Painting in sound – The Virtual ANS synthesiser

I’ve just come across this application, and it’s causing me some excitement, perhaps more so than the PaulStretch app – the virtual ANS synthesiser.

It was pointed out to me by Noel Burgess at UWS (thanks Noel) that this is based upon a Russian synthesiser developed in the 1940s/50s (yes, they are that old!) by Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin – it was inspired by the composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin who suffered, if you call it that, from the condition known as synaesthesia, whereby he could see musical tones in colours. This condition manifests in various different forms, but for Scriabin there was a fundamental link between music and colour, which is the area I’ve been investigating. Murzin was inspired to create a way of interpreting visual data and turning it into sound, in the original instance by way of a glass drawing surface or plate, in which lines can be etched, and the light coming through the glass plate is converted via photovoltaic cells into data that is send through to signal generators – the synthesiser literally ‘reads’ the squiggles and scribblings and reinterprets them as sound. Which as you could imagine, is pretty cool – especially when you translate that idea to something as tangible as an iPad or a tablet device.

Which is exactly what software developed Alexander Zolotov has done, in creating a version of this for the iPad – it also runs on OS X, Linux and Windows. Check out some of the screenshots below:

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The vertical axis represents frequency, whereas the horizontal represents time – simple enough idea, and you get a nice selection of drawing tools which generate all manner of sounds, dependant on where you place your scribbling or shapes. It’s very pleasant to look at too, which is half the appeal – did I mention that you can also import other sounds and image files, which the synthesiser then ‘plays’ for you?  Very cool….

Stay tuned for more developments on this extremely nifty bit of software as I discover it’s many intricacies and quirks. Until next…