Last year I came across a fascinating lecture by Just Van Rossum in which he explores the The Sound of Shapes & Shape of Sounds. I finally got round to figuring out how to create those shapes myself with a little help from Hansi Raber’s OsciStudio coupled up with Blender. (There’s a nice video explaining how he got started with the whole thing.)

Hansi created OsciStudio as part of an oscilloscope music project together with Jerobeam Fendersen. Looking though some of his Max for Live patches I came across a little oscilloscope, and together with Ableton’s Operator synth could easily get some Lissajous shapes going. The ‘coarse’ frequencies in Operator follow the overtone series and one can set the phase relationship, so it’s easy to set up the Lissajous curves for different frequency proportions. Operator also has a wide variety of wave shapes that one can easily experiment with.

Following Just van Rossum’s idea of applying the Lissajous principles to letter shapes,1 I used Blender to trace the outline of the letter S in three typefaces, and recorded the resulting waveform as generated by OsciStudio. Those soundfiles are then filtered with a little LFO sweep in Ableton Live which gets the letters to dance. That’s an Arno “S” in the video.

An Ableton Live Pack containing it all can be downloaded here.

  1. See in particular the section on letter shapes that starts a little after 6 minutes in: 


Fascinating lecture on the shape of sounds & sound of (typographic) shapes via @_Kreidler

Takes up the topic of fonts and spatial frequencies that I’d mentioned in this note in a little more detail.