Looking Outwards 04: Sound

While there are countless of insightful and interesting projects studying the concept of sound, one of my all time favorites I have seen was a project done by a first year BXA student last year at CMU. As a neuroscience and music student, Teddy created a device and software which he could connect to another person to transmit their brain waves into playable music. Unfortunately after much searching I could not find any documentation online of his work despite it’s brilliance but hopefully he will continue to create fascinating projects combining his talents which we will be able to see in the future at CMU.


I found the project called Eunoia, by artist Lisa Park especially intriguing and noteworthy because she creates sounds from her own emotions including happiness, sadness, anger, desire, and hatred. While producing the sound, Park has to wear a specially designed headset that collects real time data via EEG, which measures brain waves and eye movements. The data is then simultaneously translated in to graphs and charts that can be further translated to sound waves. Then to visualize the sound waves, Park sets up dishes of water, so that the vibration of the water, which is controlled by pitch, speed, volume, and panning, becomes a metaphor of the actual sound you hear generated by the brain waves.
Link to the work: http://www.thelisapark.com/#/eunoia

RogerSectionE, LookingOutward-05

A very intriguing project of data collection and visualization via a program is Shan Huang’s Chrome extension, Iconic History. Shan Huang is, in fact, a CMU student that created this extension just last year for his Interactive Art and Computational Design class. This program takes data from your chrome browser history and extracts the small website icon from it. It is easy for us to forget what we experience or interact with online in the “day-to-day”, yet Chrome keeps a strict history of all of this information. This gave Shan Huang exactly what he needed to make a “self portrait” of sorts from the browser history. The extension has several ways of navigating the overwhelming display of tiny icons. One can isolate certain frequented website icons to identify how often they visit said website. One can also specify how far back they want to see their browser history. The elaborate array of colors and patterns created from this mass grouping of website icons creates a beautiful mirage. This is a wonderful testimony to the author’s sense of artistic value as well as functionality.

Iconic History – a browser history visualization from Shan on Vimeo

Looking Outwards – 05 – Reed

Aligning Humans and Mammals

The artist here has found a wonderful way to blend biology with art. The piece is pleasing to look at and instantly recognizable as genomic data.


There are several people here at CMU that  I have met who have an interest in textbook artistry. His program for building this correct sequence pairing art, is something that could help to fully integrate science and design in term of textbook illustration and other publications.

His Website

I really appreciate the time he spent on the careful details of the design. Coloring the altering letter so, and merging the strings in ways that weren’t confusing to the eye.

Looking Outwards – 05

Wired UK, Barabási Lab and BIG data

big data pic


This is part of a visualization of cellphone traffic from 10 million people.  Created by Jer Thorp in conjunction with the Barabasi lab in Boston, he sought to visualize the various properties of cellphone use, such as location, duration, time spent calling each week by an individual, and so on.  In doing this, patterns could be extracted from what, at first glance, would seem to be random or meaningless data.

The above image is a series of data towers, each one constructed from 5 data sets, totaling about 1 million people per tower.  Their time spent on the phone each week is graphed, with tall bars meaning that more time has been spent and shorter bars meaning less.  Within each individual bar, which striations appear, representing the duration of individual calls and texts.

Other programs assembled visual maps of a user’s physical location over time, creating maps of their lives using cell tower data and assembling these maps based on the patterns among them.

The code was created using Processing, and would primarily have been concerned with pulling data points from the sets and mapping them in certain ways, such as bar graphs and three-dimensional visualizations.

Thorp’s various models all pull patterns out of mass data and assemble them in a visually pleasing manner.  “Sexy” is actually a term he used to describe the visual appeal he was aiming for.

Thorp was influenced by the theories of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and his work in assembling coherent patterns out of seemingly random data.

Jo McAllister – Looking Outwards-04

I think the Electric Knife Orchestra, created by Neil Mendoza, is hilarious.  A bizarre setup, each knife is given a part of a Bee Gee’s song. On Logic, a digital audio workstation, he arranged the song Stayin’ Alive for his sculptural knife creations.

You can see the code he based his on here.  I wish I could understand it more than I do. He programmed the robots using Arduino, and the machines sing the right tune using stepper motors.The-Electric-Knife-Orchestra-by-Neil-Mendoza_07-800x500

Mendoza uses his artwork to create lively, often humorous experiences for his viewers. This is what I admire most about this piece: He utilized coding and the context of his materials in such a way that gives these mundane, dangerous objects a funny personality.

I can only assume this personality is a reflection of the Mendoza’s:


AGondek – Looking Outwards 04

I remembered having seen this Pyro Board; so I was excited to see it sparking others, specifically the Sound Torch.

As a lover of music, I’ve always been intrigued by the connections between sound and other elements and senses. I especially find Synesthesia particularly interesting, but have also been interested in visualizers and the creation of music videos.  So, tying flames in with Dubstep, as in the original Pyro Board, feels like a really successful combination.

Since music/sound is vibrations in the air, and air affects fire, its clear how the science works.  The new portable speakers will “bring pyrotechnics to the masses”, which does sound like a fun, cool added effect, especially for concerts and the like.


Recently, I came across a project that uses computation and sound in a quite unconventional way. LOOPLEX is an interactive piece that is able to track the users touch movements, and the interaction changes both the sound and colors emitted. The way the creator decided to match different movements to the sound and color was something that I found very intriguing, because there was clearly a lot of thought that went into it.

This projects utilizes a lot of different software and equipment that I am not all that familiar with, so it was interesting being to learn about what each one does. I found the use of Ableton Live especially interesting, because that’s where the music production in this project comes from.

LOOPLEX tangible user interface using Ableton Live, MaxMSP, reacTIVision, Arduino from rgb3 on Vimeo.


I would like to focus this week’s looking outwards on electronic musical instruments, which have rapidly grown in recognition and usage since the development of synthetic sounds and computational audio manipulation.


An electronic instrument often includes an interface board, which is often used to adjust the pitch, frequency, and duration of a note. The music is commonly channeled through a music control device and a music synthesizer, which are controlled through a musical performance description language (MIDI or Open Sound Control). Electronic instruments are a subgroup of the audio signal processing applications.


Electronic musical instruments are now widely used in most styles of music, and has helped jumpstart the continuation of different musical genres, such as trance, dubstep, and EDM. New electronic controllers, synthesizers, and instruments are actively being discovered.

Looking Outward : Sound

The concept of music being derived from Math is a very ancient one with Mathematicians researching music and Musicians exploring mathematical concepts to further their pieces of art. Perhaps one of the most famous one is Pythagoras, who not only studied the ratios of the sides of a triangle, but also studied music as ratios, sequences and harmonies.

Brian Eno is a modern day artist who has used computation for music for the past many years. I admire his work a lot, especially his work to come up with the app called “Scape”. This app promises to never deliver the same music twice, because each time a new variation is to be delivered based on the algorithms generating the music. In Eno’s own words it is “music that thinks for itself”! More info on the app can be found on the apple store’s iTunes page at: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/scape/id506703636?mt=8&affId=2078443