How people pick up and understand sound is varied in so many ways depending on when they started being deaf. A way to visualise sound to deaf people is through the use of rhythm, shape and colours. An example of a well-known form of visualisation is the Synesthesia. According to Baron-Cohen & Harrison 1997, “Synesthesia is a process whereby one sense is used to interpret and give meaning to information garnered through another sense” It is the act of translating sound to sight.

In relation to this form of sound representation, a strong example is Liget’s Artikulation. The film is a collation of experimental sounds visualised in different shapes, sizes and colours to convey the types of sounds there are. The colours of the sound imagery depend on how high or how low the pitch is. For example, a black circle gives out a deep and low sound effect. In general, colours emphasize the type of mood of anything it is used on and Liget has applied and executed this concept very well to his work.

While colour represents pitch, size determines how loud the sound is. With how design works, anything big and bold “screams” at you. He uses this technique and repeats it across while slowly introducing new sounds after one sheet ends after another. Chaos is introduced progressively once the viewer gets an idea of the visual sounds and their representation. (Fig. 1). The different shapes and how the direction they are facing helps emphasize on high/low pitch and mood that the sounds give out. Each sound symbolises something that reminds the viewer of an aspect of their past. (Fig. 2).

Artboard 1.png

Figure 1 – Introducing sounds gradually allows the viewer to understand what each symbol means

Artboard 2.png
Figure 2 – Personal interpretation of what some sounds represent visually

The overall film of sound is very still. Liget shows progression of sound through the use of the black vertical line moving across the screen. It is very similar to the traditional music boxes that would play through a roll of metal with bumps on it. (Fig. 3). The different line lengths and repetition of bumps introduces the idea of this being an instrument for sound and a reminder that it is related to sound as most traditional musical instrument have this sort of appearance.

inside of a music box
Figure 3 – Vintage Japanese Music Box

A very similar piece of work that seems to be influenced by Artikulation is Ryoji Ikeda’s The transfinite. Ikeda’s work involves a continuous flow of moving lines that communicate and reflect to the sound that is playing. The line weight is highly dependent on the pitch of the sound. For example, thinner lines represents quick, sharp, and a ticklish feeling while dark and heavy lines help with creating a heavy atmosphere. (Fig. 4).

Artboard 3.pngFigure 4 – The weight of the lines help communicate the different pitches and feelings

In summary, both Artikulation and The Transfinite are strong examples of what sound to visual representation is translated to be. The use of rhythm, shape and colours help communicate the progress matching the sound allowing both deaf and non-deaf people to understand what is going on when watching.

Craig, D. 2007, Ligeti – Artikulation, viewed 10 June 2017, video recording, Youtube, < >

Holding, S. 2012, Ryoji Ikeda: The transfinite, video recording, Youtube, viewed 10 June 2017, < >

Radcliff, M. n.d., Vintage Japanese Music Box, viewed 10 June 2017, < >

Rosen, R.S. 2007, Representations of Sound in American Deaf Literature, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


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