Can a sound be a sculpture? While using a familiar technique – mapping frequency energies via a FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) analysis – Reflection has a transformative impact on the perception of a sound by translating it into three-dimensional, physical form. I’d been struck by this work before, but only just saw this documentation video, which does a nice job of conveying what the piece is about.
Reflection II is an augmented sound data sculpture, which was inspired by and derived from the musical piece of the same title by Frans de Waard. The sculpture was commissioned by the 5 Days Off Festival in Amsterdam for the »Frozen« exhibition, curated by Marius Watz ( unlekker.net ). Reflection is characterized by 12 musical motives, which appear in an almost linear succession. To show the individual makeup of the motives, they were divided into the smallest distinctive parts. An FFT frequency spectrum analysis was performed on these audio clips. The resulting intensity values were arranged in a coordinate system consisting of frequency and time. Higher intensity values for a given frequency at a given time resulted in an elevation of the generated mesh. This produced a heightfield representing the spectral structure of the music. Further optimizations like adaptive filtering and logarithmic scaling of the values were performed to better represent the human way of hearing. The meshes created in this fashion were then arranged horizontally on two conjoined tracks. The final sculpture was created with a CNC Milling Machine.
The installation consists of the sculpture and a projector mounted over it. The room is dark and silent. When the music starts playing, the sculpture gradually reveals itself over the duration of the musical piece. Each sample is visualized by a scanline passing over it… when it is being referred to in the music. Each time the scanner passes a motif, it gradually receives more light, where the amount is defined by the number of occurrences in the song.
I’d love to see other sculptural visions that use other models, even musical analysis in place of strictly acoustical/FFT analysis. There is something about seeing this in physical form. The example above has an unusual twist on that idea, as well – while it uses the common FFT analysis, it manipulates the results of that model by using as an input a structured musical motive.
Likewise, as many of us work with motion, there are unique possibilities in translating something that’s time-based (like a visual performance) into something frozen in time but translated in volume.