Rob Walker on the Iconography of the Waveform

What visual sign says “music”? Notes remain the most typical answer – particularly, it seems, beamed eighth or quarter notes (see the iTunes icon); the solitary eighth note with its jaunty flag; and the clef. The disc shape has had a pretty good run, and you still see instances involving headphones (Napster’s logo, for instance). Maybe representations of speakers and guitars would make the list, too. But if you want to suggest music in the digital era, how about the waveform?

As iconography, the waveform’s rise has been even more stealthy than the Google Maps pin: It’s not really associated with any specific service or product— although I may contradict that slightly below — but rather with digital sound in general. But as with other distinctly visual forms encountered mostly via bits, its progress can be gauaged by the fact that it has inspired some to de-digitize it into the physical world.

A great read. Click through for the rest.

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