Sound of photographs of sound

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by billy_mabrey, Jan 1, 2007.

  1. I've long been fascinated with sound. Mostly it comes from playing and recording music. When learning music and creating music I tend to visualize what I am doing, sometimes in colors, and more often like a drawing...and the mixdown is like that of a sculptural space....I have drawn sounds and made prints using sounds to create the image in the past.
    Today someone mentioned to me that the "band" Aphex Twin incorporated images into the tones of their technoey music. I watched one of their songs in a audio visualizer which graphs frequncies (overtones) over time. In a bizzare modern twist of putting backwards messages into an LP album.....the aphex twin guy put their logo and repordedly an image of his face into the music. I found the logo at least...
    However...I just had to do this on my own, simply knowing its possible. And so I did. I turned a photograph into an audio sample, played the sample back and the graph of the tones revealed the image encoded within the sound. Here's a page on my website too see and hear what i am talking about: .htm
    My philosophical question for you all is what to call this project? Could the sound itself be considered a photograph? Is this even remotley photography, or just MODERN ART so to speak. Or is it music? I really have no idea
    I have stumbled into a strange realm here....
  2. Hi Billy,
    Well you certainly did something I've not seen nor heard of before! Here's my .02 cent's worth on your questions:
    My philosophical question for you all is what to call this project?
    To my mind that would be completely up to you because that's sort of like asking someone else to name a traditional photo for you. I suppose you could get input on what to call the technique. (Audiographics? Photoaudiographics?)
    Could the sound itself be considered a photograph?
    To my mind, no. I don't see why the image you produced couldn't be called that though.
    Is this even remotley photography, or just MODERN ART
    Again, I think the image you created could be called photography, if I'm understanding the process correctly. (Which I may not be after 3 hrs of sleep!
    Or is it music?
    Just my humble opinion - and I'm sure there are those who'll disagree - but no. I'd call it noise. At what point does "noise" or simply "sounds" become "music"? Well for me there are several criteria, admittedly my own: 1) Is it reproduceable or just a "happy accident"? In other words you can give a guitar to a chimpanzee and it'll get some "sounds" out of it but it's not what I'd call "music" - and it'll never play the same thing twice. There's no rhythm and no melody when a chimp "plays" a guitar, but give it to a good guitar player and you'll get "music".
    I have a nephew who is a very good jazz guitarist living in London. He positively hates electronic, computer-made, music. To him it just doesn't qualify as true "music" because it took no real talent to produce (rip a sample, hit a button) or knowledge of music (let alone the years of dedication learning to play) to produce.
    I probably wouldn't go quite that far, but close. Software like "Garage Band" and Sony's "Acid" can produce near miracles from someone who has absolutely no clue how to play anything because the playing was already done (in the sample) and the user just strung things together, using a computer, to make it (hopefully) coherent.
    However, I do think you stumbled upon something very original, all in all and congratulations are certainly in order for that! It certainly wouldn't have dawned on me! Good luck!
  3. Not.


    It's not writing with light.

    Cool idea and even cooler that you can do it but your above is a techno thing where different technologies are married in which to bring an idea to fruition but "photography," it's not.
  4. The relationship between music and the visual arts is something that has been explored by quite a few people. There is usually an attempt to impose some sort of control over both forms of output by the artist, although the element of chance plays a greater role than some of the responders above might be aware of.

    Do a search on "visual music".
  5. What you have there is food for the hungry mind: a demonstration that might, with a lot
    more work, revive some classic ideas regarding music and vision. Refer to Music of the
    Spheres, for example. Go back to JS Bachs' metrics, too. Contrast to the romantic
    musicians of the time with the imagery of the same time. Read again on recent studies of

    Any correspondence to the tones in an image and the tones in music would have to
    compromise the photographic image tremendously to become something like music we
    have generally heard outside of modern art demonstrations and radical music. If you
    contrive an image from the sound it might work better. If you begin with an image, it
    would be hard to do with photography, but certainly more convenient and that's where the
    two cross in popular culture - the easier the better (hence the rationale of digital imaging,

    I would answer in more detail, but I got a stack of CDROM's and DVDs here to finish
    reading. I don't have a player, so I just read straight off the surface, visually.

    Pico - who once upon a time COULD read a computer's magnetic tape by looking at it.
    Hint: first dip it in an iron-filing fluid.
  6. To my mind that would be completely up to you because that's sort of like asking someone else to name a traditional photo for you. I suppose you could get input on what to call the technique. (Audiographics? Photoaudiographics?)
    Here is an occasion to become oriented. Permit me the following.
    The author/artist can call it anything he likes at the risk of accomplishing nothing but placing himself in the uncertain path of the traveling salesman. On the other hand, if he wants to put his ideas into a place where they might mean something to the art and possibly make a difference, he has to find the domain or a zone in which it might belong. He could call it "XYZZYplugh" or "A photograph of John Cage" The first is nonsense, the second not quite nonsense - it at least hooks the artist/photograher into a Zone to get feedback from practicing, informed individuals.
    Art is not relativism. Play is. One has to decide how serious he is, how much he cares.
    Bill's question remains open and valid and to that end I say to Bill - search out similars. They are there in history and today. We can make his question into a quest... or not. It's up to Bill.
  7. Music has been referred to as "organized sound." This site has an interesting perspective:

    Too bad "sonography" has already been used!
  8. Rather than directly answer the question of "is this photography?", I would say that it definitely is a novel, but bona fide, medium for recording and reproducing visual images.

    It seems to function very similar to what one could do with a scanner and a PC with monitor: convert a photographic print into an electronically displayed image. In the case of the scanner, the intervening media of conversion is the electronic (i.e. JPEG or equivalent) image file. In the case of your project, the intervening media of conversion is an audio file.

    Is the resulting image from your project a "photograph"? Yes, if we assume that any photographic images reproduced via an electronic display can still retain some essential quality or element that is deemed 'photographic'. Otherwise, any and all photography websites, like this one, couldn't, by nature, reproduce photographs; since we all have to view these electronic image files via electronic display units.

    Taking it one step further, the real "camera" in your project is the device that converted the original photograph into an electronic file, prior to being converted into an audio signal. That was (I'm assuming here) a scanner. Or, it could have been a digital camera. Everything else - the audio conversion software,and the frequency domain display software - is just an electronic way of reproducing that image file onto a monitor screen (i.e. it's the equivalent of an image viewing software).

    Whether or not it's "music" is another question entirely, which I'm not prepared to answer.

    But as a thought experiment, suppose I had two drums: a tom and a base drum. And I could use one hit of the tom to represent a digital "1", and one hit of the base to represent a digital "0". I could then take a JPEG image file, and reproduce it as a lengthy rendition of drum sounds. And then I could record that sound, and have software that would interpret the drum beats back into their original digital file structure, and reproduce the original image. Is that photography? Dunno. It sounds more like it's just media conversion: reproducing information by modulating some physical parameter.

    Which gets to the root of: when does the 'writing with light' part of photography happen? Expecially with electronic media. It seems that the initial 'writing' occurs in a light sensitive transistor or diode array; everything else is information being converted from one media to another.

Share This Page