Sonicrama is a software and an audio plugin which allows the user to:
– visually find harmonic ratios between audio frequencies
– build microtuned musical scales
– create binaural beats, monaural beats and isochronic tones
– perform audio-visual sessions
– record/export the sessions to video.
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This software can be implemented in psychoacoustics, geometry, astronomy, microtonal music.
I have built a draft version of the software in Max MSP and I’m currently recoding it all in C++, adding extra features and a new interface, with the aim to obtain a fast-performing and lightweight audio plugin and standalone application.
Below you’ll find screenshots of the beta version of this software and some video exported from the program itself.
This software is born primarily from two desires of mine:
Similarly to a herbalist that prepares a medicine, a musician should be able to finely tune the ingredients of his or her musical composition, so to be able to create the right balance within the whole.
The power of vibration on human psyche and its deep relationship with life and the whole cosmos is nothing new. From the Pythagorean concept of “Music of the spheres” to the quantum physics’ “string theory”, sound and vibration prove to play a key role in the unfolding of our universe.
Galileo said that “mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe”. In fact mathematics is the bond that holds together sound and form. One example of this direct link is given by the result of cymatics’ experiments. We find use and knowledge of this bond in the relationship between sound and form according to Tantra. In the tantric tradition, the visual representation of sound (mantra) is called yantra, in a direct relationship where each characteristic of sound mirrors in its geometrical counterpart.
Various meditation techniques use sound as a focus point, while others use images (like the Yantra) to hold and maintain connection with higher planes of consciousness, or, more often, sound and images are used together for a greater impact.
Our natural tendency to resonate with what we focus on turns to be a valuable way to expand ourself beyond what we think we are. For example, focusing our attention on the golden ratio, be it in audible form (as you can find in some musical compositions) or in optical form (greek temples and good part of pictorial and architectonic production from Renaissance to our days), we gradually align with the balance expressed by that mathematical proportion, of which nature is so abundant.
As a result, deliberately bringing our attention to specific ratios, having both the visual and the sonic counterparts to work with, we can easily tune in with our natural rhythm, thus centring ourselves. In fact this software that I call SonicRama, besides being a fun tool to explore bizarre shapes through sound frequencies, is also a tool through which you can create your own yantra, design a tailored audio/visual meditation session, or generate binaural beats which you can use to stimulate specific cerebral frequencies. Its mapping feature allows to choose and save the harmonic ratios that interest you the most, by assigning them to a on-screen keyboard which you can control via an external midi controller.
From a musician’s point of view, this approach to sound fosters a more synaesthetic way to compose music in which geometrical combinations become a new decision-making criterion. By proceeding in this fashion we can create musical pieces with well defined harmonic qualities, that we can study in detail or even design instinctively, going by the shape that attracts us the most.
Sonicrama features a built-in ratio calculator and a collection of frequencies charts.
It is usable as a standalone sound-wave generator, and in conjunction with audio coming from a microphone or a line-in. This allows to compare the incoming sound with a user-defined set of frequencies, to explore the geometrical and musical relationships between the two.
Due to its capability of blending and comparing external audio in a visual form, Sonicrama is particularly versatile for performances featuring live instruments. For example a singer and a violinist can project the visual representation of their sounds as the two instruments dialogue together, thus allowing the performers to investigate new ways to play according to the visual outcome.
This post is also available in: Italian