Midnight Pub

Observing Sound Waves Up Close


I never really thought about the intricacy of sound waves before, the minute variations they possess. However, given that I am entering the field of audio design, gradually creating more intricate songs, I decided today to view, firsthand, the microscopic pattern of a waveform, courtesy of a piece of software I have installed which allows for a comprehensive visualization.

The results were stunning, as well as being visually appealing on their own merits. The amount of variation present within microseconds of audio spans a wide range of strange and unique patterns. Given that I am also involved in the visual field, I see something captivating in these whorls of invisible force.

There are points where the waveform is bunched up, points where it is spread out and lolls across the screen like a calm tide, points where the audio resembles a strange cave with stalactites and stalagmites which alternate frequently between each other. The latter form is most present during vocal periods, while during soft instrumental breaks the wave tends to decrease and flatten. It's fascinating to witness this in real time, as each new frame reveals subtleties I didn't even know were present in my own voice.

Even genres have distinct looks to them. Hard rock songs are much more jagged, less fluid, lightning bolts shoot out of their waves at an angle, likely a result of distortion pedals or other ephemera, which are capable of creating strange alterations at a microscopic pace. I have yet to witness these jagged protrusions in most songs save heavy metal and early 2000s alternative hits, though they are likely visible in any rock song which is not acoustic.

Every syllable which I stress, vocally, results in a marked uptick, which shoots onto the pattern within an instant and vanishes just as quickly. I am compelled by the premise of the duration of milliseconds and even smaller units of time- durations which are so brief and fleeting that we do not perceive them. This software allows me to do just that, to witness firsthand the tiny little snippets of life which pass us by because our brains cannot process that much data. We must exist by seconds.

I am reminded, too, of the old adage about being able to see your tastes or taste your smells. I am seeing sound. This is an invaluable and exciting frontier, both visually and auditorily, to be able to watch noise. It could, in theory, present innovation for either the blind or deaf. I have little doubt that in the future, I will be utilizing this waveform imagery in one of my music videos, there's something raw and primal about it, and like the static I capture so often on my camera, it is a stark reminder of the indifference of the universe, and the physical laws which keep us intact.


If I had the ability to choose a superpower it would be "supervision" -- in the sense that I would be able to zoom into and slow-down reality to watch it in all of its splendor.



I completely share your amazement for spectrogram. I am amazed at how bird singing produced such a "pure" sound, meaning just one line, without harmonics. No matter how hard I tried to whistle as cleanly as I could, I always had at least two lines.