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Soundscapes Composed from the Colors of Famous Paintings

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Yiannis Kranidiotis, “Ichograph Triptych – Monet” (2015), giclée print on paper (150 cm x 78 cm) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)

What might a Raphael sound like, based on the particular colors of its paint? According to artist and musician Yiannis Kranidiotis, similar to the sound one makes from blowing on a bottle or rubbing the rim of a water glass. Examining the relationship between color and sound frequencies, Kranidiotis has recently composed a soundscape for Raphael’s “Madonna del Prato” (1505), or “Madonna of the Meadow.” His resulting video work, “Ichographs MdelP,” visualizes the breaking up of the painting into 10,000 cubic particles that correspond to various sounds, honing in on specific parts of the canvas to explore the different tones of different colors.

“The basic idea behind the ‘Ichographs’ project is that each color of a painting can be an audio frequency,” Kranidiotis told Hyperallergic in an email. “Each particle, like a pixel in our computer screen, carries a color and at the same time an audio frequency (sinusoidal wave).”

Warmer colors such as red, he explains, carry higher frequencies, and cooler colors such as blue have lower ones. So as the video pans over Madonna’s scarlet dress, we hear higher pitches; conversely, as it scans fragments of the blue sky, the sounds are more sonorous.

Ichographs MdelP from Yiannis Kranidiotis on Vimeo.

“I chose a painting from the Renaissance period to generate a high contrast between the classical aesthetics and the digital transformations that occur,” Kranidiotis said. “This painting is very harmonic, with a pyramidal structure, and full of blue and red colors that help to create a complex and interesting audio result. With the digital transformations that occur, the viewer has an opportunity to reveal a latent version of the old masterpiece.”

“Ichographs MdelP” is the latest work to emerge from Kranidiotis’s Ichographs series, which he started last year, although it is the most in-depth and most complex. Rather than illustrating soundscapes in a three-dimensional space, his first video shows them against the two-dimensional surfaces of each canvas. A compilation, “Ichographs” (2014) features nine short orchestrations based on nine artworks. Kranidiotis chose portraits, landscapes, and abstract paintings drawn from various time periods and artistic movements to test his software on a diverse grouping. A bather sporting red shorts in Seurat’s “Bathers at Asnières” (1884), for instance, emits a tinny sound while one of Pollock’s drip paintings is a dense blend of tones. Gene Davis’ “Self-Portrait” (1889) sounds like a recording of wildlife noises, sounding out one by one as each colorful stripe is analyzed individually.

Ichographs from Yiannis Kranidiotis on Vimeo.

Interestingly, the soundscapes tend to adopt some of their paintings’ visual properties, with certain noises evocative of the texture of paint, the gestural strokes of the artists, and even the subject matter.

“Caravaggio’s dramatic use of light is transformed into a passage from single tone into frequency density,” Kranidiotis said. “Sound follows the complexity of colors and patterns of Pollock’s drip technique, and the reflections of light on the surface of Monet’s water lily pool produce a multicolor drone.”

“You can even say that in the other painting by Monet, the ‘Rouen Cathedral, West Facade,’ the sound simulates the echoes from the bells of the Cathedral.”

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Yiannis Kranidiotis, “Ichographs MdelP” (2015) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)
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Yiannis Kranidiotis, “Ichographs MdelP” (2015) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)
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Yiannis Kranidiotis, “Ichographs MdelP” (2015) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)
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Yiannis Kranidiotis, screenshot of the custom software used for creating “Ichographs MdelP” (2015) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)
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Jackson Pollock’s “Number 1A” (1948), still frame from “Ichographs” (2014) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)
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“Portrait of Vincent van Gogh” (detail) (1925/1928), still frame from “Ichographs” (2014) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)
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Caravaggio’s “Salome with the Head of John the Baptist” (1609), Still frame from “Ichographs” (2014) (© Yiannis Kranidiotis)

h/t The Creators Project

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