Synaesthesia is the crossing-over of the senses so that sound might be heard as colour or touch felt as taste. About one in 2000 of us experience it in some way. In his latest video, Nigel Stanford helps us to explore what that might be like – a different form of synaesthesia – through cymatics, the study of objects moving in sympathy with sound.
The film opens with Stanford pouring sand onto a steel plate on top of a speaker. As he starts to play, the frequencies form the sand into patterns which change with every note. From that point the video escalates as the music builds, through pyrotechnics to men in armour drawing voltage from a giant tesla coil through their heads.
Far from what we’d expect, experiments are not mere accompaniments to the music. Rather, they form its basis. As Stanford and director Shaun Daud explain in their behind-the-scenes videos, the experiments were tuned to create the most stunning visual effect they could. From that point, they worked backwards to find the tones and rhythms whose cymatic frequencies would create those effects on the elements and matter with which they were working.
Like John Haze’s attempt early last year to test his hypothesis that we dance because we’re made of water, the video channels the spirit of electronic music’s pioneers: to explore the frontiers of science and technology to make beautiful, human music.
Enjoy the lights.