by Jessica Ho '20, Audrey Shih '20, Alice Xie '18

prysm seeks to explore how sounds in everyday life can be transformed into conventional visual art. The structure juxtaposes the natural and the man-made, utilizing the natural motion of water and refraction of light passing through, in conjunction with the LEDs and the motors that generate the ripples. Each LED strip corresponds to a unique frequency range and lights up based on the spectrum of the sound input - in addition, the volume of the sound determines the speed of the motors. The capacitive sensor then reacts to the water ripples, causing the LEDs to light up together when the moving water strikes the sensor.

The water beads in the tank have the same index of refraction as water; their motion through the tank, propelled by the motor, creates an effect of the beads popping in and out of visibility as they rise to the surface, generating “sparks” of color in the water as they refract the light rays from the LEDs.

As a moving, aesthetically pleasing sculpture that reacts to both volume and frequencies of audio input, prysm accentuates the beauty of everyday sounds - from background noises, to speech, to music. By combining these three mediums, we also explored the notion of different types of waves - sound waves, light waves, and water waves. The union of the natural and the man-made also add another tier to the transformation: the harmony of nature and technology work together to transform something as ordinary as the sounds of daily life, into a complex, mesmerizing multimedia work. The title of the work reflects the ability of the structure to take a simple input, such as a sound or a beam of white light, and dissect it into its interconnected parts, such as volume, frequency, color, and motion - or, a rainbow. The message is simple: everything seemingly plain can be transformed into something undeniably beautiful.