Making Music Visible: What is Cymatics?

Cymatics, from the Ancient Greek: κῦμα, meaning, “wave”, it is the science of turning sounds into images.  Or, more broadly, how matter reacts to sound and forms shapes and patterns. 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. Different often beautiful and harmonious patterns emerge in the excitatory medium depending on the geometry of the plate and the driving frequency.

A basic experiment can be done if you have, by any chance, a Tibetan singing bowls; you put some water on it and play it. These interesting chaotic shapes emerge, from which you can even extrapolate mathematical models.

Proper Cymatics shapes are instead the following ones made out of a plate that vibrates with some dust.

Of course, it is even possible to translate frequencies into images, thus mathematically. Let’s say planet frequencies.

In more detail, you can see how different notes look differently. The following video is an experiment done with water. This is proper Cymatics.

 

 

 

The following video instead is a viral one and shows most of the renown Cymatics effects with a high resolution.

 

Here a video the summarizes well Cymatics. To watch now if you wanna grasp the general picture.

Cymatics is fascinating also because can be tied to ancient traditions and beliefs or even quantum physics. This inevitably lead us to new age culture and pseudo-scientific arguments.

Sacred Geometry, for example, traditionally referred to the geometry and architecture found in churches, mosques, temples, and religious artwork, that follow proportions such as the “Golden Ratio”. More recently, sacred geometry also refers to a belief that the very fabric and origins of the universe are found in fairly simple shapes and patterns (in the photo the so-called “flower of life”). Yet, some also recognize that “Sacred Geometry is neither sacred nor geometry. It is a collection of preposterous assertions about pretty shapes and patterns made by people with little to no understanding of what they are seeing”.

 

 

Also, many of the Cymatics shapes remind of the Indian mandalas, spiritual and/or ritual geometric configuration of symbols typical of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Shintoism. Re-introduced in the west by the great psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, they are thought to represent also the self. Jung recognized that the urge to make mandalas emerges during moments of intense personal growth. Creating mandalas seems to help stabilize, integrate, and re-order inner life. As such, the famous store chain Tiger, and many others, begin to profit from this idea.

For some, in fact, maṇḍala or other recurrent forms in nature, would be the manifestation of the invisible force of the vibrational field and every form would contain the information on the vibrations that generated it. For example, Hans Jenny was particularly impressed by an observation: by imposing a vocalization in ancient Sanskrit as the Oṃ (known by Hindus and Buddhists as the sound of creation and corresponding to the Word, to the Logos of the Western Bible) the lycopodium powder responded to sound vibrations generating a circle with a central point, symbol with which ancient Indian populations represented the same mantra Oṃ (Aum).

Therefore, many believe in the healing power of vibration. Considering that our body is 65 to 70 percent water, it follows that some effect do exist. Since the body directly influences the mind, by changing the body, we change the mind the same way sound waves change water and sand. Conversely, when the mind changes, so does the body. This opens a pandora box. But whether there is any actual relationship between Cymatic patterns, mandalas, healing and perhaps some even argue chakras, geometry and quantum physics has to be proven. Certainly, it is a very attractive and wide topic to explore.

Meanwhile, new developments in technology are helping to create new Cymatics patterns and other similar related experiments. As a consequence, Cymatics help to develop novel artworks, especially digital. For example, a paradigmatic and amazing project is the one from Jerobeam Fenderson who exploits an oscillator to give shapes to music. If you want to really understand how, you can watch the second video made by the guy of the youtube channel smartereveryday in which the duo explain how they make it.

To conclude, Cymatics is more an art than a proper science but, thanks to science, Cymatics will likely attract more interest and become further explored. Then, maybe one day someone will discover the multidimensional connection of vibration and universe. As the great forgotten scientist Nicola Tesla once said: “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Fair enough.

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