By Patricia R. Spadaro
Pictures of Sound: Making Invisible Vibrations Visible
In our modern culture, where for many seeing is believing, how do we know that what sages and energy practitioners say about the power of sound is true? Is there evidence that vibration and sound can affect matter, interact with our molecules and stimulate healing? And if so, can we measure their effects?
In the eighteenth-century, German scientist and musician Ernst Chladni, known as the father of acoustics, took a step toward answering these questions. He demonstrated, in simple, visual experiments, that sound affects matter. When he drew a violin bow around the edge of a plate covered with fine sand, the sand formed various geometric patterns, as shown below.
Another pioneer in this arena was Dr. Hans Jenny. A Swiss medical doctor and a scientist, Dr. Jenny realized the importance of vibration and sound and set out to study them from a unique angle. His fascinating experiments into the study of wave phenomena, which he called cymatics (from the Greek kyma, meaning “wave”), provide nothing less than pictures of how sound influences matter.
In the 1960s, Dr. Jenny placed sand, fluid and powders on metal plates, which he vibrated with a special frequency generator and a speaker. His experiments produced beautiful and intricate patterns that were unique to each individual vibration (see photographs below). Moreover, these varying patterns remained intact as long as the sound pulsed through the substance. If the sound stopped, the pattern collapsed. For many, these experiments show that sound can indeed alter form, that different frequencies produce different results, and that sound actually creates and maintains form.
The photographs below are taken from Dr. Jenny’s work in cymatics. Used with permission from the two-volume edition of Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena, ©2001 MACROmedia, Newmarket, NH.
Although best known for his stunning cymatic images, Dr. Jenny was also an artist and musician as well as a philosopher, historian and physical scientist. Perhaps most important, he was a serious student of nature’s ways with keen powers of observation. Whether it was the cycle of the seasons, a bird’s feathers, a rain drop, the formation of weather patterns, mountains or ocean waves—or even poetry, the periodic table, music or social systems—Dr. Jenny saw an underlying, unifying theme: wave patterns, produced by vibration.
“Wherever we look, we can describe what we see in terms of periodicities and rhythmicities,” he wrote. “When nature creates anything it creates in this periodic style.”1 For him, everything reflected inherent patterns of vibration involving number, proportion and symmetry—what he called the “harmonic principle.” Dr. Jenny encouraged continuing research into the wave phenomenon. The purpose of such studies, he explained, was to “hear” the systems of Nature. “What we want to do is, as it were, to learn to ‘hear’ the process that blossoms in flowers, to ‘hear’ embryology in its manifestations and to apprehend the inwardness of the process,” he wrote.2
Our Cells Respond to Sound
The implications of Dr. Jenny’s work are vast, especially for the field of healing and vibrational medicine. If sound can change substances, can it alter our interior landscape? Since patterns of vibration are ubiquitous in nature, what role do they play in creating and sustaining the cells of our own bodies? How do the vibrational patterns of a diseased body differ from the patterns the body emanates when it is healthy? And can we turn the unhealthy vibrations into healthy ones? While Dr. Jenny did not focus on the healing possibilities of sound and vibration, his work inspired many whose destiny it was to do just that.
Two other researchers who have created visually compelling evidence of the power of sound are Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto and Fabien Maman. Maman, a French composer, acupuncturist and bioenergetician, and Helene Grimal, a biologist, experimented with both healthy and cancer cells to see how they would respond to the voice and to various instruments. In his book The Role of Music in the Twenty-First Century, Maman reports that among the dramatic effects of sound they captured in their photographs was the progressive destabilization of the structure of cancer cells. When Maman played sounds that progressed up the musical scale, the cancer cells eventually exploded.
Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto showed the potent effects of sound by photographing water crystals. In his remarkable experiments, he played classical music and folk songs from Japan and other countries through speakers placed next to water samples. He then froze the water to make crystals and compared the crystalline structure of different samples. With each musical piece, the water sample formed different and beautifully geometric crystals. When he played heavy metal music, the water crystal’s basic hexagonal structure broke into pieces.
In another experiment, Emoto and three hundred others assembled at the shore of a badly polluted lake in Japan and spoke aloud an affirmation of peace and gratitude. The water crystals changed from a cloudy and distorted image before the prayer to beautiful, geometric crystals after the prayer. Smaller groups of people have repeated this experiment at other lakes around the world with similar results, which Emoto has published in volume two of his Messages from Water.
1. Hans Jenny, Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration (Newmarket, N.H.: MACROmedia, 2001), p. 271
2. Ibid., p. 276
Article ©2005 Patricia R. Spadaro. All rights
Patricia R. Spadaro is a freelance writer and coauthor of several books on personal growth.
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