Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Whale Song and Wavelets.... and some piano

An article by G. Cuda in today's NYTimes points out interesting work by Mark Fischer that transforms whale song from what sounds like a series of clicks into a visual art form using wavelet technology. Several beautiful videos of his work can be seen at Google Video. Intricate detail is captured without losing the bigger picture, and presentation in circular form makes repeated patterns more evident. Patterns are unique to different whale species, and even to individuals in a group. Presentation in this form might aid researcher trying to show that repetitions in whale songs follow grammatical rules similar to those of human language.

And, speaking of sounds, I might mention the totally unrelated point that I am starting to put some of my piano recordings and videos from this summer on my website.

Graphic credit, copyright: NYTimes


  1. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Nice and Beautiful....thanks...the "admirerer"...xo

  2. these patterns don't show that there's anything "grammatical" about whalesong any more than the similar kinds of waveforms you might get from recording an air conditioner. Both show there are repeating patterns in the sounds, but not that they can be recombined according to specific rules to communicate similar or different things... right? they are beautiful images though.

  3. You're absolutely correct. Repeating patterns have no necessary link to being grammatical. The idea is that the patterns were being scrutinized for any aspects that would be compatible with their being also grammatical.

  4. very cool. thanks for the response!

    I wish there were visualization technologies advanced enough that we could specify what kinds of data patterns we're looking for (in this case, those specific to grammar) and then use our perceptual systems to identify whether those patterns are present in the data. Statistical tests are great, but I wish that "eyeballing" the data could become more of a science...