What is Cymatics?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: Cymatics is the study of visible sound and vibration, a subset of modal phenomena. Cymatics is defined from the Ancient Greek: κῦμα, meaning, “wave”, is a subset of modal vibrational phenomena. The term was coined by Hans Jenny (1904-1972).

The Ernst Chladni demonstrations are essentially a way to show the patterns that sounds create with various frequencies by using a flat plate with sand on top, while the plate is vibrated with specific frequencies.

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

While the Ernst Chladni demonstrations are shown as they exist in (mostly) two dimensions, the reality of sound is that it is in three dimensions, and this can be seen in the pioneering research being done by John Stuart Reid. On the website cymatica.com he proposes, “that sound is not actually a wave, as has been thought for centuries, but a “bubble” and that this is what creates the amazing patterns we see captured with cymatics.”


sound bubble and violin (image: John Stuart Reid)


3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

While the specifics of Cymatics are currently being researched in fields such as neuroscience, an interesting concept of sound and vibration shapes based on sounds as a “bubble and sphere”, could be related to the built environment as architectural spaces.

Can the shape of the built structure be tuned to have certain frequencies that are helpful for human health, healing and wellness?

This is a topic of interest for Architectural Medicine. More research is obviously needed and many questions still remain. Perhaps this process can show how the built environment directly impacts human health in ways that have not yet been fully researched and known.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

History: In 1680, Robert Hooke was able to see the nodal patterns associated with the modes of vibration of glass plates. Hooke ran a bow along the edge of a glass plate covered with flour, and saw the nodal patterns emerge.[3]

The German musician and physicist Ernst Chladni noticed in the eighteenth century that the modes of vibration of a membrane or a plate can be observed by sprinkling the vibrating surface with a fine dust (e.g., lycopodium powder, flour or fine sand).

John Stuart Reid is currently providing information and research into Cymatics on his website “Journal of Cymatics: The Study of Sound Made Visible”: http://cymatica.com/

5. Resources: