Color a Sound

Color a Sound is an installation that uses an overhead projector, a camera and a laptop to allow the user to draw whatever they’d like and roll it past a point and have it trigger sounds, player-piano style. Red, green and blue control three different octaves, or different sound sets (I use blue to control a set of 808 drum sounds in the example video). The rolls used to draw could be played forward or backward, and people could play previous compositions made from past users. Everything is programmed in Max/MSP/Jitter. The code used will be available soon once I clean it up a little more.

I originally came up with the idea for the piece in 2008 and developed it for a Sound Art class I was in. It is very similar in concept to the color organ instruments that were developed in the early 1900’s, except in those instruments, artists were trying to represent sounds with colors. Color a sound for me is more of a playful comment on the naive idea of trying to represent such complex sounds with simple colors, and is more of a debunking of synesthesia than a champion of it.
The installation could have been more complex, employing more colors/motion tracking/dynamics sensing and a full chromatic range but I kept the interaction simple so it was something a child could figure out. Even with only three colors, one could just scribble something and have it make a quick melody, or actually sit down and make a rather complex composition.

Download the unorganized patch: Max/MSP/Jitter - Color a sound demo (680 downloads)