Quayola Sets A New Standard For Visualizing Sound

<p>Using custom software, the artist creates real-time generative graphics that turn sound into geometric shapes.</p>

Visual artist Quayola recently released Partitura 001, a real-time generative sound visualization made in collaboration with visual music artists Abstract Birds, the first work in an ongoing series. Quayola’s work can typically be split into two types: audiovisual installations that deconstruct classic architecture and paintings, exploring the ambiguity of realism in digital art, or audiovisual performances. Both look at the relationship between music and sound, with the latter more geared towards exploring sound as abstract visuals.

This newest work, created using programming tool VVVV, falls under the latter category and is a continuation of Quayola’s previous experiments inspired by the writings of painter Wassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky’s abstract paintings, especially his Composition series, looked at ways geometric shapes and color could represent the oscillating waveforms of sound. He said he could hear chords and tones when he painted, which in turn informed his works, and popularized the concept of synesthesia, which looks at how certain stimulations can cause one sensory experience to be represented as another, like seeing music as colors.

Quayola explains the work:

The term "Partitura" (score) implies a connection with music, and this metaphor is the main focus of the project. Partitura aims to create a new system for translating sound into visual forms. Inspired by the studies of artists such as Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Oscar Fischinger and Norman McLaren, the images generated by Partitura are based on a precise and coherent system of relationships between various types of geometries. The main characteristic of this system is its horizontal linear structure, like that of a musical score. It is along this linear environment that the different classes of abstract elements are created and evolve over time according to the sound. Partitura creates endless ever-evolving abstract landscapes that can respond to musical structures, audio analysis and manual gestural inputs. It is an instrument that visualizes sound with both the freedom of spontaneous personal interpretation/improvisation and at the same time maintaining the automations and triggers of mathematical precision.

Partitura defines a coherent language of its own for the creation of new contemporary abstractions. It is within this system that Partitura creates worlds that expand from a single dot to multiple galaxies, from minimalism to complexity, from rigid to elastic, from solid to liquid, from angular to smoothness, from tentative to boldness, from calm to agitation, from slow to fast, from desaturated to saturation, from dark to lightness, from predictable to unpredictability. Literally 'everything' and its opposite… just like a musical flow.

The software turns the song “Sound” by Telefon Tel Aviv into graphical structures, so the sounds become visual notations fluctuating along the bars of a bendy stave, in a nod to the bars seen in music notation. The graphics quickly evolve and begin to form geometric shapes that bubble and dance as the line of shapes shifts forward, growing and twirling, like an audio eco-system, lucidly visualising the alternating rhythms of the track.

If you want to find out more about how Quayola creates his beautiful art, check out our video interview with him.