Mar. 05

Ode to Joy

Even though this project is about music, the music itself just didn't matter to me … at first. I wanted to create a system for the music to make the artwork, but I had to develop a way to draw with it first. Creating  artwork based on data with software is nothing new to me, but much of my work is based on data sets that aren't as complex as music.

Using Processing and its audio library Minim, I made some quick sketches with some of my favorite songs. As the sketching process developed, I noticed that the images I was making didn't feel like the music they were based upon. The music was good, but the images were better. Swirls of color on black backgrounds reminded me of photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope of distant galaxies or nebulas. There was a sense of wonder to my sketches that the music lacked.

I wanted the music for these drawings to fill me with a sense of awe and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D Minor was a natural choice. Beethoven's Ninth is one of my favorite pieces of music and if you ever hear it performed live I promise that your eyes will fill with tears in the fourth movement when the orchestra quickens the pace and the voices of the chorus rise above it.

For me, these drawings are a performance written in code. Frequency bands were given a visual voice; the marks you see are based on a simple theme which applies the same rules to a system that creates a unique drawing. The music's depth can be seen in the layers of line and color and if you know the music you may be able to see why one movement's drawing looks different from another.

I wouldn't dare say my work is anywhere as good — or as timeless — as Beethoven's, but I can say with certainty that making these drawings became an ode to the joy his music brings to me.


Mark Nystrom 01
Mark Nystrom 02
Mark Nystrom 03
Mark Nystrom 04
Mark Nystrom 05