Tag Archives: science

The Sight of Sound

I find the idea of sensations crossing over between and among senses immensely fascinating. It seems a waste for beautiful things such as paintings, music, or fabulous flavors to be enjoyed with just one of the five senses. I think that’s why music videos exist, and beautiful perfume bottles, and why chefs take such great care in plating and garnishing their creations. And of these, I find the idea of sound manifesting itself visually the most intriguing.


Saw this film in the theater when it was re-released in the early 90’s, and I loved it so much that I came back to watch it again! I loved the dancing flowers, hippos, and the bumbling Mickey as the magician’s helper. But my absolute favorite part was the first part, when the orchestra faded away, and all that was left was this choreography of colors bleeding into each other, clouds of colors swirling, abstract forms that hinted at bows, strings and other things… it felt like the music was painting the picture. I felt like I was seeing sound.

Watch a clip from Fantasia (1940)

iTunes Visualization

What amazes me about this iTunes feature (which a bunch of other media players also have) is that the stunning visuals are fed by the sound, flowing and throbbing in time. I would get lost in this sometimes, because with the right music, the visualizer promises countless hours of trippy fun.

Check out this sample.


I was unaware of the word up until last weekend, when I caught a Nat Geo show which gave an all-too-brief introduction of it in one of its segments. Cymatics is the science of visible sound and vibration. (Wow, people actually devote themselves to studying this!) I got to see sound moving sand around on a plate to form them into funky patterns.

Here’s an interesting intro to the subject by a creative technologist Evan Grant.

And then there’s this wonderful scientific instrument, the CymaScope®  that generates visual images of sounds, opening doors to new levels of understanding in study of animal sounds, music, or the Big Bang.

Poking around the internet, I got dazzled by the amazing images I found, and how cymatics has become a source of inspiration and knowledge for artists and scientists alike.

visualization of a the sound waves emanating from a violin

Sonic bubble from a violin. Image from cymascope.com

A visualization of a dolphin's greeting

A “hello” from Merlin, a dolphin. Image from cymascope.com

A graphic depiction of "Ode to Joy"

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony “Ode to Joy”

Sound makes pretty ripples on the water

This is an image of water set in motion by sound, captured by German photographer Alexander Lauterwasser.

Sound displayed visually on water

Another image from Lauterwasser

A photograph of sound passing through water

Another cymatic image on water, this time by photographer Wesley Buckingham on http://geminiwb.deviantart.com/

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