Making music with images

Hi guys,

I wasn’t sure if I had to post this either in “Making Music with Audacity” or “Programming and Development” section, so I put it here. I’m currently doing a 2nd year Master’s Degree in an art school in Brussels. The main part of my researches and my work is about the relation between sound and image. I was interested in finding a way to directly translate an image to a sound, or a sound to an image. After some researches, I found out that Audacity can read a TIFF image and translate it into sound. To do so, I just need to go to “File / Import / RAW”, then import my image. Then, a window appears, and I have to select “U-LAW” encoding to make it “work”. Bits order or channels don’t really matter in that case.

The result is a very long sound, around 12 minutes for the images I created. How does it work ? Audacity will do an “analysis” of the image, pixel by pixel, line by line, from left to right. WHITE = 0, BLACK = -1. The sound is created when Audacity reads black, then a white pixel, then black again etc. The variation of the frequencies creates the noisy sound. So I create huge images on my computer with geometrical composition, using basic shapes (circles, triangles, squares, lines…) in black and white to understand how Audacity is gonna read them. Of course, Audacity can also read colors, but I want to fully understand how it works with black and white, then I will work with some colors.

Here is a WeTransfer link with the TIFF image and a WAV export of the sound from the image, if you want to ear it :
The result is a noisy sound, I find it quite interesting and it brought me to do researches on Noise music.

The fact is that my protocol is kinda hazardous because I don’t really understand WHY Audacity is interpreting my image like that. I don’t understand what does “U-LAW” encoding really means, or what does the different “bits order” means. The idea would be to understand how Audacity works when I import a TIFF file. If I get to understand it, then I may be able to interact and change the parameters, maybe with some coding, I don’t know. The fact is that I don’t know how to code at all. That’s why Audacity was a really good alternative at the beginning for me for the sound → image translation, otherwise I would have directly worked with Processing, but unfortunately I’m really blocked when it comes to code.

Anyway, I hope some people are gonna be interested by this project and will be able to help be through this. Thank you very much, have a nice day !


This is a question that comes up from time to time. Sadly the relationship between digital images and digital sound is not really anything meaningful when converted directly from one file format to another. You can however achieve some interesting effects. There’s some discussion of the subject here:

Photo-sounder (is not free) …