A multi-coloured cymatic art experience powered by a theremin.

Project Details

Cymatics are a visual phenomenon that occur when a surface vibrates at certain frequencies, producing peaks and valleys which exhibit certain patterns in a fluid. You may have seen the old science experiment where someone puts water mixed with corn starch on a speaker and the fluid morphs and changes when the speaker emits sound.

A producer friend, Micha Dahan, approached my boss and myself with a request to help with a cymatics display as part of Toronto’s annual Nuit Blanche art festival. Each fall the festival features dozens of different art exhibitions from sunrise to sunset and he was going to be partnering with a musician to create a display showcasing the effects of a theremin on a non-newtonian fluid.

I jumped at the opportunity and started helping with the ideation process. The technicals of hooking up the theremin and speaker and making the fluid react were already solved, but we needed to come up with a way to show it off to the public.

After experimenting with a few different options we decided to use a home video camera and projector to project visuals of the fluid on the wall. An old film enlarger was acquired and we were able to carefully fit the camera within the head and mount the projector on top. The camera was pointed down at a speaker which would be connected to the theremin, and a mixture of corn starch and was added to the speaker.

For the cymatic display I ended up designing a small circuit with an RGB ring light, microcontroller, and some buttons. The LEDs on the ring light were individually addressable and so it allowed us to create fun patterns which were then reflected in the dancing and morphing fluid below the camera.

Due to the short timeline for this project I wasn’t able to design a dedicated PCB and have it printed in time but perfboard was used to create a secure and small but capable package which could fit within the tight confines of the fragile enlarger head while still offering user-accessible buttons to change the configuration of the light sequences manually if needed.


Micha Dahan / Nuit Blanche



Circuit design

Firmware design

Exhibit assembly

Let’s work together

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