Artist Turns Famous Paintings, from Raphael to Monet to Lichtenstein, Into Innovative Soundscapes

I’ve long won­dered what it would feel like to have synes­the­sia, the neu­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non — this straight from Wikipedia — “in which stim­u­la­tion of one sen­so­ry or cog­ni­tive path­way leads to auto­mat­ic, invol­un­tary expe­ri­ences in a sec­ond sen­so­ry or cog­ni­tive path­way.” A synes­thete, in oth­er words, might “see” cer­tain col­ors when they read cer­tain words, or “hear” cer­tain sounds when they see cer­tain col­ors. Non-synes­thetes such as myself have trou­ble accu­rate­ly imag­in­ing such an expe­ri­ence, but we can get one step clos­er with the work of Greek artist-musi­cian-physi­cist Yian­nis Krani­d­i­o­tis, who, in his “Ichographs” series, turns the col­ors of famous paint­ings into sound.

“Exam­in­ing the rela­tion­ship between col­or and sound fre­quen­cies,” writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Claire Voon, “Krani­d­i­o­tis has recent­ly com­posed a sound­scape for Raphael’s ‘Madon­na del Pra­to’ (1505), or ‘Madon­na of the Mead­ow.’ His result­ing video work, ‘Ichographs MdelP,’ visu­al­izes the break­ing up of the paint­ing into 10,000 cubic par­ti­cles that cor­re­spond to var­i­ous sounds, hon­ing in on spe­cif­ic parts of the can­vas to explore the dif­fer­ent tones of dif­fer­ent col­ors.” You can view that video at the top of the post, and see even more at Krani­d­i­o­tis’ Vimeo chan­nel.

Voon quotes Krani­d­i­o­tis as explain­ing the basic idea behind the project: “Each col­or of a paint­ing can be an audio fre­quen­cy. Each par­ti­cle, like a pix­el in our com­put­er screen, car­ries a col­or and at the same time an audio fre­quen­cy (sinu­soidal wave).” He chose a Renais­sance paint­ing “to gen­er­ate a high con­trast between the clas­si­cal aes­thet­ics and the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tions that occur,” as well as to make use of its “blue and red col­ors that help to cre­ate a com­plex and inter­est­ing audio result.”

The artist has more to say at The Cre­ators Project, explain­ing that “there are areas of sound and col­or (light) that humans can per­ceive with their eyes and ears (hear­ing and vis­i­ble range) and areas where we need spe­cial equip­ment (like infrasound—ultrasound and infrared—ultraviolet ranges). As a physi­cist, I was always fas­ci­nat­ed by these com­mon prop­er­ties and I was inves­ti­gat­ing ways to high­light and jux­ta­pose them.”

You can enjoy more Icho­graph­ic expe­ri­ences in the oth­er two videos embed­ded here, the first an overview of the process as applied to a vari­ety of paint­ings from a vari­ety of eras, and then a piece focused on trans­form­ing into sound the col­ors of Claude Mon­et’s 1894 “Rouen Cathe­dral, West Facade.” While Krani­d­i­o­tis’ process does­n’t draw from these works of visu­al art any­thing you’d call music, per se, the son­ic tex­tures do make for an intrigu­ing­ly incon­gru­ous ambi­ent accom­pa­ni­ment to these well-known can­vas­es. If the Lou­vre offered his “com­po­si­tions” loaded onto those lit­tle audio-tour devices, maybe I’d actu­al­ly use one.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic/The Cre­ators Project

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Course: An Intro­duc­tion to the Art of the Ital­ian Renais­sance

Take a 3D Vir­tu­al Tour of the Sis­tine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca and Oth­er Art-Adorned Vat­i­can Spaces

Bach’s Bran­den­burg Con­cer­to #4, Visu­al­ized by the Great Music Ani­ma­tion Machine

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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