Sounding Vessels


Mild Warning to Readers before they proceed:

This next section is quite mad, and does not necessarily represent the views of all SV members.



Our discussion begins with sound. Sound is vibration that interacts with a medium (usually air or water ) to produce waves. These waves move in various ways within a vast spectrum only partly audible to us in the animal world. These patterns of interference created from the waves movements manifest multiple phenomena. All of this phenomena can be said to have form as it base. Form is coherency of structure. However not all form is visible nor is all sound invisible. Examine this version of a Chladni plate in a Cymatics study. Cymatics is the study of visible sound and vibration, a subset of modal phenomena.

  We see here an example of sound (as frequency) moving through a media (here it is sand) to create a pattern of form. These nodal patterns flux as the wave frequencies change creating new forms.

Almost all ancient cultures held belief systems about sound and the beginning of universal form. A simplified version of one Hindu creation myth states that as Brahma uttered the syllable Om (Aum), the cyclical existence of the multi-verse around us came into being.

 The ancient Chinese spoke of the "Wu Yun"or 5 movements which essentially were the music of the stars that as they descended from the sky to the planet intermingled a resonant pattern to create all form around us. 

  The Greco-Roman periods also had numerous philosophical concepts of sound in relation to form and structure. We point to a somewhat lesser known figure. Born in 80 B.C., a Roman author named Vitruvius wrote a large volume known as "De Architectura". He is best remembered for his statements in the book that are now known as the Vitruvian Virtues or Triad. The virtues simply state that a harmonious structure must exhibit three qualities. They are firmitas, utilitas, venustas – that is, it must be solid, useful, and beautiful. These ideas influenced Da Vinci in his production of his Vitruvian man, a map of interaction of shape and movement in the development of the human form.



Vitruvius also continued extending these concepts in Chapter 5 of De Architectura where he explains in detail the design of sounding vessels that would enable a variety of resonant and consonant effects in a theatre. These vessels known as Echea were already somewhat commonly used to affect resonance in performance in a space. The 'echea" (literally echoer) was a pot, chamber or vessel used to absorb and manipulate acoustic energy in a space. The Echea were placed with "regard to the laws and harmony of physics" according to Vitruvius' work. The number of echea used and their positioning depended on the size and shape of the theatre. The vessels operated by resonance, enhancing key frequencies of the performers' voices and instruments, changing the interaction, absorbing those of the audience, and thereby changing the sound in the space making sound clear and lush.

If we consider that all parts of performance are an interactive organic whole in various interactive resonance, then we could state that the audience, performers, instruments and space all are an interactive wave phenomena manifesting a form that is the performance, In this way we all act as echea or sounding vessels mediating the experience. It is this goal that we the Sounding Vessels Collectief try to facilitate with free improvisational states of sound. We also hope that the resonant frequency form released in space at time of performance will continue to enhance ongoing resonant frequencies of the future.