Seeing Sounds: The Beautiful World of Cymatics

April 15, 2014 4:26 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Typically, if you suddenly find yourself with the ability to see sounds, you’re due for a trip to the hospital. That is, of course, unless you have stumbled across some of the amazing research currently being done in the field of cymatics.

Cymatics is the study of sound’s ability to create visible phenomena. Essentially, cymatics researchers seek to create visual representations of sounds, vibrations and even music.

While this may sound like pretty cutting-edge science, the field of cymatics has actually existed for centuries. Some of the earliest experiments from the 17th century involved running a bowstring across the edge of a glass plate covered in flour. The sound vibrations created by the bow caused intricate patterns to emerge in the flour. This experiment may seem like a bit of a novelty, but it actually gave rise to one of the most exciting fields in sound research today.

Current researchers are able to pass sound through delicate sensors, which can create 3D images of entire songs. They provide us with an in-depth look at the way sound travels through the air, and are helping to shape our understanding of the ways in which sounds interact with their environment.

In one of the most interesting applications of the study of cymatics, researchers are working to construct a visual lexicon for one spoken language that has baffled humanity for centuries—marine animal language. Through the use of cymatics, it may actually be possible in the future to “speak” with dolphins and whales.

A simple home experiment

Cymatics studies are not just limited to researchers with thousands of dollars of grant money at their disposal. In fact, there is a simple home experiment that can help you create your own visible sound in the comfort of your home. And, the best part is that you probably already have all the ingredients at your disposal.

First, you want to take a speaker with a good low-frequency response rate (a subwoofer will work best), and lay it on its back with the speaker facing upward and the cone exposed. Second, you should take several sheets of plastic kitchen wrap and completely cover the cone of the speaker to protect it from step three. Ideally, you don’t want to use your expensive stereo equipment from Chicago’s leading audio dealer, Quintessence Audio, as there is a slight possibility of damaging your speaker.

Step three involves creating a mixture of corn starch and water by adding water to cornstarch until you have a substance that will flow when poured, but will feel solid if you flick it with your finger. You will want to make enough to fill the covered speaker cone about half-way.

Turn on a song with a lot of bass and watch the magic happen! The concussive bass notes should cause the cornstarch mixture to solidify slightly on impact. However, since the mixture is still a fluid, it will soon begin to take on different shapes, depending on the frequency of the sound you play through the speaker.

Paving the way for high end audio

At Quintessence Audio, we provide expensive stereo equipment in Chicago, empowering you to engage in a wide variety of home sound experiments of your own design. While we don’t recommend running any science experiments on the equipment that you buy from us, you can still use our high end audio products to create a soundscape in your home, allowing you to experience high quality audio with as many senses as possible. And, if you’ve tried the above experiment with a low-quality subwoofer, the next time you listen to music through our superior products, you might just be able to visualize what those sounds look like!

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