Listen to Your Pictures Screech with this Wild New App
In the 2007 box office dud August Rush, child prodigy Evan Taylor is led by his ears towards mystery in New York City. He sees music all around him, going from street corner wind chimes to Midtown traffic jams as he uncovers his origin story. Now, thanks to a new web app from creative coder Olivia Jack, we too can hear the music embedded in the images around us. The app, called PIXELSYNTH, converts greyscale photos into musical chords, and the effect is arresting—and at times, ghastly.
Even with PIXELSYNTH’s tinkering options, the musical output is generally nightmarish, like someone gave a toddler free rein over a church organ. Jack drew inspiration from the ANS Synthesizer, a device that would translate glass discs into sound, similar to a music box. The ANS, dating back to 1937, was put on the market decades before Kraftwerk finally figured out how to make synthesizers sound good.
But PIXELSYNTH works with more than just patterned glass panes. The black and white images you import into the app can be mixed and morphed in all sorts of ways. Invert, pivot, and repeat the image to construct a sort of Escherian work of art. In this way, your composition is compounded, a synthesized piece that is equally reliant on audio and visuals.
The process of visualized music isn’t without precedent. Musicians like Aphex Twin and Disasterpeace have been known to create songs that draw images when viewed through the proper visual channel. Jack’s work reverses that process, a raw feed of visuals crudely translated into music.
At last, we are able to hear what our photos have been screaming about this whole time. So naturally, we took some of our favorite photos (that were taken exclusively for Milk) for a whirl. Though Sorelle‘s ringed gloves don’t fare too well, sharply accented by a five-fingered death cry, the audible thrall of Anouk Colantoni‘s illustrations is more measured—like a drone settling firmly into the stomach lining. And the Byron Spencer editorial “Punk Is Not Dead” fits its post-apocalyptic aesthetic. There is artistry here, the type of challenging clash of chords we’d expect to hear at a New Museum exhibit, or as two bands battle head-to-head in the same subway station.
PIXELSYNTH is a fun little time-waster that proves our Instagrams may not be as beautifully melodious as we thought they were. Then again, it’s possible your photos will fare quite well, but there’s only one way to find out.
To play PIXELSYNTH, visit their website.
Images via PIXELSYNTH.
Stay tuned to Milk for more melodious visualizers.