Sound for the eyes

Sound visualisation

Soundfortheeyes_splash_12

An aesthetic experiment with vibrating liquids in the quest for basic shapes and motion suitable for illustrating sound.

DEADLINE: FEB 2004

This abstract short film is the product of a aesthetic form study into the range of possible visual expressions found in the vibration of liquid, a phenomena also known as cymatics. The film is sound solely for the eyes and hence it is up to the viewer to imagine what the shapes and movement might sound like.

Sound visualisations can be roughly categorised as either being concerned with sound as physical or as perceptual phenomena. Imagery such as waveforms and spectrograms reveal physical properties while subjective interpretations found in paintings, lumia art and abstract film (visual music) partly unveils the mystery of what the human mind experiences when listening. This visualisation is somewhat in-between; it is based on the physical vibration of sound, while at the same time it is lit, framed and cut to maximise a perceptual experience.

Process

The transformative figure featured in the video is the reflection of a light bulb being distorted by surface patterns in a water filled petri-dish vibrating at 5 to 80 Hz. With the camera shooting at 25 frames per second and the vibrations at 50 Hz frames and movement synchronise resulting in the illusion of a stable figure.

References

Cymatics is a term coined by Hans Jenny to describe the visual product of vibrating materials like liquids, gases and grains. He was a 70s new age scientist obsessed with the surprisingly life-like behaviour that he was able to produce by vibrating lifeless matter. This ultimatly brought him to the conclusion that there must be a tight relationship between vibration and the emergence of life in the universe. From what I gather he was unable to produce real evidence for this claim besides the striking aesthetics of his photos and film. Science aside, he was unquestioningly a great visual artist.