pComp Media Controller: The Horribly Organic Nature of Cymatics

The Team: Natalie Be’er, Blythe Sheldon, Jen Shannon, and myself
The Goal: to create organic structures with sound and human interaction
The Challenge: we had no idea what we were doing

I have been personally intrigued with the field of cymatics, whereby sound energy is translated through a physical medium resulting in unpredictable interference patterns that manifest aesthetically pleasing entities. This fascination I shared with my group and they were also intrigued. So we set to first build a sound generator of some sort. We decided to attempt to make the sounds with the Arduino microcontroller itself, as opposed to using prerecorded samples. Luckily, there was some work done in this area and we used a library called the Auduino to be the basis for the sounds we wanted to generate. More difficult was finding a speaker that would be both loud enough and strong enough to get the results we were looking for. I attempted to build a small op-amp to boost the signal from the Arduino…no go. It just wasn’t loud enough, so as a quick fix toward our “proof-of-concept” we utilized a small external amp that I have for my home computer setup.

Finally came the day to test the various substances we had available (see videos below), and found the most pleasing (yet also most messy) substance was cornstarch and water, a non-newtoninan compound that acts as both a liquid and a solid depending on its state of agitation. Here it served us well, and created the somewhat disturbing little white men you will see in the final video.

The final result can be seen in the photostream below. Many thanks to our group member Natalie for documenting the process and posting the results.

Cymatics trial #1 - Silly Sludge from Natalie Rachel on Vimeo.

Cymatics trial #2 - Corn Starch Trial Run from Natalie Rachel on Vimeo.

Cymatics trial #3 - Corn Starch Monsters! from Natalie Rachel on Vimeo.