“On the Threshold of Beauty, Science and Art Collaborate”


The title is a quote by electronic music composer Edgard Varèse. It is a quote that I recently took to heart as a composer myself. Unfortunately, I am typically separated from the science field, as I focus on my musical endeavors. In an effort to rectify this, I have recently begun a series of audiovisual works that marry the two fields. This blog seems like the perfect environment to showcase my work to date.

See video

The piece I am advocating for here is called Ferrous, which showcases the unique properties of ferrofluid. This liquid contains microscopic magnetic particles, which will react to any external magnetic field. By introducing a magnet, we can see the fluid take the shape of the magnetic field lines emanating from that magnet. In this piece, all of the magnets are manipulated below the ferrofluid, but their shape and movement remains clear as the liquid mimics them. I used four different magnets of varying shapes and strengths to showcase the liquid’s wide range of visual possibilities. The visuals are further enhanced by the brilliant gold colors that reflect off of the ferrofluid-stained aluminum foil container.

All of the audio is derived from two sources that embody the materials used in the piece. One was sloshing liquid, which represents the fluid aspects of ferrofluid; the other was metal banging on metal, which represents the solid aspects (i.e. when the magnets are interacting with the iron in the ferrofluid). These sounds are then filtered in many different ways (i.e. delay, pitch shift, distortion, time expansion and compression, etc.) to create the final score. I gave each magnet their own musical character by designating particular filters for each one. For example, the bar magnets in the middle of the piece use a lot of quick pitch shifting to underscore the variety of visual effects they can create, while the round magnet at the end makes great use of delay as a driving rhythmic force, as well as distortion to underscore its sheer magnetic power.

Working on this project has been an amazing experience for me so far. Science is just full of so much inherent beauty and I already have a few ideas for other videos like this in the near future. I would love to hear your responses to this video and any thoughts for this project going forward. But for now, enjoy!

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

cpeckmusic's picture
cpeckmusic says:

Go here to see more of my work:

posted on Wed, 02/22/2012 - 6:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Wow...this is as amazing to listen to as it is to read your process. Love that it marries science and music and great to hear and watch. Really impressive!

posted on Thu, 02/23/2012 - 12:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Cool video!

posted on Sun, 03/04/2012 - 11:47am

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