Images courtesy the artist
One of the more interesting aspects of data is that it can be turned into something else—even metamorphosed from one medium to a vastly different other. In All My Friends, experimental musician and sound artist Daniel Watkins turns image data into sonic data—but these aren’t just basic sounds. Watkins used all of his friends’ Facebook images and turned them into a cassette archive of piano compositions.
To do this, Watkins transferred the raw JPEG data from his friends’ profile pictures into a sound editing program and output the results as a WAV file. He then transferred the WAV file to MIDI, assigning piano and the interpretation method.
“This left me with 463 unique piano compositions derived from the raw data of these images of my friends,” Watkins tells The Creators Project. “I then transferred these composition onto individual cassette tapes creating a physical archive.”
“As an addendum I have also created, and hand bound several volumes of music notation derived from these compositions that will display alongside the archive,” he adds.
The 19-minute “Christina Santa Cruz” composition is rather dark, with the piano notes creating atonal drones. The space in and around the notes is filled in with the cassette tape’s magnetic crackle. The piece “Christopher Harris,” much shorter, at 1:45, is brighter and, one might say, jazzier, though no less foreboding. Hear both tracks here.
Watkins says that the dubbing of the music onto cassette tapes gives the project a sculptural element. And for him it is another opportunity to “disrupt an otherwise literal medium”—portrait photography. In All My Friends, Watkins will be exhibiting the cassette tapes full of each friend’s sonic data, accompanied by the piano compositions.
“The translation from image to sound, and then from sound into sculpture makes for images that are rather bad at being images, but succeed because of the properties that arise from the act of translation,” says Watkins.Watkins will formally premiere All My Friends on February 25th, 2017 at Strathmore Gallery in Maryland. It will run through April 2nd.
Click here to see more of Daniel Watkins’ work.