Making Moments: 432 Hz in the Works

Lauren Irving, known by her stage name Ivy Roots, has a lot of plates spinning. In addition to a career as a working musician, she owns a music publishing company, Ivy Roots LLC, which allows her to maintain the rights to her music. Now she’s added a new project as the organizer of a Rocket Grant project (2019 award winner), 432 Hz

432 Hz is a free, family-friendly concert-festival which will take place in April of 2020. The all-day event will include a not-yet-announced lineup of musicians, including Ivy Roots.  It will include the work of local artists and an interactive art installation that visualizes sound through the principles of cymatics

Cymatics is the study of visual sound, the visual pattern a tone makes when it resonates through matter. There are many ways of demonstrating this, notably the Chladni plate in which sand on a flat sheet of metal creates mandala-like patterns for each unique tone that vibrates through it. Lauren pulls a Tibetan singing bowl and her cell phone out of her bag to show me. She opens up an app called, appropriately, CymaScope Pro. She strikes the bowl and lets the bright bell sound resonate. A pattern appeared on the phone–not a random one, but the actual visualization of that tone. 

“The installations are going to be interactive with iPads,” she says. “I want members of the public to be able to go up to an instrument, a piano, and play a note and see that note represented as a visual piece of art on the iPad.” Irving is still deciding how the artists will specifically be involved in the installation. She’s considering projecting the cymascope patterns onto canvas so they can make paintings based on the shapes. 

Striking the singing bowl again, Irving explains the name of her project, 432 Hz. 432 Hz is a kind of tuning, different from 440 Hz which is the musical standard. “A lot of ancient instruments are tuned to 432, but it’s also the frequency of a lot of meditation tracks and music they play in spas.” Her interest in cymatics and non-standard tuning has led her to follow the research of John Stuart Reid, an acoustics engineer and the developer behind the CymaScope Pro app. In particular she cites an experiment that Reid conducted in 1997 on the acoustics of ancient Egyptian architecture. The experiment involved placing a cymascope device on a sarcophagus and mimicking the chanted prayers of a priest within the chamber. The sound reverberated off the walls and back towards the device, suggesting that the architecture was designed to direct all sound at the entombed person. Irving intends for Reid’s research to supplement the cymatics art installation.

The most important part of this project though is bringing people together in an organic way. When she worked for Poetry for Personal Power, an organization that addresses personal challenges through the arts, Irving hosted open mics where people could share their music, poetry, singing, and writing. She hosted several of these events this summer and it was always surprising to her how quickly a crowd could form. She describes another event she recently attended at Sankara Farm. “There was a film screening and we fixed our own herbs and greens from the farm and there was this amazing soul food. We ended up having these really cool, raw moments together.” She is hoping to engender a similar feel at 432 Hz. “I want this to be, in particular, for artists, creating a community of support and a gathering for artists and musicians as well as the general public.” 

In the hopes of sustaining 432 Hz as a recurring event, Irving has created a budget that allows for various streams of funding. When she applied for her Rocket Grant she included in her budget in-kind donations, meaning donations of goods, services, or time, rather than cash. She is in the process of planning a late-night live recording series for those who support the project through Patreon. “A lot of artists have done live albums, especially jazz artists; John Coltrane comes to mind. I want to create something together with the audience that can capture the moments we experience on the stage.”  She will invite key performers from the festival to join her in the recorded jam session that will take place after the main festival. Ultimately she plans to publish the live recorded session through Ivy Roots Music LLC. Each audience member in attendance gets a feature on the track as a contributor. 

Irving has plans for 432 Hz that are bigger than just the first concert festival in April. She speaks to the lack of outlets for the arts in Wyandotte County, where she grew up. “There aren’t really places where people can go and see live music casually.” But perhaps she will be able to change that in the future. While there are many aspects of 432 Hz still in the works, Irving is confident in her role as a performer and organizer. “I want to capture those on-stage moments and share them with the world.”


Drea DiCarlo, November 2019

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