Today, there are a proliferation of tools and projects that take images in some form and generate sound from them, from iPhone apps (I counted at least 4 from a few minutes of googling) to research papers to Python libraries.
But in 1937, the options were limited to say the least until Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin invented the ANS synthesizer, a photoelectronic music instrument that sonifies images. It comprises a glass plate covered in black mastic upon which you draw a score, and a bank of photocells that can polyphonically generate up to 720 simultaneous pitches!
The video at the top gives an example of what it sounds like being played, and this page gives a lot more detail on how it works and an example score. The BBC’s Soundhunter radio show has an episode about it, and BoingBoing has an in-depth look at the (perhaps unexpected) occult origins of the instrument.
If you want to try it out yourself, you’d either have to fly to Moscow or use something like SPEAR or Metasynth, which lets you draw sound pretty much exactly the same way you would on the ANS. Less jetlag that way 😉