Thursday, 27 October 2011

Chladni figures - #2

In my blog post of the 24th of October I mentioned the term 'Chladni figures'. I'd never ever heard of this term before I came across the video clip the other day. Chladni - is this a thing or a person, or what is it?
Wikipedia tells us it's the name of a German physicist, musician and instrument maker: Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni (1756-1827).


You're right in assuming that the spelling of his surname is untypical of German. His parents, Wikipedia reveals, came from Slovakia; Ernst, however, was born in Wittenberg, Germany. I would have pronounced the surname as /xladni/, but Wikipedia offers the 'germanised' pronunciation /╦łkladn╔¬/.

Anyway, he conducted some research on vibrating plates thereby inventing a method for visualising the vibration patterns of sounds (see pictures 2 and 3):
picture no. 2
credit: The Whipple Museum
picture no.3
credit: The Whipple Library
The 3rd picture, which is an illustration of some vibration patterns, is taken from Chladni's book of 1802 "Die Akustik". This is the title page of the 1830 edition:

picture no.4
credit: European Cultural Heritage Online
 Nowadays the technique of visualising sound vibrations is called cymatics by some people. One can use simple metal plates or the Cymascope. The latter gadget can be admired in picture no. 5:

picture no.5
credit:cymascope.com
Just to make it clear: It's not a serious method for the phonetic investigation of speech sounds, I think. Disprove me if you can!

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