Cymatics is the science of sound made visible. It is based on the principle that when sound encounters a membrane such as your skin or the surface of water, it imprints an invisible pattern of energy. In other words, the periodic vibrations in the sound sample are converted and become periodic water ripples, creating beautiful geometric patterns that reveal the once hidden realm of sound. If we could see the sounds around us with our eyes we would see myriads of holographic bubbles, each with a kaleidoscopic-like pattern its surface. The CymaScope, in a sense, allows us to image a circular section through a holographic sound bubble. Developed by John Stuart Reid in the UK, the CymaScope reveals the once hidden realm of sound. The CymaScope, like the invention of the microscope and telescope, opens a realm not previously suspected to exist; a whole new world of visible sound.
Click image to enlarge
The provenance of Cymatics can be traced back at least 1000 years to African tribes who used the taut skin of drums sprinkled with small grains to divine future events. 3 The drum is one of oldest known musical instruments 4 and the effects of sand on a vibrating drumhead have probably been known for millennia.
Leonardo Da Vinci (b 1452 d 1519) noticed that vibrating a wooden table on which dust lay created various shapes. 'I say then that when a table is struck in different places the dust that is upon it is reduced to various shapes of mounds and tiny hillocks. The dust descends from the hypotenuse of these hillocks, enters beneath their base and raises itself again around the axis of the point of the hillock.'
Galileo Galilei (b 1564 d 1642) described scraping a brass plate with a chisel and noticed a 'long row of fine streaks, parallel and equidistant from one another,' 6 presumably caused by the brass filings dancing on the surface of the plate and finding safe haven in a series of parallel nodal striations.
John Stuart Reid (b 1948) is an acoustics engineer who carried out cymatics research in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Egypt in 1997. Reid published his research results in Egyptian Sonics 17 containing photographs of the cymatic patterns that formed on a PVC membrane he stretched over the sarcophagus. The experiment was designed to study the resonant behaviour of the granite from which the sarcophagus is fashioned. Since many of the images strongly resemble ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs Reid postulated that the inherent resonances of granite, when radiated as a complex sound field during crafting of the stone, might have influenced the development of hieroglyphic writing.
Ernst Chladni (1756-1827) (center) German musician and scientist, sometimes known as 'the father of acoustics,' almost certainly had access to Hooke's work but it is Chladni who history has chosen to acknowledge for his major study of this class of phenomena. He used a sand-strewn brass plate, excited by a violin bow; since brass is a highly resonant material he found that a large number of archetypal geometric patterns could be created, depending on where on the edge of the plate the bow was drawn. These patterns are now known as 'Chladni Figures.'
Music Made Visible App
See the actual geometry of music for the first time on iPad iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet! The CymaScope app is the world’s first app to make the geometry of piano sounds and music visible. The imagery you will see is not a computer simulation; all the beautiful imagery in the app was created on a physical CymaScope then stored in digital memory for you to enjoy.
Keep the CymaScope app in your pocket at all times on iPhone or Android smartphone or if you prefer a larger screen size use iPad or an Android-powered tablet.