Theories about the purpose of Stonehenge range from a secular calendar to a place of spiritual worship. Now, an archaeologist suggests that the Stonehenge monument in southern England may have been an attempt to mimic a sound-based illusion.
If two pipers were to play in a field, observers walking around the musicians would hear a strange effect, said Steven Waller, a doctoral researcher at Rock Art Acoustics USA, who specializes in the sound properties of ancient sites, or archaeoacoustics. At certain points, the sound waves produced by each player would cancel each other out, creating spots where the sound is dampened.
It’s this pattern of quiet spots that may have inspired Stonehenge, Waller told an audience Thursday (Feb. 16) in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The theory is highly speculative, but modern-day experiments do reveal that the layout of the Stonehenge ruins and other rock circles mimics the piper illusion, with stones instead of competing sound waves blocking out sounds made in the center of the circle.
In support of the theory, Waller pointed to myths linking Stonehenge with music, such as the traditional nickname for stone circles in Great Britain: “piper stones.” One legend holds that Stonehenge was created when two magic pipers led maidens into the field to dance and then turned them to stone.
Waller experimented by having blindfolded participants walk into a field as two pipers played. He asked the volunteers to tell him whenever they thought a barrier existed between them and the sound. There were no barriers in the field, but acoustic “dead spots” created by sound-wave interference certainly gave the volunteers the impression that there were.
“They drew structures, archways and openings that are very similar to Stonehenge,” Waller said.
Waller believes the people who built Stonehenge more than 5,000 years ago may have heard this sound-canceling illusion during ceremonies with musicians and thought it mystical, spurring the creation of the stone circle.
Though the theory is unlikely to settle the mystery of Stonehenge, Waller said he hopes to highlight the importance of considering sound in archaeology. Rock art sites are often in areas where cave acoustics are particularly prone to echoes, he said, suggesting that ancient people found meaning in sound.
“Nobody has been paying attention to sound,” Waller said. “We’ve been destroying sound. In some of the French [rock art] caves, they’ve widened the tunnels to build little train tracks to take the tourists back – thereby ruining the acoustics that could have been the whole motivation in the first place.”
We can now hear, across a gulf of 140 years, some silly noises and a count to six, one of the earliest audio recordings.
Until recently, the oldest recorded sounds of known date which anyone could hear had been captured in 1888 on the “perfected” phonograph introduced that year by Thomas Edison. But Edison had invented his original phonograph eleven years before that, in 1877–and recorded sound itself is even older: In the 1850s, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville of Paris created the phonautograph, an instrument which scratched records of aerial sound waves on soot-blackened paper, not for playback, but for visual study. This means there is a big disparity between when sound was first recorded (around 1857) and the earliest recorded sounds we could actually listen to (1888).
That changed in 2008 when FirstSounds.org released a sound file created from a phonautogram of “Au Clair de la Lune” as sung on April 9, 1860. Suddenly we could hear more distantly into the past than ever before.
Even so, the intervening history of recorded sound — including the transformation by American inventors of the phonautograph into a “talking machine” — has remained frustratingly silent. The indented tinfoil sheets produced by Edison’s exhibition phonographs of 1877-78 weren’t regarded as permanently playable recordings, and little care was taken to preserve them in a playable state. No intelligible sound recovered from a historical tinfoil recording has ever been published.
So what else exists from before 1888? If we exclude recordings that weren’t intended for playback or to be permanently playable, then the oldest sound recordings preserved today are found at the National Museum of American History — experimental phonograms made starting in 1881 by the Volta Laboratory Association, which consisted of telephone pioneer Alexander Graham Bell, scientific instrument maker Charles Sumner Tainter, and chemist Chichester A. Bell.
With the support of a Lemelson Center Fellowship and the help of curator Carlene Stephens, I carried out a study of early sound recordings at the Museum, including the Volta materials, between October and December 2011. By comparing artifacts from the Volta collection with experiments described in notebooks at the Museum and the Library of Congress, I was able to identify a number of unlabeled items. One of these — a small copper disc with a laterally modulated or “zig-zag” sound recording — turned out to have been prepared shortly before October 20, 1881, to test whether electrically depositing a layer of metal on a recorded wax disc, and then using the metal negative to stamp out copies, might work as a basis for duplication in a future recording industry. “In this way a piece of music, for instance, can be recorded once,” Tainter had speculated, “and any number of copies made from this original record, and the music reproduced from each of the copies.”
