Video: Japanese artist uses sound to create shapes out of sand

Eric Pfeiffer

In this amazing video, Japanese performance artist Kenichi Kanazawa uses a simple rubber mallet to create specific patterns out of grains of sand. It's one of those moments that is so unbelievable that your eyes want to tell you that it's an illusion. The sound of the mallet rubbing on the table is a bit loud, so you may want to turn your computer's volume down first:

But it's all real. Kanazawa uses a scientific "sound-visualizing process" called Cymatics to create the detailed patterns. And to make the spectacle even stranger, the shapes shift in response to enhanced pitch: The higher the frequency, the more complex the patterns that emerge.

The process goes all the way back to the 1600's, when Galileo Galilei was one of the first person to formally recognize that oscillating sounds could create patterns. In his "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems," Galileo wrote:

As I was scraping a brass plate with a sharp iron chisel in order to remove some spots from it and was running the chisel rather rapidly over it, I once or twice, during many strokes, heard the plate emit a rather strong and clear whistling sound: on looking at the plate more carefully, I noticed a long row of fine streaks parallel and equidistant from one another. Scraping with the chisel over and over again, I noticed that it was only when the plate emitted this hissing noise that any marks were left upon it; when the scraping was not accompanied by this sibilant note there was not the least trace of such marks.

You can watch more of Kanazawa's videos here, and see a collection of Cymatic art here.

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