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Water Sound Images: The Creative Music of the Universe

by Alexander Lauterwasser; trans. by Gunter Maria Zielke [first German edition 2002]
Newmarket: MACROmedia Publishing, USA, 2006
176 pp., illus. b/w, col. Trade, 27.50
ISBN: 978-1-888138-09-2.

Reviewed by Rob Harle


Water Sound Images: The Creative Music of the Universe is a visually stunning book. The graphic layout and design is superb with hundreds of full colour illustrations to complement the text.

Lauterwasser has drawn heavily on the work of Ernst Chladni and Hans Jenny to produce this body of work and as a basis of his own extensive research. This research involves, "Projecting audible sound frequencies into small samples of water, delicate patterns emerge, whose structures mirror those found throughout the natural world" ("Rear Cover"). Sound may also be used to excite a metal plate; as the frequency increases so too does the complexity of the sound images. Fig. 37 on pages 44-45 features a series of over 200 small images; their complexity and beauty is quite astonishing.

The book includes an Introduction, Epilogue, Index, Bibliography and five chapters as follows: 1 – Cosmogenesis and Sound. This chapter discusses the mythological and philosophical attributes of sound, especially in connection with the creation of the universe. 2 – Vibrations and Sound. Here Lauterwasser looks at the phenomenological and physical nature of sound vibrations. 3 – Chladni Sound Figures. This chapter features the pioneering work of Ernst Chladni with numerous quality reproductions of his work. It discusses Oscillating Plates, Resonating Bodies, and Resonating Life. 4 – Water-Sound-Images discusses and presents, Resonating Water-Drops, Standing Waves and Self-Organization and Form-Giving. 5 – Water-Sound-Images (created by music). As the title suggests, this chapter covers images created by music. Mozart, Tibetan monks, and many other examples are drawn upon as Lauterwasser weaves his story of the connection which sound vibration has to all life.

This book is difficult to pigeon hole. As a coffee table production it is outstanding but it is far more than just a superficial gloss on the production of sound images; however, it does not quite gel as an in-depth study either. I found the excessive use of quotations very irritating as they are interspersed heavily throughout the text on virtually every page. Commensurate with the research Lauterwasser has done, I feel the book could have been improved, or at least become more suitable for a wider audience if Lauterwasser had used his own words more and simply acknowledged the source rather than quoting in full, ad nauseam.

That criticism aside, I think the book will appeal to a wide audience, including artists, cosmologists, philosophers, students, and all those with a curiosity as to our connection with the visible and normally invisible world around us. The book is inspiring and an excellent resource for further study and experimentation.

Lauterwasser has been interested in the patterns and shapes found in nature for many years; his encounter with Chladni images was a kind of epiphany, in his own words. "My first encounter with Chladni figures triggered something like an experience of resonance and I felt that the key to a deeper understanding of the process of "taking shape" lay hidden in these phenomena" (p. 165). This book certainly leaves one with a sense of awe at the hidden processes of nature.



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