A Sound Visualization Bowl

The idea for a Sound Visualization Bowl came from seeing a turned wooden bowl by Lee Sneddon entitled Tibetan Singing Bowl.

Singing Bowls work similarly to the effect you get when you run a dampend finger tip around the rim of a wine glass - only at lower tones. The sound a Singing Bowl makes is subtley complex, three to five different tones - sometimes synching up to create additional waxing and waning tones. The effect is quite hypnotic - which is why Singing Bowls are used in meditation.

Looking for videos, with sound, of Singing Bowls I stumbled on one with Dancing Water. When you put water in a Singing Bowl, as the bowl "sings", the sound create waves in the water, making the water "dance".

Hmmmm . . . Sound - you can - SEE. A Sound Visualization Bowl. Interesting way to add actual movement to a piece. Hmmmmm . . .

Don't think I can make a wooden bowl that could actually "sing". But I know of one way I can get a wooden bowl to virbrate - with a little cell phone vibrator - tucked out of sight somewhere under the piece. Sound, after all, is vibration - of air - or water. Wooden bowls and water don't go together - at least not for very long. So water or anything with water in it won't work. I need a dry medium - like salt or sugar - but not as fine as flour.

I'd used tiny glass Micro Balloons in place of sugar in an earlier piece where weight was an issue. They are very light - and easily moved. If the bowl could be made very light - it would be easier to get vibrating. Hmmmm . . .

But things that vibrate tend to move around on the surface they're sitting on. So I'd need to somehow allow the bowl to vibrate - but not move around horizontally much, A base with a groove for the bottom rim of the bowl to sit in - allowing the bowl to vibrate - but not move much - horizontally because of its base.

Here's the basic idea - at three quarter scale.

A small cell phone vibrator (a little electric motor with an off center weight pressed on its drive shaft) is attached to the underside of the very light bowl. A 9V battery will supply power to both the micro computer and one leg of a relay switch that is controlled by the micro computer. The micro computer will be programmed to periodically open and close the relay switch thus "pulsing" the vibrator on and off at different rates - or FREQUENCIES.

Imagine an innocuous bowl with what appears to be sugar in it. You might notice it - but it wouldn't hold your attention very long. Now imagine that you notice the bowl - but now its content - is rippling and there's a buzzing sound. As you focus your attention on the bowl's content - the pattern of the rippling waves keeps changing - and then - stops - the piece returning to being what seems like a simple bowl filled with sugar. You wait - and nothing happens. But as you turn away - a buzzing sound. You look back just in time to see the sugar stop rippling.

This IS NOT a simple bowl with sugar in it. So you watch it - waiting for it to ripple and buzz again. And it does. But it this time it stays rippling and buzzing a little longer and you get to watch the rippling patterns change - now chaotic - now forming circular patterns - waves intersecting waves. You realize that you are SEEING, not just hearing, sound. Then it stops - for how long you don't know. After a while you get bored and wander away. But this brief expereince just may change how you perceive sound - or at least some sounds.

Once your perception of something familiar changes it may cause you to examine how you perceive other things you take for granted - or not.

This idea has some interesting possibilities - and the potential to have an interesting effect. Wonder where it'll go.

Thought about how a speaker works and realized that vibrating the whole bowl would take a lot more power than I had with a battery powered set up. What I needed was for the bowl to act as a heavy static speaker cabinet and a light diaphram that can be vibrated easily and with less power, So here are the details of what I think I'm going to try - at close to full scale.

Here's the process for turning the bowl and inlayed stepped bottom plug. The wood is probably poplar, turned pretty dry and with some cracks which I've CA glued repeatedly as I turned it.

At this point the piece weighed 1 pound 12 ounces. Turning into the top, it's now down to about 14 ounces.

A styrofoam picnic plate, trimmed to size and persuaded into the bowl - after the little vibrator was taped to the underside of the plate.

Then it was time to connect the 9 volt battery to the vibrator motor's wires and this thing made a hell of a racket as the little vibrator bounced the foam plate rapidly. Next it was time to see if I could get stuff sitting on the vibrating plate to create changing patterns. Dumped a shot glass worth of lead birdshot in - and the shot bounced around like fleas on a hot plate - and made snare drum noises. Covering the plate with birdshot was just too much weight for the little vibrator to move.

Then - a little serendipity. When I poured out the birdshot, there were some little african blackwood chips left behind. And when the vibrator was powered up again - they bounced around - without making any additional sound. As luck would have it, again serendipitously, I had saved zip lok bags of turned curlies from different colored woods. I'd planned to use them for a piece that poked a little fun at Art Speak. Holes became negative space and negative space became "the presence of abscence".. So I was going to put piles of "abscence" on a turned plate and title it "the Abscences from the Presence of Abscence".

Anyway - I sprinkled a layer of small african blackwood curlies and chips on the plate's surface, fired up the vibrator again and things got interesting. Here's the link to the YouTube video - with annoying sound - of the piece in action.


The african blackwood curlies were a nice First Try material. But, if someone were to sneeze on them - BIG MESS. And my original idea to use tiny glass micro balloons would have the same problem - but it would be glass floating around in the air - not good. I needed something small and light - but not quite that light - and harmless.

Hmmmmm . . .

Maybe 15 years ago, I got into a Japanese art form called Sueseki - and interesting rock or grouping of rocks - that evoked mountains and islands. The latter were usually set in a shallow plate or platter filled with sand, the sand representing the sea. I quickly found that kids like to play with sand - and get it on my hardwood floor. Not good.

While looking for a leather dog color at a local Tack & Feed store - AN-JANs - I serenditously stumbled on - BIRD SEED - all kinds of interesting BIRDSEED! Red Millet, White Millet, Rape Seed, Thistle Seed, Barley and other intesting little seeds. These seeds are small and light, but not light enough to blow around - and non abrassive. Seeds were a great sand substitute for my Islands Suiseki.

In an ever changing world of New AND Improved, Here Today / Gone Tomorrow, Consumer Products - Tack & Feed stores may be one of the few places that remains virtually unchanged - their product lines are timeless - bird seeds for example. So when I went to AN-JANs for seeds - they had them - bins and bins of seed - just as they did 15 years earlier. At about a buck a pound, seeds are one of the best bargains you can find these days. Here are some seeds - and a little coarse ground corn husks - close to actual size.

As an aside, we turners make all sorts of vessels - things that were originally made to HOLD something. But for some reason, we never seem to put anything in the vessels we create. I think putting things in them - like seeds - makes sense - and can add more interest to turned vessels - see?

More to come - for sure

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