Beat Frequency Interface

This instrument rapidly creates a network of beat frequencies, interference patterns that occur between two pure waveforms that are very close in frequency. When you change the source of the sinewaves, for example by panning them very hard left or right, the perception of the resulting beat frequencies are heard can be altered. The above instrument will be available as a stand alone application in the near future. You can hear studies produced on this instrument here.

The sinewave instrument was originally designed as part of an installation for the Kanbar Forum’s Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system at the Exploratorium, entitled Frequent Sea. Rather than operating with just two channels (left and right), the beat frequencies are panned around the 72 available channels. The installation is a dynamic composition and audio installation that visitors perceptually co-created by walking through the space and standing in various locations. As steady, pure tones are gradually introduced at different points around the room, increasingly complex polyrhythms and melodies emerge from the physical collision of sound waves in both space and ears. Each listener is left with a singular, embodied experience.

Most of the time we think of listening as a static act. However, changing positions can greatly affect our perception of sound and space. A room’s architecture and its resonances can create radically different listening experiences in different places. Many of the principles of hearing that help us locate objects or navigate a space also influence how we hear music.

By creating a spatial network of these beat frequencies, it's possible to experience the collisions of multiple beat frequencies very differently, depending on where you are standing, or where you place your head. 

A map of the original speaker layout of the Constellation system in the Kanbar Forum.