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Text to Sound

In the one-week expertise module Translations I, the task was to first structurally analyze the text „ Cities & Signs 5 - Olivia“ by Italo Calvino and then translate it into a typographic composition, an animation and a sound.


➀ text ⟶ text poster (focus on syntax/structure)

➁ text ⟶ typographic image (focus on meaning/semantics)

➂ typographic image ⟶ video (focus on developments/dynamics)

➃ text ⟶ sound (focus on emotion/immersion)

Source Text

Cities & Signs 5 - Olivia 

written by Italo Calvino

No one, wise Kublai, knows better than you that the city must never be confused with the words that describe it. And yet between the one and the other there is a connection. If I describe to you Olivia, a city rich in products and in profits, I can indicate its prosperity only by speaking of filigree palaces with fringed cushions on the seats by the mullioned windows. Beyond the screen of a patio, spinning jets water a lawn where a white peacock spreads its tail.

But from these words you realize at once how Olivia is shrouded in a cloud of soot and grease that sticks to the houses, that in the brawling streets, the shifting trailers crush pedestrians against the walls.

If I must speak to you of the inhabitants’ industry, I speak of the saddlers’ shops smelling of leather, of the women chattering as they weave raffia rugs, of the hanging canals whose cascades move the paddles of the mills; but the image these words evoke in your enlightened mind is of the mandrel set against the teeth of the lathe, an action repeated by thousands of hands thousands of times at the pace established for each shift.

If I must explain to you how Olivia’s spirit tends toward a free life and a refined civilization, I will tell you of ladies who glide at night in illuminated canoes between the banks of a green estuary; but it is only to remind you that on the outskirts where men and women land every evening like lines of sleepwalkers, there is always someone who bursts out laughing in the darkness, releasing the flow of jokes and sarcasm.

This perhaps you do not know: that to talk of Olivia, I could not use different words. If there really were an Olivia of mullioned windows and peacocks, of saddlers and rug-weavers and canoes and estuaries, it would be a wretched, black, fly-ridding hole, and to describe it, I would have to fall back on the metaphors of soot, the creaking of wheels, repeated actions, sarcasm. Falsehood is never in words; it is in things.

➀ Text Poster

martin - EXP translations - task 1.jpgmartin - EXP translations - task 1.jpg

The analysis of the text was mainly related to word classes and sentence structure. The individual words and punctuations were colour-coded and summarised on an A2 poster.

➁ Typographic Image

martin - EXP translations - task 2.jpgmartin - EXP translations - task 2.jpg

For the typographic composition it was important to find a meaningful phrase of the text and to visualise it. Only typographical means and the colours black and white should be used.

The words the city must never be confused create an abstracted silhouette of Olivia's cityscape. The words with the words that describe it create the reflection or shadow of these forms. The image seemed fitting to me because the words that describe something are always a distorted abstraction and can be compared well with a shadow or a reflection.

➂ Video

The starting point of the video should not be the text but the already existing typographic composition. The minimalist style should be maintained here and only the colours black and white should be used. In this case, an animation of the shadow moving and disappearing through the rising sun followed.

➃ Sound

My approach to the sound design was to create an atmospheric mood rather than a piece of music. There is a certain rhythm to the sounds that appear in the text, such as birds, money, work noises or water.

(Please excuse the poor quality, the recordings were only made with a conventional iPhone microphone) 

Ein Projekt von


Intermediales Design

Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im Masterstudium


foto: Prof. Severin Wucher

Zugehöriger Workspace

EXP I Translations (From text to sound)


Sommersemester 2022