Beast Sounds Go Visual in Artist’s Synesthetic Creations

The images Mark Fischer makes for his Aguasonic Acoustics project are visually mesmerizing, like something you might find in a black-light room at the back of a smokeshop.

These images, however, weren’t created to enhance your high. They’re part of an art project where Fischer takes animal sounds — mainly whales, dolphins and birds — and processes them through software he wrote to turn them into pictures.

He calls his images “pictures” or “photos” because he thinks the approach is very similar to photography. Both capture raw data, be it sound or light, and use that data to make a particular visual representation.

“The methodology is definitely photographic,” he says.

Usually animal sounds are represented visually with spectograms, which are graphs of sound waveforms. Fischer’s software uses a mathematical procedure called a wavelet because he thinks it’s a more robust way to visually analyze sound. It’s more robust, he says, because wavelets can simultaneously zoom in on details in the sound while still representing the overall pattern of the data, whereas a spectogram has to choose either detail or big picture and can’t do both.

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