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Converting sound into Image for textile patterns; Processes and an alternative ‘way of seeing’

A post from one of our participants, Marie Melnyczuk:

The Aural Textiles project begins with recording sounds, captured from the Scottish landscape. We hear/listen to sound every day, often without any conscious thought; we have an innate sense of understanding of the world around us, wherever we are, whatever our starting point.

The project begins with listening, and with the aid of technology, we are asked to convert our sounds into visual imagery. Initial digital recordings are uploaded onto the audio software called Audacity. This programme includes visual effects of sound waves called spectrograms. Taking screen shots of distinctive elements of the spectrogram and importing these pictures into Photoshop/Illustrator, we can begin to develop our textile patterns.

My starting point has shifted; my whole creative practice has always been informed by what I see and observe. My observations derive from a mixture of seen, heard and reflective processes, and over time I’ve developed very particular neural responses which lead to imagery primarily sourced in the ‘seeing’ of things.

Aural Textiles has diverted these pathways and begun a whole new set of anchor points as I explore and map a new understanding, learning an unknown (to me) language, one derived from hearing and the boundaries of the spectrogram. Whilst on a personal level, I feel myself drawn towards a more visceral interpretation of my recent experience of spending so much time outside in the landscape, I am disciplining myself and adhering to the project design brief.

Whilst out in the landscape recording birdsong and replaying the recordings back through my ‘Oxford Wave’ app (another interesting audio platform with visual elements), my brain has begun to create new neural pathways. When I am out in the natural environment and listening to sounds, I hear them visually which is like some strange offshoot of synesthesia. My brain has begun to learn a new language, and that language needs to become a fully developed new textile vocabulary, which will then become a direct visual response, like sheet music in reverse – rug compositions.

The brief requires very specific outcomes, to create and produce two textiles patterns from two sounds. These boundaries are developing into an exciting new set of parameters forcing me to develop and provide creative solutions. The parameters help me to focus on the outcome and not be distracted.

Working with textiles is process driven and is reminiscent of print and photo media methods of working: the various stages present work within a particular set of boundaries and each process has an impact on the outcome. The project brief is similar, the sound is processed through spectrograms into textile graphs.


I like processes; this will be my starting point and all the other stuff I’ll learn along the way. Learning is a process, and I’m comfortable with that.

Check out Marie's Instagram for more of her work:

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