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2016  •  exhibit / information design  •  This exhibit explores the relationship of music between its physicality in 3D and 2D space, and the means both we—as humans—and machines interpret and translate between the two. 114 covers of the Jazz Standard “The Way You Look Tonight” were presented trough a visual interpretation that focused purely on its acoustic qualities. For every cover, a waveform was generated, along with a randomized pixel art portrait based on the cover artist name and the year it was published. Visitors could pick what cover to listen to using a connected trackpad and overhead display.

The music we make is an interactivity between the human—their history, emotions, past experiences, soul, intention and skill—with a physicality: themselves, an instrument, or just about any material or device utilized for the sake of producing a particular sound. Despite its medium being an audible one, our music does not exist in that sole vacuum. Whereas the visual can exist without sound, sound cannot exist without the visual—or, more precisely—its physical manifestation. In practice, distributed music is distributed with its visuals: if not the album art—a mere visual interpretation ideated by someone else—the fact that the artist’s name and titled song and album can be represented into the written word.

But what does it mean to choose music based on how the actual sound looks like from a visual standpoint, divorced away from their subjective or contextual graphics or any of their historical contextual standpoints?

The waveform of 114 different covers of the Jazz standard “The way you look tonight” were generated. Inside those waveform circles, algorithmically generated pixel portraits were created from the artist(s) name combined with the year the song was covered. An exhibit was designed to set these visuals onto a large space to encourage multiple persons to interact with it and turning the act of choosing music into a social affair. A large table was set up with a 111.76cm × 64.77cm sheet containing the full visuals and a trackpad, and a projector was setup in which visitors could select a song to play. The actual artist name was completely hidden until the moment the song played.

In reflection, I wished I could have have pushed it further and improved the actual setup. The digital component should have shown the year to improve accessibility, and a custom music player would have been more ideal.

Artist names were purposefully hidden until played. All other non-essential UI was also removed.

The dots below the artist visual indicate their respective era and if the cover was played by a trio, quintet, orchestra, or a collaboration.

The actual, less glamorous classroom setup. I had just removed some tape that kept the poster flat and I was too poor as a student for the Apple trackpad.

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