Re-imagining the Music Video

Can using lights and colours in place of notes help translate music for the hearing impaired?

In a vibrantly coloured new video, singer/songwriter David Porteous presents his new song, The Dirt, with layers of color and lights along with the audio recording. The lyrics of the song appear on the screen, with the words appearing in a colour corresponding to notes.

“As vibration is a common characteristic of both sound and light waves, I began by transcribing my music into colour,” says Porteous, who was inspired by a deaf friend to make the innovative video. He used a bright orange colour to represent A notes, for example.

The note A “has a frequency of 440 Hz,” he writes on his website. “If you double the frequency to 880 Hz, the note is still an A, but at an octave higher. Continue to double this and eventually you’ll reach the range of visible light.” He used a website that allows sound to be converted to colour for a little help.

While no instruments or actual notes or chords appear in the video, each instrument used is represented through flashes and flickers of light, with the texture and placement representing how the song was recorded and mixed. He also conducted a small survey, asking participants to plot on a graph where they visualized the notes when listening to six instrumental clips of the song. “I combined the data from the participants and noticed some very obvious similarities,” Porteous says, demonstrated in a graph.


“This music video was an exciting challenge,” Porteous says. “It brings me great joy to be able to interact with a community that I have previously not been able to share my music with,” and he also hopes other artists might considering this unorthodox approach and begin the process of changing what constitutes a music video.

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