Cymatics

The science of making sound & resonance visible.

The word cymatics derives from the Greek word ‘kuma’ meaning ‘billow’ or ‘wave,’ to describe the periodic effects that sound and vibration have on matter.  The core concept of cymatics is that all matter is affected by sound in different ways – exhibiting a sort of vibrational resonance.  Certain frequencies cause different effects on matter in different ways.  Determining ways to visualize this interaction of sound and matter is the science and challenge behind the study of cymatics.

To the left is an image taken from cymatics.org.  Each of the 12 images are examples of cymatic effects in a body of water.  Similar to how a raindrop colliding with a body of water will create a rush of geometric waves pushing outward from the source of impact, water will also react to steady exposure of different frequencies or electrical signals.  A raindrop is just that – a single drop creating a rippling pattern.  Now imagine hundreds if not thousands of raindrops colliding with a body of water.  The body of water will react to each raindrop colliding and the ripples will all intersect.  In this example though, rain is purely a random pattern of impacts.  But when a body of water is exposed to certain sustained audible (and inaudible) frequencies, the water will react and create its own geometric patterns based on the frequency as well as the resonance of its own molecular composition.  The image to the left demonstrates how different frequencies can cause water to react differently.  The patterns are steeped in sacred geometry – but we will save that for another discussion.  Suffice to say that the patterns probably remind you somewhat of snowflakes. The science as to how snowflakes are formed is demonstrated through cymatics.  In fact, if water is exposed to certain frequencies before freezing, the ice will exhibit geometric and snowflake-like patterns in the ice crystals. This type of pattern does not occur naturally without the exposure to certain identified frequencies.

The image to the right is an example of the cymatic effects in turpentine.  The molecular composition of turpentine is greatly more complex than the molecular composition of water.  Water is H2O. Turpentine is C10H16.  Because of the varying complexity in the molecular structures, the exposure to frequencies in turpentine will create different cymatic patterns than the cymatic patterns in water.

There are different ways to approach cymatic experiments. In the previous two examples we discussed cymatic effects in liquid – mostly because it is fairly easy to visualize and understand.  We’ve all seen snowflakes and ripple effects in water, so to explain cymatics in terms of water and ice is using phenomena that most people have been previously exposed to in some capacity.  But, cymatics can also be observed through a Chladni plate – which is a square piece of metal suspended by a central rod through the middle of the plate.  When subjected to certain sounds, the Chladni plate will vibrate.  When salt or sand is placed on the top of the plate, patters will emerge similar to the liquid effects seen in the previous pictures.  Of course there are other ways to observe cymatics as well.  Certain liquids and liquid metals will create three dimensional models of their resonance due to their particular pliability.  The science to cymatics is fascinating and constantly evolving. I invite you to research cymatics on youtube and vimeo. There are many great examples that can help you visualize the phenomena and understand in ways more  than just words can describe.

 

Additional History

One of the earliest to record that an oscillating body displayed regular patterns was Galileo Galilei. In Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632):

“As I was scraping a brass plate with a sharp iron chisel in order to remove some spots from it and was running the chisel rather rapidly over it, I once or twice, during many strokes, heard the plate emit a rather strong and clear whistling sound: on looking at the plate more carefully, I noticed a long row of fine streaks parallel and equidistant from one another. Scraping with the chisel over and over again, I noticed that it was only when the plate emitted this hissing noise that any marks were left upon it; when the scraping was not accompanied by this sibilant note there was not the least trace of such marks.”