Visualization Infrastructure

*This is, in some ways, Stefanie‘s post, because she found it. Here goes, anyways:

One of our longstanding understandings of infrastructure is that it facilitates and supports something else, but, in these discussions, we almost never discuss music (even though Jan has written extensively on the topic). When I think of music infrastructure, I typically think like a sociologist and come-up with ideas like those in this website about linking together musicians, studio owners, and show venues or infrastructure as constituting the business and legal environment music is embedded in.

However, composer, pianist and software engineer Stephen Malinowski has me thinking another way about music infrastructure, in particular, about visualization infrastructure for audio stuff. Now, music visualizers are nothing new. In fact, off-the-shelf software installed on most computers is capable of it.


National Public Radio in the states covered this story about music visualization infrastructure featuring Malinowski. The title, “Watch A Mind-Blowing Visualization Of ‘The Rite Of Spring'” is pretty accurate in my opinion. Similar to overcoming the problem of getting pseudo-instruments into the hands of millions (a la Guitar Hero and MIT’s Media Lab),

Stephen Malinowski has created one brilliant solution to an age-old problem: how to communicate and understand what’s going on in a piece of music, particularly if you don’t know standard musical notation.

The visualization infrastructure is fairly basic at this point, and, as Malinowski admits, he is only at the beginning of his ability to render music (with his imagination being one of the only limitations). Still, his “music animation machine” is a pretty fascinating case of infrastructural development. Enjoy!

12 thoughts on “Visualization Infrastructure

  1. This is the perfect website for everyone who really wants
    to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been discussed for years.
    Excellent stuff, just wonderful!


  2. If you are really interested in the architecture of music you should look up the new book A Rosetta Stone by Sandborn. It blew me away. It is a paradigm change for music theory, education, composition and analysis. One will never look at music the same way again.


  3. Pingback: Music Animation Machine – Musician Assistant

  4. Malinowki says this about traditional notation: “And the symbols in conventional musical notation only go so far. For example, an eighth note takes up the same amount of space on a page as a whole note, though a whole note sounds for much longer. So you have to learn all those symbols in order to perceive what’s going on, which can be really frustrating. And the score can never clue you in to the differences in instrumental timbre — how different a note of the same pitch can sound if played by a trumpet versus a violin, for example. And I came to realized that scores are really for musicians, not for listeners. When that information is presented as graphs, it’s very easy to understand.”

    So, he may have built from notation.


  5. The question is, then, how can we do this for infrastructure — make the unseen seen? (in a way that makes it understandable)


  6. Did you find out how that was created? Is it a translation from traditional music notation or is it based on sound analysis? And if so: who does that? The reason I ask is this: in the case of the recommender systems we studied we found a complementary way of translating music into data (for example this: ) and I wondered if and how these attempts relate to each other…


  7. I thought the point about opening up the complexity of music to people who do not read musical notation to be especially important. It allows for a whole new audience to understand music at another level, or even more precisely, to appreciate music in a different way. Sometimes I think all teaching, research, or writing is about this process of becoming someone different through multiple understandings and viewpoints.


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