general good times. We connected the computer to a digital projector and then bounced the image around the room on several wall size mirrors and other fragments of shattered mirror. The effect was sensational. We had created our own disco. It was the scene of many intoxicating nights of shenanigans.

I realise this ramble is turning into personal anecdote, but as a native inhabitant of the subculture in question, ie., users of visualisers I think it's relevant. But it does seem like such a grubby way to use this technology that was developed by such a pure geek.

I would love to hear about anybody else's use of the visualiser.


Post a Comment

<< Home