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Vox Mensuræ

2010 December 30
by Tedb0t

Vox Mensuræ (The Measured Voice) is a graphical depiction of the quantization of sound, an end result of the process that converts audible waves of air pressure into numbers.  Each row is a single number displayed in binary—filled dots for 1s—with digit significance increasing to the left (just as decimal numbers, like “3,135”, increase in significance from right to left).  The number represented is the volume envelope (the “level”) of the sound coming into the computer’s microphone.

Quantization is not just the foundation of all digital technology, but the core of a fundamental model of the universe: quantum mechanics.  Classical models of reality considered some things to be “continuous” in contrast to “discrete” things; atoms were discrete but ether was continuous, and could therefore be infinitely subdivided.  The central insight in the modern era is that nothing is, in fact, continuous: even the energy levels of an electron land in “steps” and cannot exist in between those steps.

The quantization of sound is also the dividing up of a signal into steps, too small to discern with the naked ear—but when transformed into a string of bits, a stream of suddenly tangible visible information.

Vox Mensuræ is a software application built in OpenFrameworks.  Download it here for OSX.  I’ll try to get the source online so people can build it for other platforms!

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