Intern’s Corner: Chladni Plate, the alternate build

Music Science Technology
Intern’s Corner: Chladni Plate, the alternate build

MAKE: Intern's Corner
Every other week, MAKE’s awesome interns tell about the projects they’re building in the Make: Labs, the trouble they’ve gotten into, and what they’ll make next.

By Meara O’Reilly, projects intern

I’d been wanting to make a Chladni plate for years, and testing out Edwin Wise’s Chladni plate project for MAKE, Volume 16, was just the jump-start I needed to start tinkering around with making my own voice coils and drivers, like this one:

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One of my heroes, David Tudor (an experimental music pioneer and John Cage collaborator), used drivers as the basis of his famous Rainforest installations, turning ordinary household objects into speakers and creating suspended “forests” of whispering resonant frequencies.

The transducers that Tudor often used to drive these objects are still available today (Rolen-Star transducers from Stockton, Calif.), and I built a plate reverb a few years ago using a drum cymbal as the plate, driven by a Rolen-Star, and picked up and amplified by a contact microphone.

At first I wasn’t getting enough power to drive the system without creating washes of feedback, so my friend Sammy helped me modify a small practice amp to bypass the speaker with a switch:

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When I wanted to build a more durable and powerful Chladni plate to take on tour with me, I simply adapted this system to drive a large piece of scrap metal I had, and voila! A Chladni plate that I can sing through! I’ve now started writing songs based on sequences of Chladni patterns, and I demonstrated my setup at this year’s Maker Faire.

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Meara O’Reilly is an intern at MAKE and CRAFT and performs with her homemade instruments under the name of Avocet.

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