Sonic Art – German Audio-Visual Artist Makes Pictures from Sound Waves

Ever wondered what the sound of an airplane propeller looks like? Rainer Tautenhahn, a curious audio-visual artist from Germany can transform any sound into a colorful optic signal.

“The ears are the only ears we have that never switch off”, Tautenhahn told Deutsche Welle. “Ears never lie, in contrast to our eyes that sometimes deceive us”. He wanted to find out what a penetrating tone actually looked like, what’s the secret to a soprano’s voice that allows him to sing like that, and decided he could only reveal the magic of sound by turning it into light waves. He begins the artistic process by recording sounds with an ultra-sensitive microphone, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. In order to get the right pictures, the 47-year-old waits until he gets the right levels. When he’s done, a computer software helps process noise into images, and although the final images look computer-generated, he never alters them in any way.

Like a fingerprint, every noise is unique, shaped by its tone, length and rhythm. After hundreds of experiments, the artist says he has come to realize lower tones are blue, while higher ones tend to be reddish, but he never knows what his images will look like just by listening to the sounds. There are several other things to take into account, like the mood in someone’s voice. For example, an aggressive voice looks different from a friendly one, penetrating voices have sharp edges while soft voices are more like waves.

Rainer Tautenhahn’s sonic artworks can fetch up to €7,500 ($9,700) and they are especially popular with big companies around Europe. They record the sounds in their workplace and print them on glass or steel panels up to 3.20-long. His most recent works are even more impressive, as viewers can even listen to the images thanks to a pair of headphones attached to the artwork.



Photos: Sonic Picture

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