Music as Narrative in 'The Turin Horse'

data visualization


This project was made for a data visualisation brief in my third year on Interaction Design at the Glasgow School of Art. We approached it from a fresh angle and used data from atypical sources, such as poetry and film. However, we used the skills and the workflow that is also used to make infographics in the design industry.

Turin Detail

Detail of the final image


This piece visualises how the music in Béla Tarr’s final film The Turin Horse shapes and drives the narrative. In his films, he treated music as a primary character. Mihály Víg, a long-time friend and collaborator of Tarr’s, would compose the music before the shooting, and when the soundtrack was ready, the film would be recorded while listening to the music, so that the image and the sound have the same heartbeat.

Film time goes left to right in a linear manner and the volume of the music is shown with the height of the rectangles, similarly to soundwaves. Also, at each point where there’s a volume change, the frame from the film at that point in time is drawn below the “soundwave”, along with annotations marking each stage of the six-day structure of the film.

Mihály Víg's score that plays throughout the film for various durations in various instrumentations

Behind the Scenes

To get the data for this visual, I first watched the film and marked the changes in the volume of the music throughout the film on a scale of zero to four. I loaded this data in a Processing sketch and coded a program that drew the above visual using the data in connection with when and how loud the music was at a certain point in time and also when there was a new day starting in the film’s narrative in terms of its six-day structure. In the future, combining this idea with the idea of the wind being the other audial character in The Turin Horse and comparing the two audial characters could be the next iteration of this project. Ideally, if I had had the separated audio track of the music from the film, I would have used that.

Turin Data Vis

The final piece (click to see large version)