Self-described “designer, data geek, fractal nut” Nicholas Rougeux has merged open-source music with data visualization to create colorful imagery based on some of the most famous classical music scores in history. From Mozart and Beethoven to Chopin and Vivaldi, it’s fascinating to see how these well-known pieces translate into artistic data visualizations.
For Off the Staff, Rougeux relied on MuseScore (free music notation software which allows community members to share sheet music) and OpenScore (a project that aims to “digitize and liberate all public domain sheet music”). Interestingly, Rougeux himself can’t read sheet music, but he’s able to parse it, pulling out single notes from the scores. Each individual instrument is represented by a different color, resulting in the brightly hued imagery, which is available as posters.
“Every time I extract data, I never know what it’s going to look like,” Rougeux tells My Modern Met. “I had some inklings for some pieces like Flight of the Bumblebee with its rises and falls but even that one surprised me.” To create his visualizations, Rougeux altered the traditional representation of scale, typically noted by the different clefs on sheet music.
“I did away with that and showed all notes in their natural position on the scale—distance from center—no matter how high (farther) or low (closer) they were. Essentially, while sheet music shows notes from different scales on the same staff, my project shows different staffs on the same scale—hence the name, Off the Staff.”
In terms of color scale, he typically tries several different shades and hues to see what works best, as he never knows the final result until the visualization is complete.
The self-taught web developer and artist hopes that Off the Staff will allow people to see music in a different way and reveal something hidden within the notes. By taking something people naturally consume using their auditory skills, he enjoys flipping the experience on its ear by appealing to different senses. Surprises are sure to be discovered and Rougeux appreciates hearing what people take away from his work.