Audible Art

What we do here is to let you point at some point in a picture and translate the color there into sound. If you want to know how that is done, it is described in the "How We Translate" part, below.

What is the Point?

Of course, a painting is meant to be looked at, not to be listened to using a scheme that the painter didn't even know about. The point of the sound is to add something.

First, sound points out certain interesting features of the painting – interesting sounds come out when the mouse moves over interesting things in the painting, at least certain kinds of interesting things. Light and color contrasts, for example, but also subtle shading in the background.

Sound also gives the viewer a way to interact with the painting, become more involved with it, and notice more things about it. When I start to play with the sound, I end up looking at a painting much longer and, I think, more deeply than if I just looked at it until I started to glaze and then moved on.

Note About Something Confusing

On some browsers, if you click the top margin, the audio will be muted. (I don't know why.) If you click again somewhere inside the browser window, the audio will be unmuted.

NEW!! Multi-Touch!!

You can now get sound from more than one place in a picture by touching it with more than one finger – if your touch screen supports that. (My laptop only supports two touches and cancels everything when I put down a third finger.)

Nothing is stopping you from using a mouse at the same time, but be aware that putting touching a finger will cancel what the mouse is doing. (This happens because of the way mouse and touch work, not because of how I have programmed things.)


This is my second try at translating colors into sounds and seeing what happens when I do with the colors of an actual painting. My first try, also using Tanya Khachiyan's paintings, is at the "Old version" link, above.

The new method seems more musical to me and can produce results that fit a wider variety painting styles. But the old method does have more of a soaring strangeness to it.

How We Translate Color To Sound

We first decompose a color into three values using a well-known method. There are several such systems. I have used HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luma) which is the most commonly used color model of this kind. Somehow it produces a sweeter sound than HSI (Hue, Saturation, Intensity), another common color model.

We use this representation this way:

There is a control button, described below, to switch the roles of luma and saturation.

Summary of Controls

When viewing a painting, a set of controls will appear on the right. I have given them initial settings that sound good to me, so you don't really need to mess with the controls, unless you want to do better, which you probably can.

At present, there is no way to save the settings that you set, so if you might want to use them again, write them down.

The initial settings will be restored if you press the Set Defaults button at the bottom of the control panel. If you Return to Menu and then select the same painting again, you will be back again at the initial settings.

From top to bottom, the control settings are: