1680: a Royal society member, philosopher, architect and polymath Robert Hooke noticed nodal patterns forming as he ran a violin bow along the edge of a glass plate covered with a fine layer of flour. Hooke is better known for giving us his law of elasticity (Hooke’s Law) than for popularizing Cymatics.
1787: the German musician and physicist Ernst Chladni repeated Hookes experiments and published his findings in the book “Discoveries in the Theory of Sound”, making it one of the first treatises on the science of sound, with this and other works, he laid the foundation for that discipline within physics that came to be called acoustics. He is sometimes referred to as the “father of acoustics”.
|Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni|
Chladni observed that when a metal plate covered with sand or other similar substance was made to vibrate by running a violin bow across it perpendicularly, a pattern emerged in the sand. Through careful documentation he theorized that sound affects physical matter and that these changes can be repeated.
He produced diagrams of his experiments which came to be called, “Chladni figures.” He went on the lecture circuit in Europe and demonstrated his finding to live audiences, which included a command performance for Napoleon. Chladni so delighted Napoleon he offered him 6000 francs for his performance. Napoleon then offered 3000 francs to anyone who could explain this phenomenon. This prize was awarded to Sophie Germain in 1816.(3)
|Examples of square Chladni Figures (drawn by Mary D. Waller)|
This video is made by Suzanne Tribe, a student over at the School of Cymatics.
She built a homemade tonascope using PVC (like in these diy cymatics instructions), then invited a friend to sing Mozart’s “Una Donna a Quindici Anni” through the pipe. Watch this video to see how they achieved some beautiful and complex cymatics images using a very simple setup.
You can view Suzanne’s page at the School of Cymatics here. To get free instructions for building your own diy cymatics tonascope click here.(4)