MuSA.RT: interactive and scientific visualizations of musical structures

Hello! Today I want to talk about the content of the following video, in which Professor Elaine Chew talks about MuSA.RT, an application to visualize structures in music:

MuSA.RT stands for “Music on the Spiral Array . Real-Time” and is developed by Elaine Chew and Alexandre François at the University of Southern California. The tool maps real time MIDI information from a piano keyboard to pitch names in a certain structure. The closest chord and the closest key are calculated and the structure is visualized on a 3D spiral, which represents a certain key. (There is more information in the video but there is no need for us here to go deeper into the music theory.)

musart_imagean example of what the visualization looks like

With MuSA.RT you can see the evolution of tonal patterns in music (like chords and key changes) over time. It can for example be used to see how well the music sticks to what is “expected”. In the video this is illustrated with a piece that has a “jazzy, funky twist” to it, and the difference with a predictable structure can clearly be seen.

I think that one of the most interesting advantages of this visualization is that musicians can take an entirely different look at various options to create other kinds of music to express themselves in different ways; maybe they get ideas to try certain things that they would not have thought of in their usual process of making music. What do you think? Is this a useful tool? Do you know anything else like it?

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4 Responses to MuSA.RT: interactive and scientific visualizations of musical structures

  1. janthesuit says:

    Awesome! I want it! 🙂 Really a nice way of merging tried and tested musical theory with modern capabilities an visualisation methods. Musical theory with chords, keys, sequences, harmony, etc… is really complicated and hard to learn for someone who ‘just wants to make some music.’ I think this would be a really great tool in allowing amateur musicians to make their *own* music instead of playing what others have made. Will something like this be added to your project?

    • At the moment we are still looking for a good way to represent the music to be played. It is desirable to have something visual and clear, so it might end up with some elements of this. However, (unfortunately) we’re not focusing on the composing aspect of the education.

  2. Lu Hongyang says:

    That is fantastic because it converts the sense of hearing to the sense of viewing. There must be some relations between melodious music and beautiful images. Maybe some regularities can be found after visualisation of classical music. And it will help people to understand music more easily.

    • Thanks for the comment! This makes me wonder if there is a way to visually represent rhythm as well, as this would be interesting for songs/genres where rhythm is more important compared to harmony.

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