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Watch A Drum Solo As Recorded With Motion-Tracked Sticks

This stunning video by Odaibe is part infographic, part performance art.

What does music look like? You’d have to be synaesthetic to really answer that question, but the rest of us can get a glimpse thanks to motion-capture technology. A Polish designer/artist known as Odaibe tracked the movements of a drummer’s sticks during an energetic solo to create a Jackson Pollock-esque 3-D data visualization called "Portrait of the Ghost Drummer." Check it out:

"Besides being a musician, drummer when playing is unconsciously engaged in an elaborate choreography," the artist writes. "The drum sticks are the extensions of drummer’s hands like a brush is an extension of the painter’s hand. Motion-captured movements become a visual map over a time revealing fragile rhythm structures and invisible notations behind energetic instrumental solo."

Merely visualizing the path of each drumstick through the air would turn the animation into an impenetrable mess within a minute or so. Odaibe’s visual design is subtler than that—each arcing path slowly decays away as time goes on (much like an echo of music does) so that new movements can come to the fore. Adding 3-D camera moves and zoom-ins on key moments (like a skittering, softly played drum roll) reveal even more patterns in the performance.

What Odaibe’s video hints at is something even more intriguing about the much-ballyhooed "Internet of things"—when everything we touch and use has a connected sensor in it and a harvestable data exhaust, our everyday patterns and daily routines can spawn surprisingly beautiful art. What would the "kinetic art" of a master chef at work—or just your spouse making dinner—look like? Uncovering the sublime in the mundane: That’s a kind of Web 3.0 revolution we can get behind, and "Portrait of the Ghost Drummer" offers a stirring preview.

[Read more about the video]

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  • Clint Rule

    I wonder what it would've looked like had they pushed the motion points 'forward' through space instead of leaving it in the same place.

  • Theresa N.

    Cool, especially at the end...I wonder what it would look like if you tracked Animal (from The Muppets) playing the drums...

  • Flynn McMahon

    It is interesting and visually stimulating but 'art'?  I don't think so.

  • novae

    it's not what music looks like.  it is following the path of the is a visualization of the path.  the flight path of an airplane does not allow you to experience what it feels like to fly.  this is interesting, but visualization of the sound waves would be more like "seeing" the music.

  • imajoebob

    I'd like to see this superimposed over the video.  Right now it's just a disconnected squiggle.  Seeing the music instruments would make a connection between the lines and the sound, in effect really "seeing the music."

    I'd also love to see Bun E  Carlos'  intro to Ain't That A Shame from the Budokan album done this way!