The sound of my face

Okay, this is hands-down the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. Coagula is a little freeware application that turns the pixels of an image into music. You can use the program to create little colorful line-drawings, and then see what sort of tunes they make. Indeed, the simpler the drawing, the more cogent the tune is.

You can, however, load in a snapshot and see what you get. Since photos are much more pixel-rich, the result is less like music and more like nicely messed-up ambient noise from an old synth. As an example, I took a picture of my face (as seen above) and ran it through Coagula; the resulting sound file is here.

In case you’re wondering, I tinted the picture red so that it would get rid of any blue. The program renders blue as staticky noise. As the author, Rasmus Ekman, describes the algorithm:

Coagula reads image data and adds up masses of sine waves — each line in the image controls the amplitude of one oscillator at a certain pitch. The vertical position of a pixel decides the frequency, while its horizontal position corresponds to time. You can of course freely set the total time and the frequency range for your image. Red and green control stereo placement: Red is sent to left channel, while green controls amplitude of the right channel. The brighter the colour, the louder the sound.

Now all I have to do is crack out my snyths and guitars, and I can write a piece of music where the background sound is my face.

(Thanks to the J-Walk Blog for this one!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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