Mix-Up

Ever since I first encountered scratch and sniff stickers as a kid, I was obsessed with sensory crossovers. If you could scratch a sticker to produce a scent, certainly you should be able to turn a photograph into a song or taste colours. Whilst I’ve only been able to accomplish the latter under the influence of at least a ten strip, there are loads of software options for mixing up sight and sound.

The latest entry in the synesthetic toolbox is Voice Draw, a fun little Flash application from Ze Frank. After accessing your computer’s microphone, it acts as an audio-controlled Etch-a-Sketch, using volume to determine whether it will change direction or continue drawing on its present course. With volume as the decisive factor, it’s less important what you say than it is how you say it. In order to draw anything specific, you’re probably going to have to go with gutteral proto-lingual tones.

When I discovered it yesterday morning, I immediately wanted to try it out. Since Rin was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her with my best attempts at throat singing, I decided to feed it some pre-recorded sound from my speakers. The first mp3 I stumbled upon was The Kinks’ classic, “Lola”, which produced a rather pleasing horizontal squiggle when played at a medium volume:

Voice Drawing with LolaThis was nice and all, but I wanted to give it something slightly more sinister. Waking Rin up to the sounds of Throbbing Gristle didn’t seem wise either, so in the dulcet tones of William S. Burroughs I found a reasonable compromise. I recently picked up a 3 CD collection of his audio cut-up work entitled Real English Tea Made Here, and two pieces from the first disc, “Cut-ins with Dutch Schultz” and “23 Skidoo”, gave me this:

Voice Drawing with William S. Burroughs

“Cut-ins with Dutch Schultz” created the dark explosion in the upper-right, whilst “23 Skidoo” produced the spiral crash which makes up the majority of the image. I couldn’t believe how well the picture suited the sound and I’m eager to see what else I can make with it.

One of the commenters on Ze’s post left the program running for 24 hours in his flat just to see what the ambient noise of one day looked like. It was small but dense, which kinda made sense to me.

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William S. Burroughs – “23 Skidoo”: [audio:burroughs-23skidoo.mp3|titles=23 Skidoo|artists=William S. Burroughs]