Artificial Intelligence Meets the Beatles
German photographer Martin Klimas' latest exhibition, a series of images he calls "Sonic Sculptures," is so explosive and colorful, it just may change the way you look -- yes, look -- at music.
For the project, Klimas put vibrantly colored paint on a diaphragm over a speaker, turned up the volume on selected music and snapped photos of what the New York Times Magazine described as "a 3-D take on Jackson Pollack."
"I use an ordinary speaker with a funnel-shaped protective membrane on top of it," he told the Smithsonian. "I pour paint colors onto the rubber membrane, and then I withdraw from the setup."
The above photo shows Prince's "Sign 'O' The Times."
Klimas' project was inspired by the research of Hans Jenny, a German physician, scientist and father of cymatics, which is the study of wave phenomena. Jenny photographed his experiments of the effects sound vibrations had on various materials such as fluids, powders and liquid paste. Jenny placed these substances on a rubber drum head and, as it vibrated, he found different tones produced different patterns in the materials. Low tones made powders assemble in straight lines, while deeper tones made for more complex patterns.
The above photo reflects Phillip Glass' "Music With Changing Parts."
Klimas used a variety of music -- everyone from Prince to James Brown and Charlie Parker to Phillip Glass. He says he leaves the "creation of the picture to the sound itself" and, after cranking the volume, steps back. Once the paint starts jumping, a sound-trigger device that detects noise spikes automatically takes photos.
"I mostly selected works that were particularly dynamic, and percussive," Klimas said. Though he used songs from a variety of music styles and eras, many of the tracks chosen were by musicians who had ties to the visual art world, such as the Velvet Underground and John Cage.
Before they struck gold with "Get Lucky," Daft Punk got dance floors thumping with "Around the World" shown here.
Klimas spent six months completing the project in his Dusseldorf studio and took about 1,000 shots to get his final 212 images. He went through 18.5 gallons of paint, on average of 6 ounces per shot, and blew two speakers while cranking the tunes. He used a Hasselblad camera with a shutter speed of 1/7000th a second.
The above image is a photo of Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz, A Collective Improvisation."
Blown speakers and exactitudes aside, Klimas said "the most annoying thing was cleaning up the set thoroughly after every single shot." Check out more of Klimas' work on his website (www.martin-klimas.de), or better yet, if you're in New York City, stop by the Foley Gallery on the Lower East Side. There you can find his new exhibition, "SONIC," which opened earlier this month.
The above photo illustrates Pink Floyd's "On the Run."
Researchers at Lawrence Technological University have used artificial intelligence technology to analyze the style of a particular band, pinpoint nuances in the evolution of the band’s sound and then accurately map the group’s musical development over time.
Such an algorithm could be useful for searching, browsing and organizing large music databases and it can also work to more closely match a listener’s musical preferences.
Specifically, the scientists have focused on the work of The Beatles, analyzing songs from each of the 13 Beatles’ studio albums that were released in the U.K. The system works by transposing the audio of a song into a spectrogram — a visual representation of sound. The spectrogram is then broken down into thousands of numerical descriptors indicating shapes, patterns and distribution of similar pixels.
Here’s where it gets interesting. By using pattern recognition and statistical algorithms, the A.I. program was able to sequence all 13 albums in the proper order. The A.I. not only figured out that “Please, Please Me” was the Beatles first record, it also correctly placed subsequent albums — “With the Beatles,” “Beatles for Sale,” “A Hard Day’s Night” — in the proper order, all the way up to “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road.”
In essence, the program did a kind of massive compare-and-contrast analysis, figuring out which songs were most alike, and which were least alike. The A.I. even figured that the songs on “Let It Be,” the last album commercially released by the band, were in fact recorded before the songs on “Abbey Road,” the band’s second-to-last record.
“People who are not Beatles fans normally can’t tell that ‘Help!’ was recorded before ‘Rubber Soul,’ but the algorithm can,” says lead researcher Lior Shamir. “This experiment demonstrates that artificial intelligence can identify the changes and progression in musical styles by ‘listening’ to popular music albums in a completely new way.”
The research team has run similar experiments on recordings by Queen, U2 and Abba.
And this is interesting: In one of the early beta experiments, the team tried to run the Shania Twain catalog through the system, but the display simply generated the number “666″ on infinite loop, triggered a blackout in southeastern Canada, and shorted out three dozen orbital satellites. We kid, we kid.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons