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There are lots of animated visualizations (of a specific kind) of performed music around that I would like to understand better:

  • How accurate are they?

  • Do they help to understand music better? If so: how and why?

  • Or are they some kind of hoax and misleading?

The above mentioned "specific kind" is: To visualize the flow of music along a time line which a "camera" follows - similar to standard notation.

Based on standard notation

enter image description here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1B7060F21E6C1D51

Inspired by standard notation

enter image description here https://www.musanim.com/watch_mam.html

Free style

Especially with respect to the (admittedly very impressive) free style examples (based on Line Rider) some questions came to my mind:

  • How accurate are they?

  • Couldn't there be completely different pieces of music with rather similar visualizations?

  • Or the same piece of music with completely different visualizations?

Are there possibly (Line Rider) examples around

  • of the same piece of music but visualized completely differently?

  • of the same visualization but of completely different pieces of music?

To condense this post into one question:

Is there evidence that animated visualizations of music can help to understand music better?

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    The phrase "understand music better" is undefinable, I fear. – Carl Witthoft Jan 21 at 16:05
  • @CarlWitthoft: I agree. This is a main drawback of my question. Could you be of help to improve the question, assuming that there is some sense in it? – Hans-Peter Stricker Jan 21 at 16:07
  • @Hans-PeterStricker - It's your question. Could you use the comment box to riff on what you are curious about, what you'd like to understand better, and most importantly, why? What led you to be interested in this? Are you focused on learning tools, by any chance? And if so, who is the target audience, what is their level, what do they want to get out of it? – aparente001 Jan 21 at 16:12
  • @aparente001: Good (because specific) questions! I'll try to answer them. So much for now: It's not about learning tools, it's more about giving new insights for those who are already learned. – Hans-Peter Stricker Jan 21 at 16:17
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    Try whatever re-wording you like, just keep in mind "is it objectively answerable?" BTW, I voted to re-open. I thought the question was clear enough, but other members probably want more objectivity. – Michael Curtis Jan 21 at 17:26
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I’m not an academic musicologist but I really cannot see this kind of sound-to-light generation being remotely useful in replacing standard notation to transmit, store, or analyse music in the way you suggest.

Unless an agreed standard is reached where colours and positions can be agreed to represent notes, durations and rhythms, these will always be an on-screen visual accompaniment to the music, a kind of YouTube son-et-lumiere show; maybe nice to look at as you’re listening, but no more meaningful than the light show at a rock concert.

And of course if there was an agreed standard of colours and position to pitch etc., it will still be a long way short of conveying information in the density that standard notation does.

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(Bunus video link at the bottom)

Q: How accurate are they?

A: Some of them (e.g. some MIDI-to-colored-lines) can be pretty accurate in terms of pitch and duration, many others are mostly an artist's impression. (Like the line rider)

Q: Couldn't there be completely different pieces of music with rather similar visualizations?

A: Yes, if the visualization principle is a simplification. E.g. if the visualization principle is that music going higher is visualized by a line going higher, and vice-versa, there can be many different melodies with a similar pattern of ascending and descending intervals, which will result in similar animation, but will be based on totally different actual notes and intervals.

Q: Or the same piece of music with completely different visualizations?

A: Of course, because one can invent infinite different ways of visualizing any value (e.g. pitch) that changes in time.

Q: Are there possibly (Line Rider) examples around of the same piece of music but visualized completely differently?

A: If different people decide to visualize the same music it's virtually guaranteed they will come up with different visualizations. Just like different human civilizations will independently come up with different looking scripts and alphabet letters for the same basic sounds.

Q: Can you recreate the music from the visualization?

A: It all depends on how precise and detailed the visualization is. Visualizations can go from the most primitive (a line going roughly up and down in sync with the highs and lows of a melody) to extremely precise -- look at the waveform of a recording in an audio editing software, that's also a visualization of music, and if you have that image, that visualization, you can recreate the original music with far more precision and detail than any standard notation system.

Bonus video link as promised... reading your question reminded me of the Cat Concert, and I wondered how much a pianist who never heard the original could play it back by just seeing (and not hearing) the animation -- i.e. the visualization.

You'll find the original easily on YouTube, but this one from me is even more interesting ;-)

Cheers

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