Object, Instrument, Technology

The vibration microscope is an electromagnetically-driven adaptation by Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) of the earlier optical comparator by Jules Antoine Lissajous (1822-1880). The device allows one to determine the frequency of a tuning fork or other vibrating object with respect to a fork of known frequency, by way of Lissajous figure analysis.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Case Collection of Physics Instruments (CCPI) has several dozen forks mounted on resonance boxes (see Fig. 1).

Object, Instrument, Technology

Date of production: 1950s

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“Brüel & Kjær 2304 Level Recorder (1)”. n.d.
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“Brüel & Kjær 2304 Level Recorder (2)”. n.d.
Object, Instrument, Technology

The German scientist Ernst Chladni was one of the pioneers of experimental acoustics. His research on different kinds of vibrations served as the basis for the scientific understanding of sound that later emerged in the 19th century. 

Object, Instrument, Technology

In its simplest form the siren consists of two metal disks, each having the same number of regularly spaced concentric holes. The lower disk is mounted on the base of the siren, while the upper disk is mounted on a steel shaft just above it. As air is forced through the system, the upper disk begins to rotate. As it spins, the holes in the two disks briefly line up and then quickly close. Each time they do this, a brief puff of air is released. Each of these puffs acts like a single sound wave, and if enough of them are produced we perceive them as a continuous musical sound.

Object, Instrument, Technology

This specific array of precision tuning forks are highly-specialized experimental forks that relate directly to Koenig’s long-standing disagreement with Helmholtz on the nature of combination tones. Some of them date back to Koenig's display at the 1876 Philadelphia exposition.

Videos:

The history of the tuning forks in the Koenig collection

Object, Instrument, Technology

The sound synthesiser was Helmholtz’s clearest instrumental expression of his theory of timbre, or sound quality. Whereas his spherical resonators dissected compound sounds (vowels or musical sounds) into elemental frequencies, the synthesiser did this by building up complex sounds from simple frequencies. In 1857 he went to the instrument maker Friedrich Fessel of Cologne to turn this idea into reality. The initial instruments used a combination of electrically driven tuning forks, resonators and piano keys to synthesise compound sounds.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Stimmeinstellungszeichen, literally “voice disposition indicators,” are metal shapes about 10 cm in diameter. Polished brass wire is bent to form abstract curves and lines. The linguist Eduard Sievers invented them to support his system of sound analysis (Schallanalyse).