Timbre Color Analysis

An Application converts frequencies of audio files to colors. Caroline Shaw who is one of the Contemporary Composers's work (Passacaglia - (4th mvt) from Partita for 8 Voices) seems to be a good fit to look how this app works, currently.

Timbre is an important and mysterious concept that is fully functional in music perception though it is quite elusive when it comes to articulate what exactly it is. To develop an awareness of something which I was thinking that is already given, I particularly liked James Gibson’s “theory of affordances”. As one of the branches of cognition, it is particularly important to understand how sound functions in the environment. Theory predicts and categorizes unknown sounds from already known sound objects. I believe this process is hard wired and internalized in human mind that is not only sound specific but overarching phenomena constructing meaning. It would be one of the sources of internalized computational human creativity. This latter overarching phenomenon is much more connected to constructing meaning and creativity which seems to be an inner working of human cognition.

To understand unknown sounds from the known is an implicit or an explicit analytical process. It is an explicit knowledge to give an appropriate reaction to someone who cries for help. There is no need to analyze overtones series and loudness of the sound if it falls into appropriate category, then giving a hand to that person in need of help. But when the question turns that why species in need elicit high pitch and loud sound and how I can represent/generate this sound computationally to make a proper comparison between different high pitches and loud sounds in laboratory conditions, it changes how to approach to the problem.

It is difficult to analyze timbre since its individual parameters are inaudible, but the total of those parameters is. What I mean to say, a whole timbre perception is combination of overtones series that each of them has different amplitude volume, which is impossible to hear individually; but, combination of these amplitudes passes over the threshold of volume levels of human hearing, and they turn out to be perceptible. This characteristic makes timbre elusive when it comes to articulate it. In other words, it is most of the time impossible to explain in natural languages what actually timbre is. Thus, it is important to use sound processors to understand how sound objects work technically in general and what the characteristic of a particular sound object and its connection to general description. Embodying an argument structure is qualitatively, I guess, the most important step for analyzing subjective perception and human cognition since generalization puts forward benchmarks and arguments to be falsified or verified empirically. However, this general understanding is not always enough to explain subjective perception and human cognition that needs to be elaborated quantitatively in empirical studies to verify or falsify its general description about human cognition. Some sound processors like spectrograms are functional instruments in this context. In terms of subjective meaning of sound sources when they are articulated metaphorically, it may be related to one person’s individual meaning construction process that is obviously related with his/her peculiarity and individual life story. However, if the same metaphor makes sense with significant number of people (that may be measured in qualitative empirical works), then it is also important to articulate and verify what sources and causes are of this generalization.

Beyond spectrograms though I believe it needs to develop some tools to articulate feelings of what sound sources of a particular object. This is even a precondition for a metaphoric articulation. What is this sound? Oh, are you talking about that “x” sound? This communication is an important one for a mutual understanding and consensus about what is the object of the conversation. When we hear sounds and talk about it, there is not even a consensus about what we are talking about, and reading spectrogram makes two things. First, it needs to have a little expertise, and even when people have this expertise, this manner of discussing sound makes the conversation like the one in a scientific round-table conference. It is great in its purpose but also pretty boring when it comes to casual daily conversations.

I develop the current app for this purpose which counts the highest amplitude of a chromatic tone series and depending on the highest one, it changes the color of the canvas. Colors are currently given as below.

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Comparing timbre with colors, is the given color palette enough to explain the canvas below? I guess It is not. Well, is the second palette enough to articulate Kandinsky’s Black Lines. I guess, it is still not, but much better than the first color palette. Our timbre questions in music like “what do you think about this timbre” is like a question, what do you think about this color? What does “this” color mean… This “this” can’t really make sense, sorry! I think it is crucial to set forth a descriptive model for names of timbre colors in music and develop a consensus. If a visible spectrum hadn't been conceptualized in fine arts, painters and art critics could have been speechless about their matter of fact in analysis. But, fair enough, we as musicians most likely deal with much more abstract material of work as sound escape from the limits of natural languages..

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For example, variation C in the composition (find around 01:45 in the video) is mostly red in terms of parameters given by app. This is because the red represents D note which is the pedal note. One of the important features of this analysis, while melody of variation C starts at the beginning of the piece, sound is orange that means C# is the highest amplitude in F# fundamental frequency in that timbre, and then in the variation C, sound turns out to be red since the pedal of the D which is represented by red. However, this app is still in its primitive form. Just like how 12 tone color palette can’t represent Kandinsky’s "Black Lines" properly, this basic analytical tool can’t analyze the piece in its own right (11/24/2023). Then, it requires to expand the range of its color to represent overtone series better, visually lest we shouldn't be silent about something we cannot speak because of some certain difficult but not unsurmountable phenomenon of music.