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Making music from art

June 6th, 2012

Musician and project sponsor Ken Saul of Hewlett-Packard originated the idea for an Android app called Crayon Composer, and initiated a challenge to Oregon State University engineering students to develop this creative and instructive blend of art, music, and technology. Now, Crayon Composer inspires maestros of all ages by translating their original artwork into musical compositions.

Crayon Composer team members Allie Crevier, Canaan Hadley-Voth, and Adam Clarke are computer scientists without extensive musical backgrounds, but they researched scales, staffs, and other musical components before they began the object-oriented programming required to realize the dream.

To create music from their artwork, users can upload scans of drawings they have rendered on special graph paper. Crayon Composer graphs their artwork using color coding to map individual musical instruments and instrument groups. The placement of colors within a scanned image determines the scale and pitch. For example, black squares might be pegged as percussion and will create a unique sound based on where they are positioned on the page. Users can change the tempo, instrument groups, and scales, and then play their song and create sheet music for it.

“There is so much room for creativity — people can do whatever they want,” said Crevier. “The more you use it, the more you compose with purpose.”

Crevier started out as an art student and has always had a passion for animation, art, and music. As she graduates this month, she envisions working to change the culture of computer science by starting a computer science camp for girls. “I want to encourage girls and young women to learn how to program so that they can also experience the joy and satisfaction of creating software,” she said. “Just as we did in Crayon Composer, I would like to further connect the worlds of art and computer science. I hope no matter what job I end up doing that I will continue to learn and grow as a software engineer who can inspire others.”

2 Responses to “Making music from art”

  1. Ken Saul says:

    The students did an outstanding job in realizing the requirements for this project. The HP PrintStation all-in-one printer with a detachable Android tablet was a perfect platform to develop and demonstrate the app. My next challenge to the team is to complete Crayon Composer and launch it as a general Android app that users everywhere can enjoy!

    • Brandon Jackson says:

      It would be cool to use the app in reverse and see what Beethoven or Mozart would have drawn.

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