Visual Music: Part 1

When I think of “looking” at music, I usually picture notes on a piece of paper. But another fascinating way to experience music is through the actual representation of the sound waves. It’s been a while since I posted spectrogram analysis on here, so I thought I’d return to it a bit this week. I was fooling around with my Adobe Audition software recently, examining various “pop” songs, when I stumbled across a particularly cool-looking spectrogram of none other than Psy’s “Gangam Style.”

The actual patterns created by the electronic beats are pretty awesome, and that’s what initially drew me in. But as I kept looking and listening (and fooling around with functions that allow me to silence or single out frequency-ranges), I realized that the parts of the song where Psy is speaking look eerily similar to the sound patterns created by the electronic beats (just with more noise surrounding the outline of harmonics).

Spoken voice:

Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.57.41 PM

Electronic beat (shown alone here, but underlies most of the song):

Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.58.02 PM

This can’t be purely accidental, but it also is not totally natural (as I discovered by muting certain ranges). The sound is definitely manipulated, but it still sounds like a speaking voice, and not Auto-Tune.  My hypothesis is that the general acoustic pattern of: o-ppa gang-nam seu-ta-il (오빠 강남스타일) was used to create the contour of the background electronic beat. Maybe this is far-out, but it seems possible! Pitch is more important to the Korean language than to English (though it is not a fully-tonal language like Mandarin Chinese). At the very least, it’s interesting to think about, and brings a new level to the meaning of well-set text.

I wish I could post a video of this, so you could watch the whole thing, but since I haven’t been able to figure that out, here are several snapshots of the most interesting places:

Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.45.45 PM

Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 2.43.06 PM Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.53.15 PM Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.52.46 PM   Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.53.44 PM Screen shot 2013-11-17 at 3.53.34 PM

And of course, the music video itself: