Apr 03 Reblogged
Rhythms of starlight, melodies of astrophysics
Ever wondered what the music of the cosmos sounds like? You’re about to find out. Astrophysicist and TED Senior Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz works on the Kepler mission, looking at a patch of our galaxy to learn about stars and their planets. Here, she tells us how this is done:Stars periodically appear brighter and darker on their own because they have bright and dark patches on their surfaces caused by the star’s magnetic field. As it spins, we see light fluctuate as the patches rotate into and out of view – and the frequency of the fluctuation tells us how fast it’s spinning. To make things a bit more complicated, stars don’t rotate exactly like tops, in that different latitudes on the star spin at different rates – so usually there are several frequencies in the star’s light, and they can change and drift in time.
I take the data and search for which frequencies are present at different times, then scale them to frequencies the human ear can hear, using a sine-wave generator. Then I create tones that change with time to represent how the frequencies in the star are changing. A first pass sounds like this: in each second of playback, you hear the three strongest frequencies in the star for a day of real time. As you listen, the sounds change as the frequencies change.
Then I do some additional processing to get the effect I want. Usually I want to capture some echo to convey a sense of vast space, and some blending between notes to convey the dynamic nature of the features on the star’s surface that are creating the changes in the star’s light.
In Powerful Protectors I’ve woven the sounds of two stars in with samples of Buddhist chanting around the world. The composition is about how people try to access deeper knowledge about our universe.
Mar 08 Reblogged
Piano notes made visible for the first time
Music is beautiful isn’t it? The team at CymaScope visualized the dynamic sounds of the piano’s first strike and the eventual plateau and decay phase of different notes. You can listen to the sounds here and watch as the geometric shapes come to life.
Cymascope - Sound Made Visible
Did you see my post about piano notes as visualized via the Cymascope last week? Now with hypnotic animations!
I love when our senses combine to illuminate something that would otherwise be invisible, or worse, ignored. A reminder of the limitations of our senses, and an artistic nod to synesthesia.
Follow that with another example of sound made visible: Beautiful Chladni lines.
Feb 09 Reblogged
Wired for Harmony?
Many creatures, such as human babies, chimpanzees, and chicks, react negatively to dissonance—harsh, unstable, grating sounds. Since the days of the ancient Greeks, scientists have wondered why the ear prefers harmony. Now, scientists suggest that the reason may go deeper than an aversion to the way clashing notes abrade auditory nerves; instead, it may lie in the very structure of the ear and brain, which are designed to respond to the elegantly spaced structure of a harmonious sound.
“Over the past century, researchers have tried to relate the perception of dissonance to the underlying acoustics of the signals,” says psychoacoustician Marion Cousineau of the University of Montreal in Canada. In a musical chord, for example, several notes combine to produce a sound wave containing all of the individual frequencies of each tone. Specifically, the wave contains the base, or “fundamental,” frequency for each note plus multiples of that frequency known as harmonics. Upon reaching the ear, these frequencies are carried by the auditory nerve to the brain. If the chord is harmonic, or “consonant,” the notes are spaced neatly enough so that the individual fibers of the auditory nerve carry specific frequencies to the brain. By perceiving both the parts and the harmonious whole, the brain responds to what scientists call harmonicity.
In a dissonant chord, however, some of the notes and their harmonics are so close together that two notes will stimulate the same set of auditory nerve fibers. This clash gives the sound a rough quality known as beating, in which the almost-equal frequencies interfere to create a warbling sound. Most researchers thought that phenomenon accounted for the unpleasantness of a dissonance.
Nov 10 Reblogged
12 Piano notes made visible for the first time
Shannon Novak, a New Zealand-born fine artist, commissioned us to image 12 piano notes as inspiration for a series of 12 musical canvases. We decided to image the notes in video mode because when we observed the ‘A1’ note we discovered, surprisingly, that the energy envelope changes over time as the string’s harmonics mix in the piano’s wooden bridge. Instead of the envelope being fairly stable, as we had imagined, the harmonics actually cause the CymaGlyphs to be wonderfully dynamic. Our ears can easily detect the changes in the harmonics and the CymaScope now reveals them—probably a first in acoustic physics.
Aug 17 Reblogged
Tatiana Plakhova - Music is Math (2010)
This is superb work from a superb design artist. According to Tatiana’s website, she uses a myriad of influences from music to science, and then converts them into data and pattern visualizations via a mix of her own hand and mathematical rendering software.
The results are just stunning. Check out her full collection.
Apr 25 Reblogged
Chandra: Listening To Light [720p]
When we look up on a dark night, we see a sky filled with stars. The light from a star, like the light from a flashlight or a lightning bug, is one form of electromagnetic radiation. Light is formed of waves, and different colors of light have different wavelengths. Red light has a longer wavelength than blue light. But the colors we see with our eyes represent only a tiny piece of the story. The electromagnetic spectrum spans from radio waves, with wavelengths longer than a car, to gamma-rays, with wavelengths smaller than the nucleus of an atom.
We can learn a great deal by looking at things with our eyes, or with optical telescopes. But different parts of the spectrum may reveal a very, very different picture.
Feb 18 Reblogged
Feb 18 Reblogged
What you see on this image are color pigments dancing on a speaker.
By placing the pigments on a speaker and then playing music through it, the membrane of the speaker starts to vibrate, creating these funny looking figures. To capture the very moment, in which the pigments are lifted into the air, a microphone was attached to the flash system. Like this everytime the micro picks up a sound, it triggers the flashes.