Clair de Lune by Debussy, or patterning sound visually
I am rather enamored of visualizations, so I suppose I should offer that first as a caveat to the rest of this post. However, this is a particularly good one. Audio visualized.
I have been intrigued by The Historiography of Cyberculture chapter by Jonathan Sterne and his critique of cyberculture being erroneously and exclusively associated with visual culture (19). While Sterne rightly points out that part of this might be due to disciplinary considerations, as well as what constitutes a rigorous material for research, I suspect it has more to do with the way that the internet was initially construed, as a vehicle for transporting textual information. We are still struggling with this original perception as a text based vehicle and that has quite a lot to do with its coding underpinnings. It is all still a series of binaries sequenced to produce alternative visualizations. These can be images, sound, video, animation, and text. However, these are abstractions, a symbolic representation of those original binaries translated into “human code”.
That is why I love audio visualizations so much as they are so respective of their origins as numbers. They chart so predictably, so lushly that is difficult to perceive them as abstractions, but rather living organisms represented in their original manifestations. These visualizations are also good examples of form following function following form, of art feeding reality and vice versa.
The visualization brings alive the beauty of the binaries, while the music improves with the visual representation. This multimodality is not only a greater tool for learning and understanding, it also speaks to some sense of completeness of representation. It is an archetype in our head of what this music is. The only thing missing is the muffled scratch of fallen leaves scuffling over a Paris pavement late in the night. And maybe the very early morning smell of a pâtisserie.