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August 10, 2013 8:38 AM Morning music: the harmonies of the Beach Boys, visualized

By Kathleen Geier

If you put a gun to my head and asked me to name my favorite album of all time (although: why in the world would you do that?), there’s a good chance that I might say Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. While there are plenty of other albums I love (including a number of relatively underrated records by the Beach Boys, such as Wild Honey and Sunflower), there is something about Pet Sounds — its sadness, maybe? — that touches the deepest parts of me.

All of which helps to explain my fascination with the following video, which, as Wired’s Kyle Vanhemert explains, visualizes Brian Wilson’s genius. The video’s creator, Alexander Chen, says he got the idea from church bells:

Just like the size of a bell corresponds to the pitch of the note it produces, Chen figured he could use a series of circles to represent the notes of some other piece of music.
[Snip]
The result is stunning-a different type of visualization than anything we’ve seen before. Instead of the trippy, move-with-the-beat type stuff you zoned to in your Winamp days, this is something far more rigorous. It shows you what you’re hearing, and just what you’re hearing, note for note. And in this case, especially towards the end of the song when the coda of soaring, multilayered harmonies kicks in, it shows you things you might not even realize you were hearing-all those discrete brotherly voices that melt together in a casual, ears-only listen.

Here’s the video:

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

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