CAMS390 · Music

Cymatics: Science vs. Music – Nigel Stanford

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently researching installations which incorporate sound and image in a unique and interesting way.  This is because I have my music major project coming up this semester – that’s right, one final subject before I finish my undergrad.  One of the videos which stood out most to me is Nigel Stanford’s Cymatics: Science vs. Music

What really excited me about this video is the unique and interesting visuals present which seem to integrate perfectly with the music.  Stanford utilises a number of scientific contraptions traditionally utilised to demonstrate the acoustic qualities of sound, in conjunction with some other cool looking equipment and a few camera tricks.

THE PROBLEM I have with the video is that while this video looks awesome and the music is amazing, the sound does not accurately reflect the sounds used to trigger the visual effects of these contraptions.  All of the devices, with the exception of the plasma ball, were triggered by specific, musical tones.  Stanford’s project was inspired however by synesthesia,  and so he composed music to accompany the visual effect created, rather than preserving the tones which generated the visual image.


  • Chladni Plate (Speaker with a metal plate attached. Used to visualise the resonant vibration of sound.)
  • Ruben’s Tube (Speaker vibrating a diaphragm at one end of the pipe.  Used to visualise standing waves – the relationship between sound waves and sound pressure.)


  • Tesla Coil (Can also be programmed to generate musical tones)
  • Plasma Ball
  • Magnetic Ferro Fluid (Keyboard used as a trigger to turn on and off super magnets, while simultaneously playing sound.)


  • Hose Pipe (FPS it was filmed in matched the speed of the liquid vibration, allowing it to appear frozen)
  • Speaker Dish (similar process to the hose pipe, as he wanted to recreate the visual effect of the Chladni Plate in water)

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