Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Continuing the research that I started in my previous post, on visualization of sound, my diggings have led me to the father of sound waves visualization - Ernst Chladni ( 1756-1827). Musician and physicist, Chladni succeeded in making visible what sound waves generate with the help of a violin bow which he drew perpendicularly across the edge of flat metal plates covered with sand, producing beautiful geometrical patterns and shapes which are today called Chladni figures.

Chladni figures

Almost 200 years later, in the 60's and 70's, Hans Jenny, a Swiss doctor, artist, and researcher, took Chladni's experiments further, using not only sand but various materials like spores, iron filings and water, and placing them on vibrating metal plates. He discovered that if he increased the frequency, the complexity of the patterns increased, the number of elements became greater and if on the other hand he increased the amplitude, the motions became all the more rapid and turbulent and could even create small eruptions. Jenny coined a term for this new area of research - cymatics, the study of sound and vibrations made visible.

 Sand pattern
Water pattern

What Hans Jenny pointed out is the remarkable resemblance between the shapes and patterns we see around us in physical reality ( snowflakes and flowers for example ) and the shapes and patterns he generated in his investigations. Jenny was convinced that biological evolution was a result of vibrations, and that their nature determined the ultimate outcome. Romanticizing this idea, I started to think about shapes in nature which might be the most perfect examples of "music taking on a visible form" and I remembered radiolaria. (!)

Ernst Haeckel's Radiolaria