Cymatics and Bjork

Hollow from Meara o’reilly on Vimeo.

If you look Cymatics up on the interwebs you will find the following definition: Cymatics (from Greek for “wave”) is the study of visible sound and vibration, a subset of modal phenomena where typically the surface of a plate, diaphragm, or membrane is vibrated, and regions of maximum and minimum displacement are made visible in a thin coating of particles, paste, or liquid. [1] Different patterns emerge in the excitatory medium depending on the geometry of the plate and the driving frequency. – wikipedia.

I’ve been on the mailing list for Jodina Meehan’s Journal of Cymatics for a couple of years and Ms. Meehan’s dedication to her chosen science never fails to motivate and intrigue me. “Seeing” sound is something I think a lot of people take for granted when it happens. Whether it is the rippling of water by music near a pool or the shudder of glass on high rises below accelerating aircraft sound is taught as something we hear and any inclination in other directions often seems regarded as whimsy at best. Being that I have long been privy to the phenomenon known as Synesthesia I’m a little more attentive to sound in other formats; I spend A LOT of time listening to not just music but also sound, noise and aural textures because there is a large portion of these things that my brain perceives as much in a visual sense as it does aurally and that has never ceased to both fascinate and enlighten me. Now, Synesthesia’s not Cymatics – Synesthesia is a bit more…. occult, whereas Cymatics is scientific in nature. And while it is true that in the best of circumstances these two avenues can meet as one, we’re not quite there yet in terms of what we can hash out definitively and share with other people. In other words I can’t tell you how to understand or share my experiences in Synesthesia, but I can tell you how to visually witness sound in the more scientific sense – and that’s to go The Journal of Cymatics website and bookmark it. Go back often and really dig it as a resource because Ms. Meehan has loaded her site with a plethora of wonderfully simple methods to experience Cymatics yourself, complete with diagrams, instructions and video examples. It is, simply put, wonderful.

In mid-2012 Sonic/visual artist Bjork began using Cymatics in her live show. There is an article on the Cymatics journal site – if you’re at all interested in what I’m talking about here you should read it. Above is one of the Cymatics video installation pieces Bjork commissioned from artist Meara O’Reilly for the tour. It utilizes a simple bass line to drive the imagery of invisible nature, translating it into material we can experience with our eyes, demonstrating full-on the beauty and scientific wonder of Cymatics.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Cymatics and Bjork
  1. Chester Whelks Reply

    Intriguing read, I feel a zombie albatross coming on…

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