Translating between the visual and the musical is never a perfect science. But maybe that’s the point — maybe it’s the oblique quality of transforming a picture into a sonic score that’s so appealing.

SonicPhoto is the latest application to attempt the feat. Following in the footsteps of MetaSynth and Photosounder, it makes each pixel a source for harmonic information, scanning across the image from left to right. As such, the process and results are related to those in each tool.

But developer Daniel White has added some twists. He notes that, unlike Photosounder, he has skipped a sound importer or graphic editor, working instead on “convincing andautomatic stereo, as well as a harmony/instrument filter for some amazing music possibilities, etc.” White tells CDM he’s unfamiliar with MetaSynth as he doesn’t own a Mac, but having been a long-time MetaSynth fan, it sounds to me as though the sonic results here are distinct – likely taking advantage of modern processing architectures for greater polyphony – and stereophonic interpolation is more automatic.

A free version is limited to length (15 seconds); paying up to US$99 buys you more time and greater quality. That may frighten away casual users, but the sound design possibilities, for die-hards, seem compelling. You can check out the results in the video.

While other options exist, including a number of tools (see below) that allow the graphical interface to function as an editor, SonicPhoto’s laser-like focus on transforming images into sound might make it interesting to those who want to “hear” photos.


  • Use any picture as import
  • Instrumental and harmonic quantization for adding tonal qualities
  • Presets
  • Automatic stereo spatialization
  • Single-screen GUI
  • Load and save custom projects
  • High-quality renders (low-quality previews
  • One purchase buys unlimited future upgrades; no keys/passwords for authentication of your purchase on install


iZotope Iris: Paint with Spectra, Make a Real-Time Synth [Videos, Gallery]

Sound to Pixels and Back Again: Isolating Instruments with Photosounder

MetaSynth 5 is Here: Graphical Sound-as-Painting Tool, Overhauled

New Ways of Shaping Sound, as Free Linux Instrument is a Bezier-licious Tone Board

Spectral Layers Audio Editor Focuses on Editing Sound Visually, a la Photoshop

  • Aaron

    There’s a program called Coagula that does this too, but it is kind of clunky and slow (it’s rather old)

    (Also, Peter, how come you haven’t featured the Old Spice Muscle Magic yet?)

  • Jurgen

    I find it remarkable how much the examples sound like the simplest things out of Metasynth. Hard to believe that the developer doesn’t know the app, it has been around for 20 years.

  • Tristan

    So it’s an image sonifier followed by a vocoder? For $99? Have I got that right?

  • geosonix

    GeoSonix can also turn images into sound. Check out this example: There are many more examples on the GeoSonix Vimeo site.

    GeoSonix is free open source software that I forked off of IanniX about a year ago. GeoSonix has many additional features such as support for rhythmic processing, harmony processing, image-to-music and many others. The image-to-music capability requires beta version 0.9 which is available for download at .

    The beta is Mac only, and the documentation for changes since version 0.83 is in an addendum. However many example scripts and scores are included. WIthin a month the documentation will have been updated to include the new features and a Windows version will be available.