The October 1881 date makes this one of the oldest known American sound recordings in existence, so a question naturally arises: What’s on it? The written documentation I could find identifies the disc’s content only vaguely as “words and sounds … shouted into the mouth-piece,” but the Volta group’s notebooks reveal the general kind of test recitation they were then using, as for example:
July 4, 1881: “Several trilled R’s–then–‘Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow, and every where that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.’–Several trilled R’s–then–‘How is that for high’–trilled R’s–and–One–two–three–four–five–six–seven–eight–nine–”
July 9, 1881: “There was a girl named O’Brian / Whose feet were like those of Orion, / To the circus she would go, / To see the great show, / And scratch the left ear of the lion. Trilled R’s. – ‘How is that for high’ more trilled R’s.”
Apart from the recurring expression “How is that for high” — roughly equivalent in 1881 to “How do you like them apples” — the most striking common denominator here is the “trilled R’s.” From laboratory notes, I could tell that this sound had recorded unusually well, and that the Volta group had often inserted it at beginnings, ends, and section breaks. But I didn’t know quite what it had sounded like. After all, nobody alive today had ever heard any of these experiments.
In December 2011, Dr. Carl Haber unveiled the first sounds extracted from Volta recordings using an optical scanning technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with the Library of Congress. One of the items chosen for this pilot project was the copper disc from October 1881. So now, at last, we can hear, across a gulf of 130 years: Trilled R’s–one, two, three, four, five, six–trilled R’s.
This post also appears on the National Museum of American History’s O Say Can You See? blog, anAtlantic partner site.
In this article we will see what various researchers in this field, which has been given the name of Cymatics, have concluded.
– Is there a connection between sound, vibrations and physical reality?
– Do sound and vibrations have the potential to create?
What is a Cymatic water-sound-motion?
Water in a round cup, that is oscillating up and down with a certain frequency, will react on this impulse with waves on her surface. The water oscillates up and down in the middle, like when a stone is thrown in a pool. Like there a ringwave will grow out, and is been followed by other circular waves, all with the same centre, so concentric.
In 1787, the jurist, musician and physicist Ernst Chladni published Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klangesor ( Discoveries Concerning the Theory of Sound). In this and other pioneering works, Chladni, who was born in 1756, the same year as Mozart, and died in 1829, the same year as Beethoven, laid the foundations for that discipline within physics that came to be called acoustics, the science of sound. Among Chladni´s successes was finding a way to make visible what sound waves generate. With the help of a violin bow which he drew perpendicularly across the edge of flat plates covered with sand, he produced those patterns and shapes which today go by the term Chladni figures. What was the significance of this discovery? Chladni demonstrated once and for all that sound actually does affect physical matter and that it has the quality of creating geometric patterns.
What we are seeing in this illustration is primarily two things: areas that are and are not vibrating. When a flat plate of an elastic material is vibrated, the plate oscillates not only as a whole but also as parts. The boundaries between these vibrating parts, which are specific for every particular case, are called node lines and do not vibrate. The other parts are oscillating constantly. If sand is then put on this vibrating plate, the sand (black in the illustration) collects on the non-vibrating node lines. The oscillating parts or areas thus become empty. According to Jenny, the converse is true for liquids; that is to say, water lies on the vibrating parts and not on the node lines.
In 1815 the American mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch began studying the patterns created by the intersection of two sine curves whose axes are perpendicular to each other, sometimes called Bowditch curves but more often Lissajous figures (see left and below images).
This after the French mathematician Jules-Antoine Lissajous, who, independently of Bowditch, investigated them in 1857-58. Both concluded that the condition for these designs to arise was that the frequencies, or oscillations per second, of both curves stood in simple whole-number ratios to each other, such as 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and so on. In fact, one can produce Lissajous figures even if the frequencies are not in perfect whole-number ratios to each other. If the difference is insignificant, the phenomenon that arises is that the designs keep changing their appearance. They move. What creates the variations in the shapes of these designs is the phase differential, or the angle between the two curves. In other words, the way in which their rhythms or periods coincide. If, on the other hand, the curves have different frequencies and are out of phase with each other, intricate web-like designs arise. These Lissajous figures are all visual examples of waves that meet each other at right angles.
Lissajous figures. The result of two sine curves meeting at right angles. Illustration: Typoform, Jenny W. Bryant, Swedish National Encyclopedia
As I pondered the connection between these figures and other areas of knowledge, I came to think about the concept that exists in many societies and their mythologies around the world, which describes the world as a web.
