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Video: Translating the movement and patterns of music into something meaningful and visual

By John Terauds on April 8, 2013

There are a number of ways to animate the sound of music. American technological gadabout and generally curious person Stephen Malinowski passed along his first two installments of an animated Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.

Malinowski created these animations using his own Music Animation Machine.

This is how he describes it:

The Music Animation Machine display is a score without any measures or clefs, in which information about the music’s structure is conveyed with bars of color representing the notes. These bars scroll across the screen as the music plays. Their position on the screen tells you their pitch and their timing in relation to each other. Different colors denote different instruments or voices, thematic material, or tonality. And each note lights up at the exact moment it sounds, so you can’t lose your place.

The experience of watching the Music Animation Machine can be a remarkable awakening to the inner structure of music, especially for people who are sensitive to music but lack the training to “see inside” a conventional musical score. A tool for listeners of all ages.

Coupled with a vibrant score like Rite of Spring, it makes for a great viewing as well as listening experience.

Malinowski added the following Q&A when he posted Part I:

Q: How was this recording made?
A: Jay Bacal performed and rendered this piece using virtual instrument software by Vienna Symphonic Library.

Q: What do the shapes indicate?
A: Each shape corresponds to a family of instruments:
-ellipse: flutes (also cymbals and tam-tam)
-octagon: single reed (clarinet, bass clarinet)
-inverted ellipse/star: double reeds (oboe, English horn, bassoons)
-rectangle: brass (also, with “aura,” timpani, guiro and bass drum)
-rhombus: strings

Q: What do the colors indicate?
A: In this video, musical pitch (as ordered in the musician’s “circle of fifths”) is mapped to twelve colors (as ordered on the artist’s “color wheel”). With this mapping, changes in tonality and harmony correspond to changes in the color palette. You can read more about this technique here: http://www.musanim.com/mam/pfifth.htm
Unpitched instruments (bass drum, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, guiro) are shown in gray.

John Terauds


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