Cymatic Adufe in Porto

Documentation and details of the Cymatic Adufe, exhibited as part of the 21st Century Rural Museum in the Palácio das Artes – Fábrica de Talentos, Porto, 3rd November to 31st December 2012.

Created with flickr slideshow.


And a short video about the ‘Making of the Cymatic Adfufe’ via Vimeo:

The Cymatic Adufe
by Lewis Sykes, MIRIAD, Manchester Met, UK

About the Work

The Cymatic Adufe is a sculptural, technological, generative, sound-responsive, audiovisual artwork that explores the rich vocal and musical tradition of the Idanha a Nova region of central, rural Portugal. The work investigates the interplay between sounds and images, materials and forms emblematic of rural life.

It deploys Cymatics – the study of visible standing wave patterns induced by sound – to visualise the traditional Portuguese folk melody of the Senhora do Almortão as dynamic and shifting patterns on the surface of an adufe – a traditional Portuguese square, framed hand-drum of Arabic origin. Simultaneously projected onto the top of the adufe, superimposing on and augmenting these natural cymatics forms, are digital versions of the geometric patterns often found in traditional Portuguese decorative design and architectural elements – generated in code using a sound responsive adaption the Superformula, a generalisation of the Superellipse, first proposed by Johan Gielis which he suggests can be used to describe many complex shapes and curves that are found in nature.

Dimensions And Medium

Physically the work resembles an architectural column – 0.4m square and 2.3m tall – the bottom half laminated in natural cork the top half of clear acrylic. A speaker is fitted into the lower section and above this, fixed part way up the acrylic, sits an adufe. A compact micro-projector is mounted onto the top of the column and projects onto the skin of the adufe below.

The work requires a single 13am power socket. If available, it also requires a 1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo (T5600) or newer Mac Mini and a compact data projector.


The Cymatic Adufe was made for the 21st Century Rural Museum – the travelling exhibition component of MIRIAD, Manchester Met postgraduate, Cristina Rodrigues’ her ‘Design for Desertification‘ PhD project. It’s currently on show in the Palácio das Artes – Fábrica de Talentos, Porto, 3rd November to 31st December 2012,  but will be travelling to Lisbon later in 2013.

On a field trip to Monsanto, a small, mountain top village in the Idanha a Nova region of central, rural Portugal, Lewis spent time experiencing the local culture. He was particularly struck by the Adufeiras de Monsanto, a group of mostly elderly women from the village who performed in brightly coloured costumes and sang a repertoire of traditional folk songs accompanied by rhythms played on an adufe.

The work attempts to show how the haunting melody of the much loved and interpreted traditional folk melody of the Senhora do Almurtão not only has an analog in visual form – seen through the wondrous Cymatics effects of sound and vibration – but that these forms show a correspondence to traditional geometric patterns of decorative design. By revealing a previously hidden aspect of nature, the work tries to re-capture something of the sense of awe and wonder in the world around us and show how traditional perspectives tried to respond to it.

The intent is to illustrate that traditional music and imagery shouldn’t perhaps be seen as separate and distinct forms of cultural output, but just two ways of expressing the same thing. By making these correlations more explicit the work aims to illustrate how traditional wisdom understood and appreciated these underlying relationships as part of a holistic and interconnected worldview expressed through arts and culture. Despite our seeming technological progress, modern urban living and e-commerce globalised economy this is a truth we somehow seem to have forgotten and rural tradition has much to teach us about.


Lewis Sykes is a veteran bass player of the underground dub-dance scene of the 90s. He performed and recorded with Emperor Sly, Original Hi-Fi and Radical Dance Faction and was a partner in Zip Dog Records.

He honed an interest in mixed media through an MA in Hypermedia Studies at the University of Westminster in 2000 and continued to fuse music, visuals and technology through a series of creative collaborations – most notably as musician and performer with the progressive audiovisual collective The Sancho Plan (2005-2008) and currently as one half of Monomatic – exploring sound and interaction through physical works that investigate rich musical traditions.

Director of Cybersonica – an annual celebration of music, sound art and technology (2002-11), Lewis was also Coordinator of the independent digital arts agency Cybersalon (2002-2007), founding Artists in Residence at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre.

He is in the third year of a Practice as Research PhD at MIRIAD, Manchester Met, exploring the aesthetics of sound and vibration.


There’s also a ‘Planning for the Cymatic Adude‘ post of a rough collection of notes, links and research that show some of the thinking behind the development of the work at my Tumblr Digital Sketchbook.