Good Vibrations

This was Chicago’s vernal equinox:

On Friday it was 65 degrees, and all the crocuses were in full bloom; they have little bright yellow centers.  Sensibly, they snapped shut during the two-day snowy weekend, and haven’t fully opened again since, even though the snow was all melted by yesterday and the past two days have been sunny but cool.

I beat a short load of bleached abaca, which again went perfectly, and now have the correct shade of pulp. The past few days have been a lot of errands and writing and visitors and visiting and a few more studio improvements and finally getting the web site to work in Internet Explorer, and I’m hoping to begin production on the last bits of (S)Edition tomorrow.

Many years ago, moments after I got my first hearing aid (a very basic, outdated, donated and refurbished one from the Chicago Hearing Society), I went right to the original book and paper facility on Wabash where I worked.  It was near the CHS’s old offices, I was familiar (I thought) with its sounds, and I freely admit that I was utterly freaked. I was totally assaulted by incomprehensible noise, and since my hearing loss is in both ears and I could only afford one cheap hearing aid, my balance was shot to hell, too.  Pamela Paulsrud was working in the paper studio, and having been trained as a nurse, she graciously walked around with me for a good part of the afternoon, patiently answering each time I jumped and shouted, “Yaaah!!! What’s that, what am I hearing?!?!  Where is it coming from?!”  She doesn’t remember doing this, but I never forgot it, ever.

Some of my recent visits and visiting have been with Pam, whose current work with cymatics, begun last summer, is completely intriguing me.  I can’t hear this interview, but many of you can, and you can see the sound vibrations in action.

Yesterday, I got to see this happen in person; trust me, the video is just a slight taste.  Not only are the patterns made by the vibrations fascinating, the way the grains of sand move when shifting is captivating.  Sometimes they bounce at different rates like bursting popcorn or drops of water on a hot skillet, sometimes they lazily shift, or collide and pile up to make sharp textured lines, and they don’t all move at once.

As exciting as it is for a deafened person to see sound (and for a deafened artist / papermaker to see someone capturing sound in paper!), our conversations have been even more fascinating; we’re free enough with each other to venture pretty far out there.  And it’s fun, too, to try and describe exactly how touching a piano to feel the vibrations while someone plays fills in the musical information that’s missing from my ears, or how the sound from hearing aids differs from ‘real’ sound.  I think we might be filling in some gaps for each other, and pushing each other further, and that’s truly a good vibration.

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4 thoughts on “Good Vibrations

  1. you called it! more snow, though fleeting. that picture is perfect. also, i totally thought of sex toys when i saw your post title, but was so excited when you talked about pam. i saw that video a while ago. i can’t remember why or how it happened but it made me respect her even more.

  2. Yeah, cymatics are ultra-kewl: my high school physics teacher demonstrated it in Grade 12, just after Hans Jenny published his seminal volume in 1967.

    Guilloché is too…. 😉

    Integrating them more into my design practice is something I’d love to do.

  3. Nah, I just had a truly excellent physics teacher who liked the subject, and realized that most of his university-bound students were more likely to do the required grunt work if he threw in kewl stuff every few weeks.

    Check out cymatics.org if you want to have some new desktops or a screensaver!

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