Sound Science

Acoustic Physics



Psymatika is an interactive installation piece based on cymatics. Cymatics is the study of visible sound using a vibrating membrane. Being a musician, I was always fascinated by the impact that is caused by sound, particularly the lower frequencies. Cymatics is a clear proof that sound, even though its not made up of matter, can cause a real physical impact on matter. Vibrations are the building blocks of all life, and have an impact upon everything. This little experiment of mine was built in order to allow the users to experience it first hand. Since vibrations can influence matter with such intensity, we can only imagine the damage that is caused to our DNA by "bad" vibrations, since DNA itself is a vibrating membrane that has its own resonant frequency.

This piece aims to make people consciously aware of the effects sound has on their mind and body, and how they can utilize it as an aid.


Psymatika consists of four main components : A main cymatics setup, a synthesiser, colour changing LED bulbs and a custom built MIDI interface.

1. Main cymatics setup -
I've used a 8" full range car speaker as the source of vibration. A metal plate is glued on top of the driver, which acts as our vibrating membrane. A container is then attached in the centre of the metal plate, which carries the matter. For this purpose, you can use a variety of materials, right from liquids like water, oil, corn starch-water solution to solids like sand and salt. In the raw footage demonstration, I have used water, for the sake of simplicity. As frequencies are sent to the speaker, the attached metal plate also begins to move back and forth with the driver, thus creating model patterns in the matter contained in the container attached on top.

2. Programmable LED Bulbs -
The main cymatics setup is mounted on a down shooter stand, which has two programmable colour-changing bulbs. The RGB values of the LEDs are mapped to the frequency of the tone that is being sent to the speakers. Thus, the LEDs represent the frequencies in higher octaves, which is inaudible and we perceive it as light. This light also reflects weirdly on the Crests of the modal patterns, thus creating a stimulating visual effect.

3. Synthesizer -
A digital FM synthesizer running on my computer is used as the main tone generator. Depending upon the selections made by the user using the MIDI controller, the synthesizer sends different waves (Saw, Square, Sine, Triangle) to the speaker, thus, inducing vibration in the matter.

4. MIDI Interface -
For the interaction aspect, I have designed and made a custom MIDI interface. The interface uses various sensors sending serial data via Arduino. The interface consists of 5 buttons, 2 potentiometers and a Force Sensitive Resistor , which form the main basis of interaction for the user.

5. Putting it together -
A camera is mounted directly on to the down shooter and projects the live stream of the modal patterns in the matter on a large screen. Thus, it allows the users to see the patterns more closely, and allows for a new dimension in visual aesthetic due to the interaction of the actual modern patterns and the frame rate of the camera.



The fundamental frequency is controlled by a potentiometer. To activate the piece, you just select which wave pattern you want to generate using the 4 coloured buttons, and use the white button to begin sending tones to the speaker. The Force Sensitive Resistor is basically a square piece of metal which detects how hard you are pressing on it. This sensor controls the amount of frequency modulation that is caused on the main frequency. You can control the frequency of the FM modulator using the 2nd potentiometer. The GUI application running on my computer screen enables you to view the controllable aspects in real time.