05/04/2012 08:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'IDENTITY: The Sound In Art' Translates Art Into Music With Digital Technology (PHOTOS)

Sometimes a great work of art speaks to you, but have you ever heard it sing to you? Multimedia artist Kelsey Sweet and musician Scott Turek were determined to find out.

Kelsey describes herself on Kickstarter as "an outlaw thinking beyond the bounds of typical boxes." Scott, who has been a music student for almost 10 years, is invested in the future interactions of analog and digital media. The pair set out to discover what a painting sounds like through breaking down Sweet's paintings into digital information and translating it from sight to sound. The project, called "IDENTITY: The Sound in Art," could pave new possibilities for the future of art experience. It sounds like a fascinating project but we had a lot of questions so we had a brief chat with the inventive artists.

HP: How did you come up with the idea for IDENTITY?

S/K: Like most endeavors within the arts, timing we believe has been everything. At the time the idea for IDENTITY came in to fruition, Kelsey had began researching neurological implications for aesthetics which involved analyzing statistical data of her artworks generated from monochromatic images. Right about the same time, I was enrolled in an electronic music composition course at UNR and was learning the basic premise of Musique Concrete. While finding ways to create and manipulate sound, I fell upon a few methods and programs that allowed me to import any digital data ranging from images to the executable files themselves in to audio information. When we realized that we were working with similar implications, we cross pollinated our research and came up with the idea to turn the parts of the physical artwork that Kelsey was working on in to viable compositions of sound art.

HP: Can you describe how exactly you were able to translate visual imagery into sound information in this piece?

S/K: Well, after experimenting with importing various digital mediums in to the program (called Audacity, a free downloadable program by Dominic Mazzoni), I found that the best and cleanest sounds came from simple .exe windows executable files and monochromatic images. Kelsey gave me a few series' of her artworks as monochromatic bitmap files to work with, and after importing them in to the program, voila! The sound came alive! After a sufficient collection of sounds were obtained, I used Apple's digital audio workstation Logic to arrange the sounds into meaningful narratives.


HP: Did you notice a connection between sight and sound in the works you tested?

S/K: Each individual image has it's own auditory signature/representation. In order to find out more about this, Kelsey and I need to research more for a correlation between why the pictures sound the way that they do when imported. But from what I understand, the images are imported pixel by pixel in a top-down fashion and are spread linearly from there. Personally, I feel that I can hear where the image has highlights or deeply saturated areas of color.

HP: How do you think your project will enhance the art viewing experience?

S/K: Traditionally, when a musician wanted to interpret art into a composition, they had to infer to their own idea of what the art piece subjectively meant. What we are doing instead is a direct auditory translation from image data which represent the functions and features of the art that we are working with. While the final composition still maintains a level of our own subjectivity in creating the piece, the sounds that are arranged are the art in itself, not the artists representation of what it would sound like. This project enhances the viewing experience via multi-sensory modality. You can see the art piece as well as hear it!

HP: If you could transform any artwork what would it be?

S/K: That's a fun question! And a tough question too. As we speak, Kelsey has been gathering statistical information on various other artists such as Caravaggio, Dali, Picasso, and Jeff Ramirez. We have an entire world of the arts to explore... how can we choose just one?

They're right... we don't want to choose! Check out their Kickstarter page and assure we won't have to choose.