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Sound Reactive ÐiςTθRTIOÑs

by: Dimitrios Kyriakoudis and Tal Hendrickse


Digital distortion in art often involves the usage of digital or analog errors for aesthetic purposes. We're interested in incorporating some of the interesting effects we have observed in an audio-reactive real time performance environment.

Initially developed by artist Kim Asendorf, pixelsorting has since then been picked up by online communities such as Reddit, where new images are posted daily. A typical pixelsorting algorithm will find all the pixels in an image that lie below a certain contrast and then sort them by brightness to form these long strokes and digitally blurry lines that you can see above.

Pixelsorting is an interesting effect to distort photos and existing images with. Glitch artist Sabato Visconti once said of trying to create pixelsorting art that “it's like torturing an image”. The way that people make 'broken' and 'tortured' images into effective pieces of art is by not breaking them fully, but by breaking them just to the point that you can observe the internal structures in data breaking.

This can add a certain digitally surreal effect to them. This state of surrealism and semi-detachment from reality gives the finished picture an interesting contrast tension between the digital abstraction and the real world.

This picture by reddit user 'micisboss' interested us in particular because it is unlike most images created with the algorithm. Many examples of pixelsorting are sorted in straight lines. This image is effective because it avoids that. It has momentum, it draws the eye towards the centre of the screen where the the most intense point of the photo lies, and it preserves the original momentum of the flower and extends it to the edges of the frame.

This image posted by 'kathauss' is a good example of how pixelsorting can intensify aesthetics that an image already has. This picture of coloured bismuth against the black background is striking enough alone but when the pixelsorting algorithm is added it creates a synthetic contrast of natural bismuth against algorithmically sorted lines.

Another use for the pixelsorting aesthetic is to express a large amount of time passing. Especially in this piece originally posted by user 'ElectricHalide'. The soft blurring of the the orange and navy black in this image communicates to the viewer a sense of timelessness and tranquility.

This image creates a more dramatically digital effect than the other static images because it's artificial regularity is unlike anything we would usually observe in everyday existence. Reality is split into larger-scale chunks which move mechanically and independently, looping a sort of conveyor belt structure, moving along an endless loop of time and glitchyness.

This image of the moon demonstrates well the effect that pixelsorting can have on an affected object's form and silhouette. The sorted lines extend downward from the planet almost as if chunks of it are melting or snapping off and falling towards the viewer.

Sound Reactive Visuals

Audiovisual connections between events are crucial for our perceptional awareness of the reality around us. When a visual and a sonic event occur simultaneously our brains tend to assume a cause-effect relationship between the two: this movement caused that sound. When this tendency is exploited, however, by artificially creating such cause-effect relationships between physically unrelated phenomena, then interesting perceptional tricks can take place. We are very interested in exploring these through the possible cause-effect relationships that can be created between audio and visual objects.

Audio visualizers like this one have been around for a while now and, while mapping scientific elements of the music such as frequency content or rhythm to specific elements of the visuals, they fail to capture elements more dominant in our artistic perception of a piece of music. We looked further in search of a more abstract visual embodiment of the sound, but one that at the same time would more solidly capture core perceptual elements of the music. Whether abstractly affecting parameters of an image or object or in other ways creating the visual element in the first place, we find that reactive visuals can add in different dimensions to the music and can extend the composition in unique ways.

One such example is the videoclip to Autechre's "Gantz Graf", from their homonymous EP. Inspired and created by designer Alex Rutterford, the videoclip shows a digital machine-like object pulsated, spun around, twisted, morphed and completely deconstructed before being brought back together, all synchronized to the music.

Even though there is no physical (or even, in this case, digital) connection between the two, the clip manages to capture the mechanical complexity and precision of the audio and gives it a solid form, acting as a sort of visual affirmation to the musical events in the track and transfering them from the abstract, sonic realm, to that of the audiovisual. one step closer to our own perception of reality. Rutterford matches the frantic, glitchy abstraction of the music in a reactively animated visual object, providing solid visual foundations for the acousmatic event and giving a firm identity to the sound.

Naoto Fushimi's "glitch flower" takes a different approach to reactive visuals and creates a complex object with no immediatelly apparent form, glitching in and out of forms and shapes at a frantic and dizzying pace, initially establishing no solid foundations for any connection with reality.

Opposingly to the practice of pixelsorting, this clip does not attempt to create a twilight zone between reality and abstraction by deconstructing the former but rather by building within the latter. Starting with no ties to any familiar object, Fushimi builds glitchy, abstract ties to a flower by repetition of a construction-deconstruction sequence that employs beat detection in animation software to sync to the music.