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Synaesthetic Sanctuary

posted on 20.09.2021, 22:00 authored by Shaw, William

Traditional scientific methods of visualising sound data have focused on techniques that attempt to capture distinct elements of the audio signal, such as volume and length. However, existing methods such as spectrograms and waveform analysis are limited in their expression of the characteristics associated with complex sounds such as bird song. This research explores strategies to visualise sound in an aesthetically engaging manner. It uses sound data from native New Zealand birds as a design tool for creating an audio-visual design system. The distinct focus on timing and pitch within these songs makes the data suitable for visual comparison. The design techniques explored throughout this research project attempt to express the unique characteristics of a variety of New Zealand bird songs and calls. It investigates how artistic audio-visual methods can be integrated with scientific techniques so that the auditory data can be made more accessible to non-specialists.

More specifically, this research aims to take advantage of the natural phonaesthetic connections people make between sonic and visual elements. The final output of this research consists of a generative design system that uses auditory data to create visualisations of New Zealand bird song. These visualisations have a mathematical basis, as well as being audio-visual artworks in themselves.


Advisor 1

Niemetz, Anne

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Design Innovation

Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design Innovation