Alone in the darkness, confined to his solitary booth, the projectionist hunches over his workspace. Gripped between his teeth, the focused beam of a torch glistens as he pans left to right robotically across his environment. Switches crack, knobs rotate, light cuts the dark illuminating his bay of equipment. Spoons crystallised with the remains of previous experiments lay littered across his small workbench, cluttered with measuring cups, discarded brushes, broken speakers and a variety of liquids, all coruscating brilliantly under the florescent light from the substances that desperately cling to them.
Calmly, he dusts the speaker cone with a fine white powder. He does not breathe. Particles drift and shimmer, catching the light as they float off into the ether. The residue is dragged down the front of his top leaving two radiating stripes. He leans in close to the pungent magenta glow that lights his eyes and teeth with a focused azure hue and adds more ingredients.
Powders are filtered, liquids are funnelled, concocting vivid visual potions, intoxicating and entrancing the viewer with a kaleidoscope of colours. He turns up the volume. Sound waves cut forms and shapes sending the glaring materials skywards on pathways towards the dark precipice that awaits outside the speaker, their ambient glow withers like the dying embers of a fire as each particle falls into the abyss.
He delicately sprinkles his final ingredient into the speaker cone, a crystal-like material that burns vibrantly. Together they dance like a rage of tracer bullets in the night skies of a battlefield, clashing and weaving amongst each other. This is beautiful. This is cymatics.
Zach Walker, a self confessed tech addict with a penchant for collecting, destroying and rebuilding old gadgetry, is a London based visual effects artist with a vision to change the perception of how we digest live music.
I want what I do to educate people. I want people to figure out what I am doing, why I am doing it. Draw diagrams and write up instructions. What I am doing is not a big secret
Originally from Snoqualmie, a small town in North Bend, Washington, America. A green wonderland populated by majestic mountain ranges, divided by waterfalls, titanic gorges and acres of lush forestry. An inspirational gold mine that is worlds apart from the grey, smog fuelled concrete jungle of London, where Zach currently resides.
Zach’s early explorations into the audiovisual world started as a teenager. At school, Zach studied photography and used the wilderness around him as his subject matter. Whilst studying, he worked with his Father who operates as a Glazier.
"I could throw glass into a massive skip and hear it shatter. It was incredible. I could hit glass with a hammer and fucking sledge hammers and shit. Destruction is a part of life, and I love destroying things. I love smashing things and fucking breaking things, that's probably why I do what I do"
Zach found a love for sound, destruction and reconstruction. Dipping into skips and pulling out old discarded electronic items like a homeless Lucius Fox, Zach would return to his 'Batcave' and manipulate the old into something new and unique, either a piece of art or a functional piece of electronics. This became one of the founding blocks that forged the journey to his career.
His most refined artistic venture, is a hand built analogue cymatics system. A system that allows Zach to visualise sound in a way that is truly unique and engaging to the audience, whether being at a live music festival in front of thousands or a small audience in an exhibition space.
Gather.ly swung by Zach's studio space located in Hoxton to see what all this is about. A small space, perfumed by the scent of freshly ground Italian coffee. The walls are decked out with boxes stacked upon boxes all full of equipment and cabling, all methodically placed with each box's contents detailed and labeled. On the desk, equipment and tools chaotically sprawl across the wooden surface. Burnt out and worn speakers, cabling and controllers duct taped together, canisters with coloured sands, tubes of dye with fluids oozing from the cracks, the remnants of cornstarch dust the surface, and splatters of red paint lace the table and equipment like the blood of dispatched warriors in an ancient conflict.
Zach surrounds himself in an array of gadgetry; utilising cameras, lighting, a variety of speakers and an amplifier. His hands concoct his visual delights by throwing a variety of different coloured powders, sands and liquids, all ranging in consistencies and densities, directly onto a speaker cone. As the sound reverberates through the speaker, the combined materials are thrusted and shocked into shapes and figures dictated by the sound of that certain frequency. It’s a simple set up that can deliver some of the freshest organic visuals your eyes could bear witness too.
At parties, I always did the lighting because they always had shitty lighting, like living room lights, kitchen lights, and it really bums me out. A lot of light fucking upsets me and makes me feel uncomfortable.
Over the past few years, Zach has been closely developing the cymatics project with long time collaborator, beatbox champion, artist and all round creative mastermind, Harry Yeff aka Reeps One. Together, they have been looking into ways to visualise Reeps' beatboxing not only as an interactive element to his live shows but as a method for the hearing impaired to 'experience' his beatboxing visually rather than audibly.
A third collaborator - sound engineer and producer Linden Jay joined the crew. As a three, they meticulously worked together to refine the finer details of cymatics and ironed out the flaws. After many months of tweaking, the lads developed a show that they have brought to some of the most prestigious festivals and events across the globe.
The final collaborator stepped up on the project - the disgustingly talented photographer and good friend of Gather.ly Ben Hopper. Ben became interested in the project and began to flex his photographic prowess by taking still images of the cymatic forms from Reeps One’s vocals. Ben, alongside Zach, Harry and Linden developed a technique to capture the forms in all their glory. With an 80 megapixel camera, Ben could zoom in to the details of the cymatic shapes, where together they cropped and composed the shots as original pieces of art for an exhibition.
This year, they focused their efforts and developed a solo exhibition of Reeps One’s artwork called A.D.O. The exhibition featured every aspect of Reeps One’s artistry including the cymatics with Zach Walker and photography with Ben Hopper.
Zach discussed the convergence of art, science and mathematics and his aims to bring this information to a wider audience including the education sector.
"In terms of the science, mathematics and art, what I do is take a principle that is thousands of years old of people realising that sound is just another frequency, or another wavelength. Same as we see light at a certain wavelength or certain frequency and that we hear sounds and they all sit on a certain spectrum but they converge and it reveals all these patterns that are around us or phenomenon, or what you could call rules that happen throughout the world that you don't necessarily pay attention to or focus on."
We are intrigued to see what pathways Zach will follow on his cymatic journey. We hope to see him performing his live visual show on some of the finest stages with some of the finest artists in the near future. Check out more of Zach Walker's projects on his personal website.
Check out the beautiful short film below that Gather.ly Collective member Chris Turner shot with Zach Walker on the RED Scarlett. It pretty much sums up all the nonsence above in 3 minutes.