These Genius Musicians Use Music to Draw Animations on Oscilloscopes

Despite all of the various knobs and buttons they have, all oscilloscopes have — at minimum — one very simple function: to show voltage over time. Because the screen has two dimensions, you can display two inputs at once. One input will display on the X axis, and the other input will display on the Y axis. By precisely controlling those inputs, it’s possible to draw graphics on an oscilloscope. In fact, that’s how the very first video game, called Tennis for Two, was displayed. Now some musicians are taking advantage of that fact to create music that also draws animations on an oscilloscope.

To fully appreciate how amazing this is, you need to watch the video with the volume on to see for yourself how the sounds and oscilloscope renderings are intrinsically linked. The music itself is used to draw the animations in real-time, and the two can’t be separated. To understand how that works, recall that each axis on the oscilloscope’s screen is displaying voltage over time. A single musical note is a sine wave at a specific frequency, with the volume corresponding to the amplitude. If both channels — the two axes — have the exact same note being input, the resulting interaction between the two sine waves will create a circle.

The elaborate music and animations you saw in the video are created in the exact same way, just with far more complex trigonometric math. The music is produced by Jerobeam Fenderson, and he does that with help of OsciStudio software developed by Hansi Raber. Fenderson can use that software to take 3D models made in Blender, and modify how they’re displayed in order to generate the desired sound. Remember that the sound and graphics are completely linked, so Fenderson has to produce the music and animations in unison. If that sounds overwhelming, that’s because it is. Fenderson and Raber are pioneers of oscilloscope music, and it would be an understatement to call their work anything less than astounding.

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Author: Cameron Coward

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