Major Cities and the Music They Inspire: Illustrated as Sound Waves

Music. It’s an art form that’s designed to invoke emotion, permeate the soul, and resonate beyond the words that are being said.

But what is music? Like, what is it really? A well-written song is great, but without the rhythm, tempo, and texture of sound, would we fall so madly in love with music like we do?

Looking specifically into the make-up of musical sound waves and the elements used to produce them, we discovered something rather beautiful. When in their visual form, sound waves produced through different frequencies of rhythmic sound are almost statuesque, architectural… like an imposing cityscape just waiting to be brought to life.

This got us thinking: is it possible to crossover music and architecture from a design perspective? With an elemental approach, we took a selection of songs that feature the names of different cities around the world such as New York, New York by Frank Sinatra and Freddie Mercury’s Barcelona.

Using specialist software, we were able to sample these songs, producing a visual which focused specifically on the part where the city name is mentioned. We then looked at the cities themselves, the landmarks they boast, and the unique architecture they’re famed for.

As a result, we were able to create a set of stunning illustrations that beautifully represent both the songs and the cities they pay homage to.

Barcelona

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Originally released in 1983, this Freddie Mercury song features vocals from operatic soprano Monserrat Caballé who provided the high pitched notes, complementing Mercury’s lower range vocals without fault. The haunting vocals and crashing instrumentals synonymous with grand amphitheatres and flamboyant gestures, provide the perfect timbre for a city steeped in Gothic and Medieval architecture.

London

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Some might say it’s a modern classic, but one thing is certain, this top 10 hit for Lily Allen depicts London’s diverse music scene without compromise. With a strong Caribbean influence, the smooth beats plus the high pitch interjection of trumpets during the chorus sends the sound waves soaring. Perfect for a city that is home to the neo-futurist dream and Europe’s tallest building, The Shard.

Miami

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As the song suggests, Miami “brings the heat” and this 2002 summer party classic from Will Smith certainly lives up to that. With strong Spanish and Cuban vibes, the sound waves created are smooth and deep, yet rhythmic high notes punch through to create a striking visual that’s almost reminiscent of the palm trees that line Miami’s famous Ocean Drive.

New York

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New York, New York; a Grammy award winning hit for Frank Sinatra that’s filled with optimism, positivity and the dream that New York is the place to make it happen. The city that never sleeps is a hub for opportunity and discovery. The sound waves produced are dense and wide ranging, tightly packed yet diverse, much like the city itself when viewed from across the Hudson River.

Philadelphia

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Famed for the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the home of the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is the soul of the American dream. But the effects of capitalism are strong in Philadelphia, as depicted in this 1993 hit for Bruce Springsteen. The sound waves created by this melancholic number are shallow and largely consistent; a mindful nod to the humdrum and monotonous lives seemingly lead by a large portion of the city’s residents.

Las Vegas

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The most populated city in Nevada, Las Vegas is the epitome of fun and frivolity. Vibrant and voltaic, it’s hard not to get excited by the promise of a good time, and the titular song from Elvis Presley’s 1964 hit film mirrors this beautifully. Fast-paced and building in intensity, the sound waves created are jumpy and animated, which perfectly represent the varied and inspired landscape of this desert city.

Vienna

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A city filled to the brim with artistic and intellectual legacy, Vienna is a European powerhouse for creativity, with centuries of history in music and the arts tucked away on almost every corner. The 1980 Electropop hit for Ultravox channels the history of the city in an almost operatic fashion. With drawn out notes and high pitched vocals, they’re a stark contrast to the deep, rhythmic, drum beats that carry the song.

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