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How to paint a Led Zeppelin song


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Picturing sounds: How to paint a Led Zeppelin song

6 December 2010

Cian O'Luanaigh, reporter

At the Riverside Gallery in Richmond, London, artist in residence Alex Baker is painting with sound.

"It started as a simple silly idea," says Baker. "What happens if I pour some liquid onto a speaker and turn it on?"

Covering rubber speakers in ink, Baker collects the patterns kicked up by the vibrations different sounds make using a plastic diaphragm above the sound source (see photo).

"Certain frequencies respond better and give a clearer image," he says. "A pure-tone sine wave produces an incredibly delicate pattern." Baker also considers short percussive notes and the frequencies of the sounds which define speech successful.


Rather than methodically catalogue different sound forms, Baker keeps only the most interesting patterns. "What interests me the most is how it looks" he says.

Getting the technique right is no clear task. Too much ink on the diaphragm above the speaker and globules form due to surface tension, ruining the picture. Too little and it's hard to capture a pattern at all.

To paint entire songs takes a degree of trial and error. "I wanted to capture Led Zeppelin's When the Levee Breaks," says Baker. "To get the drawing right I had to listen to that song 36 times."

The river by the gallery is another source of sounds, recorded underwater using a hydrophone. "It's difficult to get a pattern because it's actually very peaceful around here" he says.

Baker's residency is funded by the Institute of Physics public engagement grant scheme and centres on acoustics research done at the National Physical Laboratory.

His work will feature in the Picturing Science exhibition which opened at the Riverside Gallery in Richmond on December 4 and will run until February 26.


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Looks like a inkblot from the cards of the Rorschach test.

Doctor :"Tell me, what do you see when you look at this card"

ledzepfvr: "I see Led Zeppelin"

Doctor: "Very interesting"



Wait, that stain is the result of painting LedZep's music ?? I thought it was just an example, of how it look like a picture on that technique.

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It is a magnet and some iron fillings or oops spilt my inkwell. don't see the Zeppelin connection.

Me either. :blink:

I paint to Zeppelin all the time. In fact, it's my music of choice when painting. It loosens me up to become more expressive and free with what I end up putting on the canvas.

I don't know, I don't get it. Well, I do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . What's the song from "Gypsy"? "You Gotta Have a Gimmick". Just wish I would have thought of that first, then maybe I would be in a London gallery. :slapface:

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