Old, but worth mentioning . . . if for no other reason that you’re thinking about color in new ways as you stare into your green beer for St. Patrick’s Day. (Or even a green river, a la Chicago.)

The Music Animation Machine renders familiar music as series of colored bars, in still image or animated video, reminiscent of a piano roll editor in a sequencing application. Color represents harmonic area, so as you look at the piece you see form, structure, shape, and harmony in new ways.

It certainly raises some interesting questions: with new tools at our disposal, what might be a more useful (or visually exciting) way of looking at music? With interactive tools, you could even play with the resulting renderings in real-time. I’m sure I can come up with a really compelling idea if I drink enough green ale. Or, at least, I’ll start to think it’s really compelling.

Pictured: Bach Brandenberg No. 6, mvmt. 3.

  • alfonso.el.sabio

    This isn't new…about 7-8 years, there was an application that ran under Mac OS 9 that I believed was called xXx or some such that would allow you to import images that it would then "map" to scales to produce music. You could also use a drawing tool to "draw" linear shapes to create tunes…I'll try and track down the particulars on it and post them here, if you're interested.

  • David

    You're thinking of U&I Software's Xx and MetaSynth, both of which this image reminded me of, too…except for the purple (MS uses red, yellow and green; blue makes no sound). MetaSynth is available for OSX, and an Xx update is promised.

    And what exactly does "harmonic area" mean?

  • clumma

    MAM goes back to the '80s. Piano roll scores aren't new, of course, but a smoothly-scrolling one with part coloring, note-on illumination, intended as a visualization… MAM was the first and is still the best.

  • Yorgle

    Reminds me of Instant Music from Electronic Arts, back on my old Amiga.


  • alfonso.el.sabio


    Yes! Exactly…I lost track of it in a cross-country move and the demo expired.

    At the time, I found it a little pricey for what I was trying to do…

  • admin

    Yes, agreed, Xx has some similar ideas . . . it's interesting paging through the software on that IIGS software page (thanks, Yorgie)! Something about the 80s gave people a fresher perspective on what interfaces could be.

    So yes, this is quite old . . . but that's the point. Maybe we need an occasional "wayback machine" for blogs, just to keep things in perspective.

  • musanim

    One Mac application that lets you turn drawings into notes is Morton Subotnick's "Making Music."

    The piece shown here doesn't use color to show harmonic area (aka tonal center, aka key, etc.), but the Brahms Capriccio and Debussy's Clair de lune do; you can can get to them from here: http://www.musanim.com/mam/watch.html

  • Harmony is way more fun: &nbsp ;http://www.digitalchaotics.com/harmony

    This is what Harmony does: &nbsp ;http://www.youtube.com/vjchaotic

  • vjchaotic