'Seeing sound': 5 remarkable examples of cymatics and beyond
Summary:The application of cymatics is wide-reaching and includes artists and DIY experimenters alike looking to uncover the nature of sound--often resulting in great eye candy. The following is a mixed bag of 5 remarkable sound visualizations from around the world.
Unless you're one of the lucky (unlucky?) few who experience synesthesia, visualizing sound is typically the province of imagination. For centuries, however, scientists have been experimenting with making sound and vibration visible by way of exciting media like liquids and particles. It's a recognized field of science that Swiss medical doctor and pioneer Hans Jenny, named cymatics.
Today, the application of cymatics is wide-reaching and includes artists and DIY experimenters alike looking to uncover the nature of sound--often resulting in great eye candy. Cymatics is also increasingly being applied in fields as diverse as oceanography and sound healing.
The following is a mixed bag of 5 remarkable sound visualizations from around the world. (Note: Not all are exactly cymatics, but close enough.)
TED Talk - Evan Grant on cymatics
Evan Grant is a creative technologist and founder of Seeper, a collective pushing the envelope of interactive arts. In this TED video filmed last year in Oxford, England, Grant introduces the principle, history, applications and implications of cymatics.
Collin's Lab Notes: DIY Cymatics
Make Magazine's Collin Cunnigham shows how sound can have amazing affects on liquids, and "downright bizarre effects on non-newtonian fluids such as the conveniently simple mixture of cornstarch & water".
Visualizing sound waves with fire
A classic experiment called the Rubens' tube, or standing wave flame demonstrates a standing wave using a long pipe perforated along the top and sealed at both ends - one seal is attached to a small speaker or frequency generator, the other to a supply of a flammable gas. It shows the relationship between sound waves and air pressure by altering the height of the flames. And as the video shows, it looks like a lot of fun.
Soundglass System Enables People to "See" Noises
Not exactly cymatics, but related, Trends in Japan reports of a revolutionary type of glass that can show visually how loud a sound is and which direction it is coming from on a transparent display. Soundglass, as it's called, shows information on sounds emanating from the area that can be seen through the transparent display. In other words, the device could visualize sound information and specify the direction of the sound source. This capability sets it apart from other ordinary sound measurement instruments. Read more.
The Soundglass monitor (Credit: CHUBU Electric Power Co., Inc.)
Derivative's TouchDesigner: Visual complexity for equally complex music
TouchDesigner is a Windows-based development environment for building interactive 3D art, visualizations, prototypes and UIs. It's used by artists, VJs and music producers like Scott Pagano and Richie Hawtin to create complex visuals to accompany their music during live performances. The example below shows an on-stage visual generated using TouchDesigner. It was part of Alva Noto's performance at Mutek 10, a music festival held last year in Montreal, Canada.
Find more TouchDesigner videos on Vimeo.
Christopher Jablonski is a freelance technology writer. Previously, he held research analyst positions in the IT industry and was the manager of marketing editorial at CBS Interactive. He's been contributing to ZDNet since 2003.
Christopher received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at U...