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New software to hear music with one’s eyes

Music:eyes’ visualisation software Music:eyes visualisation software
Graham Strahle
| December 8, 2015

A powerful new graphical score software package called Music:Eyes is being developed in Switzerland for use by youth orchestras and music teaching institutions worldwide. Given the tag line “Experiencing Music with your Eyes”, the software allows those who cannot read music to appreciate the structures and complexities of music through animated visualisations. Coloured circles representing the notes in a piece of music move across a screen showing in real time the layers of a piece of music, such as melody and accompanying textures.

Its creators say Music:Eyes has a wide range of application from teaching music to live performance situations. The software has already been used to deliver live video in performances by Björk, countertenor Andreas Scholl and the Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang. A distinctive feature of the technology allows musicians to operate a crank handle, speeding up or slowing down the rate of flow on screen in order to synchronise with the other performers.

Music:Eyes was co-founded by Etienne Abelin, a Swiss violinist and conductor who has undertaken many innovative performance-based projects in classical music, and American composer and software engineer Stephen Malinowski. Three years ago Malinowski invented the Music Animation Machine (MAM) visualisation software upon which Music:Eyes is based. A consortium of eight institutional partners is behind the project, including Tonhalle-Orchestra Zurich, Music-Conservatory Zurich, Basel Sinfonietta and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Youth Orchestra.

Abelin says Music:Eyes has great potential for creative and educational uses. “Anyone will be able to create their own visualisations of music with a new software that has an intuitive user-interface. Musicians and non-musicians, people who read scores and those who don’t, children and adults alike.”

For young people, Abelin believes Music:Eyes can offer a new platform for “talking about ‘storytelling’ in symphonies” through visual representations of colours, shape etc that correspond to “the inner story of the piece”. He says that for more advanced students, Music:Eyes can serve as an analytical tool for visualising musical structures.

A noted advocate for bringing new, especially younger audiences to classical music, Abelin has explained in a TEDx talk how this new software can help newcomers appreciate classical music. His own performances on violin encompass a remarkably wide spectrum of styles, from baroque to hybrid jazz, pop and traditional Roma folk music.

Find some of Abelin’s performances here, and further information on Music:Eyes here.


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