Cymatics and the science of what music looks like

Kiwi musician Nigel Stanford has produced a new album investigating “cymatics” – the science of visualising audio frequencies. The video accompanying the music shows a series of experiments that demonstrate how sound waves affect different types of matter.

“I looked for interesting science experiments that showed how sound waves affect things, figured out what looked good, and then wrote the musical parts for each experiment,” Stanford says. On his website he explains how he became interested in the field.

In 1999 I watched a documentary on ‘Synesthesia’ – a disorder that effects the audio and visual functions of the brain. People with the disorder hear a sound when they see bright colors, or see a color when they hear various sounds. I don’t have it (I don’t think), but I have always felt that bass frequencies are red, and treble frequencies are white.

This got me thinking that it would be cool to make a music video where every time a sound plays, you see a corresponding visual element. Many years later, I saw some videos about Cymatics – the science of visualizing audio frequencies, and the idea for the video was born. 

In 2013, I approached my friend Shahir Daud, a talented film director working in New York, and asked him if he was interested in collaborating on the video with me. I don’t think he really knew what I was talking about, but happily he said yes, and in July 2013 we started researching the experiments and buying bits and pieces online. 

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