The Music Animation Machine

The Music Animation Machine, by Stephen Malinowski, is one of the few functional programs that attempt to truly translate music into a visual presentation. I must admit that I was underwhelmed when I first encountered it, but I have come to appreciate its virtues as I have worked through the issues involved myself. As well, it turns out that Malinowski did a considerable number of later experiments in which he attempted to answer to some of his system's deficiencies. His entire history of experiments and their related documentation are well worth a look for those who are particularly interested in this whole question of translation music to image.

In his standard version of the machine, he translates MIDI files of music into a moving, piano-roll notation, using colour to further differentiate the notes of the octave. The currently playing notes are at the center and are highlighted throughout their duration. The Music Animation Machine is much more practical and prosaic than most examples of Visual Music, but Malinowski does manage to present the music itself with more precision. Certain aspects of the music are held in his animations. They express the melodic trajectory well. They do give a decent sense of note densities. His colour coding sometimes is able to clearly present shifting tonalities. Rhythm is reasonably well articulated although its expression is somewhat dampened by the overall nature of his system of translation. It is a shame that he seemed to stop development of his system some years ago, because he seems to have been asking a lot of the right questions.