An International Journal of Exploratory Meta-Living

An Open Source Journal
published through the Auspices of the Poison Pie Publishing House
Knoxville, Tennessee


Issue 12 (2020)

  • A Materials Perspective on Waterphone Acoustics
  • by Nicholas S. Carter, Briar K. Faulkner, Bradley J. Straka, Sabrina E. A. Schwerzler and David J. Keffer
  • Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
  • Abstract:   The waterphone is a musical instrument used in the film industry to create eerie audio elements in the soundtracks of science fiction and horror movies. The waterphone is an idiophone, in which sound is generated via the reverberation of the entire instrument. The processing-structure-property-performance relationship of the waterphone was investigated via a materials science approach. Four waterphones were designed and fabricated, in which various material and structural elements were systematically varied, including size and composition of the basin as well as composition and heat treatment of the rods. The effect of these elements on the acoustics of the instrument was evaluated quantitatively through Fourier transforms and qualitatively through consultation with musicians. The fundamental frequency generated by the bowing of a rod on the instrument can be predicted as a function of instrument material and structure with an empirical, constant factor. Additional overtones, which impart much of the eerie atmosphere, are generated in a currently unpredictable manner based, presumably, on other structural (e.g. thickness of basin metal) and performance (e.g. amount of water in the basin and technical proficiency of the musician) parameters, beyond the scope of this introductory work.

  • Article:   free anonymous download (pdf file)
  • Supplementary Information Document:   free anonymous download (pdf file)