For example, many of the Mesoamerican people regarded the various parts of the universe as products of spinning and weaving: “Conception and birth were/…/ compared with the acts of spinning and weaving; all the Aztec and Mayan creation and fertility goddesses were described as great weavers.”(1) A number of waves crossing each other at right angles look like a woven pattern, and it is precisely that they meet at 90-degree angles that gives rise to Lissajous figures.
In 1967, the late Hans Jenny, a Swiss doctor, artist, and researcher, published the bilingual book Kymatik -Wellen und Schwingungen mit ihrer Struktur und Dynamik/ Cymatics – The Structure and Dynamics of Waves and Vibrations. In this book Jenny, like Chladni two hundred years earlier, showed what happens when one takes various materials like sand, spores, iron filings, water, and viscous substances, and places them on vibrating metal plates and membranes. What then appears are shapes and motion- patterns which vary from the nearly perfectly ordered and stationary to those that are turbulently developing, organic, and constantly in motion.
Jenny made use of crystal oscillators and an invention of his own by the name of the tonoscope to set these plates and membranes vibrating. This was a major step forward. The advantage with crystal oscillators is that one can determine exactly which frequency and amplitude/volume one wants. It was now possible to research and follow a continuous train of events in which one had the possibility of changing the frequency or the amplitude or both.
The tonoscope was constructed to make the human voice visible without any electronic apparatus as an intermediate link. This yielded the amazing possibility of being able to see the physical image of the vowel, tone or song a human being produced directly. (se below) Not only could you hear a melody – you could see it, too!
Jenny called this new area of research cymatics, which comes from the Greek kyma, wave. Cymatics could be translated as: the study of how vibrations, in the broad sense, generate and influence patterns, shapes and moving processes.
The Creative Vibration
What did Hans Jenny find in his investigations?
In the first place, Jenny produced both the Chladni figures and Lissajous figures in his experiments. He discovered also that if he vibrated a plate at a specific frequency and amplitude – vibration – the shapes and motion patterns characteristic of that vibration appeared in the material on the plate. If he changed the frequency or amplitude, the development and pattern were changed as well. He found that if he increased the frequency, the complexity of the patterns increased, the number of elements became greater. If on the other hand he increased the amplitude, the motions became all the more rapid and turbulent and could even create small eruptions, where the actual material was thrown up in the air.
The development of a pattern in sand (step by step).
Swinging water drops (by Hans Jenny)
Sand patterns as a function of the size of the plate
The shapes, figures and patterns of motion that appeared proved to be primarily a function of frequency, amplitude, and the inherent characteristics of the various materials. He also discovered that under certain conditions he could make the shapes change continuously, despite his having altered neither frequency nor amplitude!
The vowel A in sand
When Jenny experimented with fluids of various kinds he produced wave motions, spirals, and wave-like patterns in continuous circulation. In his research with plant spores, he found an enormous variety and complexity, but even so, there was a unity in the shapes and dynamic developments that arose. With the help of iron filings, mercury, viscous liquids, plastic-like substances and gases, he investigated the three-dimensional aspects of the effect of vibration.
In his research with the tonoscope, Jenny noticed that when the vowels of the ancient languages of Hebrew and Sanskrit were pronounced, the sand took the shape of the written symbols for these vowels, while our modern languages, on the other hand, did not generate the same result! How is this possible? Did the ancient Hebrews and Indians know this? Is there something to the concept of “sacred language,” which both of these are sometimes called? What qualities do these “sacred languages,” among which Tibetan, Egyptian and Chinese are often numbered, possess? Do they have the power to influence and transform physical reality, to create things through their inherent power, or, to take a concrete example, through the recitation or singing of sacred texts, to heal a person who has gone “out of tune”?
to read the rest of the article, for sources, etc., go to: http://blog.world-mysteries.com/science/cymatics/
Whales Have Accents and Regional Dialects: Biologists Interpret the Language of Sperm Whales
ScienceDaily (May 12, 2011) — Dalhousie Ph.D. student Shane Gero has recently returned from a seven-week visit to Dominica. He has been traveling to the Caribbean island since 2005 to study families of sperm whales, usually spending two to four months of each year working on the Dominica Sperm Whale Project. One of the goals of this project is to record and compare whale calls over time, examining the various phrases and dialects of sperm whale
When they dive together, sperm whales make patterns of clicks to each other known as “codas.” Recent findings suggest that not only do different codas mean different things, but that whales can also tell which member of their community is speaking based on the sound properties of the codas. Just as we can tell our friends apart by the sounds of their voices and the way they pronounce their words, different sperm whales make the same pattern of clicks, but with different accents