Cymatic Music

Cymatic Music


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This site charts the progress of an audiovisual science and music project investigating the possibilities of creating a system of visual, or rather visible music. The idea of seeing sound may initially seem rather nonsensical - a sensory befuddlement akin to smelling fear or tasting defeat. There is, of course, the case of synaesthesia, the joining together of sensations that are normally experienced separately so that for instance some people will associate particular colours with certain sounds. My course of enquiry, however, is aimed at a more fundamental, physical level.

Sound can induce visible pattern. When physical matter is vibrated with sound it adopts geometric formations. So Ernst Chladni captivated eighteenth century audiences by bowing a metal plate strewn with sand and thus bringing forth a myriad of symmetric patterns as the sand migrated towards the nodal centres of the vibrating plate (figure 1). Likewise, in the 1960’s, the swiss scientist Hans Jenny conducted a series of experiments vibrating various physical media with sound - a study which he termed cymatics (derived from the greek word for wave, cyma). In his enthralling books, matter comes alive: dishes of water assume the intricacies of gothic tracery (figure 2a), drops of mercury take on the forms of marine diatoms (figure 2b) and lengths of glycerine appear to writhe with an added backbone (figure 2c) - all through the influence of sonic vibration.

My aim is to continue this line of research, with the emphasis on exploring the relationship between the exciting sound signal and the resulting cymatic patterning. Can these patterns be interpreted musically?

Does a particular sonic frequency correspond with a particular vibrational form and by extension, does the architecture of sound which we call harmony in any way correlate with the structural classification of cymatic forms? While we can certainly see what we hear, can a creative bridge be built between them through systematic concordance?


figure 1


figure 2a                                             figure 2b

figure 2c