The Snail

I’m looking forward to seeing more of IRCAM’s Snail app, as seen in this Instagram post:

Ircam lab the snail absolute tuning software crazy! Track by evil needle – for you

A video posted by Richard Devine (@richarddevine) on

In 2013, I wrote:

This chapter has shown that the general concept of what I call a spiroid-frequency-space is a long established form of visual representation; in addition to the Drobisch type of helix described and extended by Shepard (see §2.2.2), the pitch and frequency-domain aspects of sound are often represented two-dimensionally with a spiralling form.

There are many routes by which one may arrive at a concept the same as, or very similar to the spiroid. For me it was discovered after a compositional process involving hand drawn representations of pitch-classes, followed by scales of notes, and then continua, and since I began development of the spiroid (c. 2005), it has been a matter of some perplexity that this archetypical visual representation is not commonly found in computer music software. During the period of this project, however, there have been new software releases found to have spiroid-like interface elements, and I hope to see many more in the future.

The most recently found example of new software that would appear to be using a spiroid-based mapping was presented at the ‘IRCAM Forum Workshop 2013’ (November 22); it has not yet been released, but is described in abstract for that event (Picasso & Hélie, 2013):

Presentation of SNAIL iOS App

The SnailAnalyser is a frequency domain sound analyser with an original chromatically aligned representation. Compared to standard analysers, this representation allows simple visualization of active zones in a sound (similar to a spectrum) and organises frequencies per notes on a tempered scale like a tuner.

At the time of writing, further details of this project were scarce; the authors, however, have kindly directed me to one document that is public, and which gives ‘the basic idea and a basic result with a picture’ (Figure 4.26).


With software products such SPIRAL by Photosounder, and the SnailAnalyser becoming available, there is likely to be an increase of interest in the subject of spiroid-like representations. It remains to be seen whether or not the term spiroid will catch on in relation to the concept; I have registered the web domain towards collating information on spiroid related things, both historical and contemporary.

I suppose it’s time to get that spiroid info site up and running…

Also see this YouTube playlist