Design and music, I like to do it every day. Both are my passion and my work. Strangely enough, these two different areas of expertise are very similar. I see many similarities when you analyze it and compare the basic elements of the two.
Music, it is perhaps the most concrete embodiment of the essence of nature. The interplay of frequencies seems to be inextricably linked to the chemistry that takes place at the molecular level. This parable has fascinated me for years. To make this somewhat understandable, we have to delve into the chemistry theory that states that matter is made up of atoms, which in turn consist of electrons and those of neutrons and protons, an even smaller part of which should consist of quarks.
It seems to me that the explanation of the particles is correct, the most important finding is that matter appears to be made up of individual particles that seem to vibrate and rotate in space at a certain frequency. Together they form in this way all matter, or what we can perceive.
I state this with all the uncertainty, because I am anything but out to proclaim an absolute truth, in fact: my question is to question everything that I explain so that the right conclusion will come to your mind.
In any case, if we start from the concept that the principle of “frequencies” plays an essential role in both matter and music, we have already found a first example here to illustrate the similarity. In this way various forms of matter arise from the diversity on which the particles move at a certain frequency. In a similar way, a diversity of sound is possible due to the diversity of frequencies produced by vibrations in the air. We express this principle of a “frequency” in “hertz”.
Unit of vibration, namely 1 vibration per second (vandale.nl). A hertz is therefore a unit to express how many vibrations occur per second. With matter there is such a high frequency that we can hardly make a visual representation of it with our imagination. However, by transferring sound to a plate with a liquid or granular matter on top, a very good image can be created. One of the most concrete experiments of this is “Cymatics” by Hans Jenny.
A study in which many experiments have been done with the conversion of frequencies to images. This was done through a loudspeaker that transmits a certain frequency to a plate with water, sand or other granular material on top. By viewing and photographing the plate from above, all kinds of patterns and mathematical forms became visible at the relevant frequency. The forms that revealed themselves are beautifully recorded in the book “Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena & Vibration”.
The research of Cymatics makes it very clear how sound and image can arise from a frequency. With every frequency a certain pattern is created, it keeps this shape as long as the frequency remains constant. As soon as the frequency changes, the pattern will deform according to the frequency. We can link this fact with the way in which diversity of matter is possible. If we imagine that molecules embody different properties through their different frequencies, it can be imagined that the fusion of the molecules with each their unique frequency can lead to a new frequency, or a new form of matter. Just like different frequencies of sound together produce a new sound. We see this in the same way with the color spectrum.
The great diversity of colors is possible because light consists of a very broad spectrum, with “light” we usually refer to wavelengths. The other frequencies that fall outside the concept of “light” are unfortunately not visible to the naked eye. However, for the time being we can speak of the happiness that we as human beings have the capacity to translate a large range of available frequencies through our eyes and brain into a concrete image. Thanks to that gift we can see all the beauty around us.
Thanks to our eyes and ears we can see and hear everything, but it is not always “beautiful” by definition. Just as a sound or combination of sounds may sound unpleasant, a color or a certain combination of colors may also look less attractive. In this regard, we see or hear how the diversity of frequencies is not self-evident in a certain balance when they are randomly combined. However, when the right sounds or colors (frequencies) work together, there is always a harmonious collaboration in a series of specific combinations. The colors or sounds together are then in balance, or together ensure the right balance. In such cases, there seems to be a natural form of harmony, whereby it is jointly accepted as aesthetic.
So at the core of nature, namely the area of ”frequencies”, there seems to be a kind of formula hidden in it which forms the rule as to whether or not something can be experienced as “harmonious”. That fact is of course extremely interesting when you as a designer or musician look for the right composition.
While composing a piece of music, attention is paid to all kinds of facets that contribute to creating harmony. Among other things, attention is paid to the key, the rhythm and the variation in it. A pleasant combination of tones, or an appealing rhythm, we naturally seem to be able to recognize with common sense. By this I do not mean that everyone is naturally born a musician, but almost everyone with good hearing and common sense is able to distinguish a false tone from a pure one, regardless of personal preference. The same applies to the beat of the rhythm, if it is constant in a certain way and “swings”, this automatically evokes the feeling of dancing. By this I do not mean that everyone can dance naturally, but can naturally acknowledge that a certain rhythm sounds pleasant and that when the rhythm in question becomes disrupted, the listener feels that the balance that was there is disrupted.
That feeling of whether something follows a correct pattern is perhaps the most essential feeling to listen to when designing and composing. A skilled designer or musician must have specialized themselves in this, in that case they have a ‘sense of it’, but as explained in the previous sections, there is a certain logic that underlies the created harmony and is it is more likely that there is a natural balance that the designer or musician has intentionally or accidentally achieved.
Given that there is a natural balance, we can take a look at nature with all the above. Where we see the most beautiful creations of flora and fauna. Realizing that, we can state that nature is capable of producing something harmonious on its own. Although millions of years of evolution have preceded it, the reality is that nature is a characteristic of creating something that has a certain beauty.
By realizing all of the foregoing, the conclusion suggests that nature itself is the greatest source of creativity and includes all the systems that underlie harmony. That is how we humans are a product of it. For that reason, we must be able to acquire all the knowledge that nature has acquired over the years. I think that is possible by listening to your instinct and trusting your innate sense of acknowledging balance. You only need to refine that capacity, which you can only improve by doing. Create and watch your compositions afterwards or listen to them, hundreds or thousands of times if needed. Just until you have found something that makes you feel that it is in balance. By that way, you enter the path to natural balance, you carry it with you. An infinite source of inspiration and capability of creating the most beautiful things beyond your imagination.
Marco van Zomeren is a designer on a audio visual journey. Currently working full time at a company with several subsidiaries in the financial sector. Besides his day job he spends most of his spare time on producing electronic music. More...