Music Visualization: Beautiful Tools to ‘See’ Sound

Posted: July 26th, 2010 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is an original guest post by Ricardo Nuno Silva for VC Blog. Ricardo is a Portuguese applications developer with a longtime curiosity concerning the impact of digital technologies in everyday life. You can contact him at rsilva@pobox.com.

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In the last few years many tools and techniques have been developed to help us visualize songs, music and sounds. This post is a showcase of some of these greatest tools. Each one is focused on a particular aspect of this challenging type of visualization.

One of the most common examples of software for sound visualization is the one used in media players. But they usually only translate sound frequencies to shapes and colors on the screen. They’ve been used extensively for leisure, relaxation and dance parties.

The tools in this showcase have a different approach, as they truly “understand” music in its individual notes. Some can be used in real time, while others need to do some number-crunching while analyzing each song.

Below each image there’s the name of the tool or technique, some great video examples, and a link to the author’s site.

If you know other great tools or videos of music visualization, please leave a comment below or via email. Thank you!

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Static Visualization of Songs

The Shape of Song by Martin Wattenberg

Narratives 2.0 by Matthias Dittrich

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Similar to Sheet Music

Don’t Be Sad by Brad Mehldau

MIDI Music Visualization Videos for Deaf and Hearing Impaired People by Eric Rangell.

Music Animation Machine (MAM) by Stephen Malinowski. See: Beethoven 5th Symphony.

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Visualization of Instruments Output

Clavilux 2000 by Jonas Heuer.

Celeste Motus by the Abstract Birds. (via Pedro Custódio)

MuSA.RT - Music on the Spiral Array. Real-Time by Elaine Chew e Alex François.

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Lyrics

TypeStar by Scott Garner.

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Learning Games through Visualization

Synthesia (for piano) by Nicholas Piegdon.

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Animating Virtual Instruments

MIDIJam by Scott Haag. See: MidiJam (I just died in your arms).

Pipe Dream by Animusic. See also: MIDIJam meets Animusic: Pipe Dream

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Abstract Visualizations

Ljósið by Ólafur Arnalds

Just Colour by Jesper Brevik

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See other music-related visualizations @ VisualComplexity.com | Music.


13 Comments on “Music Visualization: Beautiful Tools to ‘See’ Sound”

  1. 1 GIVISION | Jiri Mocicka said at 10:32 pm on July 28th, 2010:

    Nice article. If you search “Music DNA” you’ll find the project which visualize music meta data by different criteria such a writer, singer, author, band, year concert and also association with other groups.
    Have a look at “http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60L37B20100122″
    Best
    Jiri

  2. 2 Radio Head said at 2:26 am on August 13th, 2010:

    I think those are just simply stunning! Music with the utmost imagery, simply perfect.

  3. 3 Cam said at 11:06 am on August 15th, 2010:

    What program is used to make these videos like Ljósið ?????

  4. 4 Martin Eising said at 7:42 pm on September 1st, 2010:

    It never ceases to amaze me how just about anything can be represented via “visualization”. Some of the examples in this article are not only fascinating, but really stir the “artistic” soul! The Ljosio visualization is especially nice.

    As for more music representations, how about MilkDrop (made for WinAmp).

  5. 5 Bezalel said at 2:21 pm on September 30th, 2010:

    Don’t forget Kandinskiy’s ‘compositions’ series of art - dating between 1910-1944 - which, in essence, are simply visualizations of musical compositions:

    http://www.glyphs.com/art/kandinsky/

  6. 6 neFAST said at 7:43 pm on July 19th, 2011:

    Any recommended plugins for our audio players?

  7. 7 Chris from dubstep software tutorials said at 2:45 pm on July 28th, 2011:

    Really interesting concepts. I really liked the idea of learning music through a combination of visual elements as well as an audio ones. Thanks for the great list!

  8. 8 From the Author (Ricardo Nuno Silva, Portugal) said at 10:05 pm on August 3rd, 2011:

    Another example for the “Abstract Visualizations” category:

    “Partitura” by Abstract Birds and Quayola
    http://www.quayola.com/soundvisualisation/partitura/

    @Cam: According to info on Vimeo:

    Software used: Adobe After Effects
    Plugin used: Trapcode Particular v2. and Trapcode SoundKeys
    A little bit of expressions used, turbulence and spherical field tweakings.

    @neFAST: I think most of these visualizations use proprietary software, not open-source, free or public domain plug-ins.

  9. 9 Feldspar said at 12:18 pm on August 10th, 2011:

    These are some really beautiful visualizations. I think Partitura is the best one yet. It\’s great to see how this art form is evolving in so many different directions.

  10. 10 Joakim Dahl said at 10:33 am on October 17th, 2011:

    http://www.plane9.com might be worth a look. It captures any sound that is playing and it also has some player plugins. The scenes are open and can be modified or studied in the included editor. Most scenes react to music. Since its realtime it doesn’t match the quality of some of the offline visualizers.

  11. 11 Montgomery Webster said at 2:34 am on November 24th, 2011:

    I included a few more visualization publications in my Preliminary Evaluation of Music Visualization presentation to the University of Minnesota Graphics and Visualization research group: http://www.slideshare.net/mxmlln/a-preliminary-evaluation-of-music-visualization

  12. 12 Nathan Shirley said at 4:57 pm on January 21st, 2013:

    Nice collection!

    Here are two sheet music visualizations I made that attempt to bring standard notation to life-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qv4P0E420U

    and-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY5ZnIaD5_U

  13. 13 Dante Wright said at 1:06 pm on November 15th, 2013:

    I wanted to find someone that could make
    about three or more visualizations for my music, to visualize the music by sound input/output. Almost to synchronize to my beat. Can anyone help me with this project.


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