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Music Visualization: From Rubens' Tube to Magic Software

Forty years ago, an innovative new technology called music visualization changed the way we enjoy music. Music visualization features electronically generated shapes and images that are based on the sounds of the music, which allow us to see the songs as well as hear them.

In order to create these visually appealing shapes and lights, computer software is used to capture data from the audio, including volume levels and frequencies. The software translates this data into lights, colors and shapes that are in sync with whatever song is being played. Concert promoters, musicians and audiences are all fans of music visualization and its ability to bring a concert to a whole new visual level. To fully appreciate this technology, let’s take a look at how it has evolved over the last 40 years.

Rubens’ Tube

A German physicist named Heinrich Rubens invented the first music visualization tool in 1905. His “flame tube,” which is now commonly called the Rubens’ Tube, used sound waves to change the pressure of gas. In a nutshell, the tube, which has holes in it, is placed up against a speaker on one end, and propane is pumped into the tube. The sound pressure from the speakers varies the amount of gas exiting through the holes, which causes an eye-catching show of flames. Rubens’ Tubes are still being used in concerts today. More advanced models can sport as many as 2,500 holes with two speakers attached to the sides.

Atari ups the game

In 1976, Atari created the first electronic music visualizer. Called the Atari Video Music, the device looked more like the classic wooden stereos that were popular in back then, with plenty of silver knobs and buttons to electronically create striking images set to music. Unfortunately, the device never caught on and it was not a hit with concert promoters, so it was only made for about a year.

iTunes brings music visualization home

One of the more popular and user-friendly music visualizers to come along in recent years is the iTunes visualizer. You can use the iTunes visualizer to watch colorful light shows when listening to music. Like the traditional music visualizer, the iTunes model’s lights will change based on the music that is playing. Use it to host a family concert in the living room and play some of your kids’ favorite Disney tunes before switching to classic rock, jazz or classical.

Magic VJ software

One of the music visualization software programs that is used today is called Magic. It is perfect in smaller clubs as well as larger concerts and uses the music to create abstract geometric patterns, dancing images and 3-D models. To enhance the visual experience during concerts, DJs, VJs and graphic designers can use B-roll video from a stock image and video database like Shutterstock in conjunction with a computer program like Magic. The website features a wide selection of B-roll that will correlate will with music visualization at festivals, concerts or smaller venues like nightclubs. Magic was also designed to work with any type of live audio, including microphones, guitars, synthesizers and drums.



Music Visualization: From Rubens' Tube to Magic Software

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