What follows is a small collection of images which represent sound or the idea of sound in one way or another, but not as the usual 2D sound waves (see “Stealth Iconography: The Waveform” by Rob Walker). Most of the images collected here share the following three criteria:

  • They are either in the public domain or shared under a Creative Commons license;
  • They are available in large format (the copies hosted here are smaller/lower resolution);
  • Detailed references are provided.

• • •

Table 10 from ‘Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges’ by Ernst Chladni, 1787. Public domain.
Table 10 from ‘Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges’ by Ernst Chladni, 1787. Public domain.
Table 4 from ‘Akustic’ by Ernst Chladni, 1802. Public domain.
Table 4 from ‘Akustic’ by Ernst Chladni, 1802. Public domain.
Fig. 12 – Vibration of a plate, ‘Elementary Lessons on Sound’ by W. H. Stone, 1879, p. 25. Image retrieved from Flickr: Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo de la Universidad de Sevilla. Reproduction release under CC BY 2.0
Fig. 12 – Vibration of a plate, ‘Elementary Lessons on Sound’ by W. H. Stone, 1879, p. 25. Image retrieved from Flickr: Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo de la Universidad de Sevilla. Reproduction release under CC BY 2.0
Fig. 339 – “El oido humano” El mundo físico : gravedad, gravitación, luz, calor, electricidad, magnetismo, etc. / A. Guillemin. - Barcelona Montaner y Simón, 1882. Image retrieved from Flickr: Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo de la Universidad de Sevilla. Reproduction release under CC BY 2.0
Fig. 339 – “El oido humano” El mundo físico : gravedad, gravitación, luz, calor, electricidad, magnetismo, etc. / A. Guillemin. – Barcelona Montaner y Simón, 1882. Image retrieved from Flickr: Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo de la Universidad de Sevilla. Reproduction release under CC BY 2.0
  • Joseph Norman Lockyer gathered a variety of interesting illustration in a paper titled “Water-Waves and Sound-Waves” which was published in Volume 13 of Popular Science Monthly, on June 1878 (pp. 166-173). Some of the illustrations used by Lockyer are woodcuts first published in Adolf F. Weinhold’s book Vorschule der Experimental physik (Leipzig, 1871). Both documents are entirely in the public domain.

    The first illustration below reminded me of the iconic design produced by Peter Saville for the cover of Joy Division’s album “Unknown Pleasures” (see the story on Vimeo).

Fig. 8 – “Compressed and rarefied air particles of sound waves”, in “Water-Waves and Sound-Waves” by Joseph Norman Lockyer, ‘Popular Science Monthly’ Volume 13, June 1878. Public domain.
Fig. 8 – “Compressed and rarefied air particles of sound waves”, in “Water-Waves and Sound-Waves” by Joseph Norman Lockyer, ‘Popular Science Monthly’ Volume 13, June 1878. Public domain.
Fig. 1 – “Superposition of two wave systems”, in “Water-Waves and Sound-Waves” by Joseph Norman Lockyer, ‘Popular Science Monthly’, Volume 13, June 1878. Public domain.
Fig. 1 – “Superposition of two wave systems”, in “Water-Waves and Sound-Waves” by Joseph Norman Lockyer, ‘Popular Science Monthly’, Volume 13, June 1878. Public domain.
“Neon Lamp Traces Sound Wave’s Picture”, Popular Science, September 1950, p. 145. Most likely in the public domain.
“Neon Lamp Traces Sound Wave’s Picture”, Popular Science, September 1950, p. 145. Most likely in the public domain.
  • A few years ago, while working at the University of Rochester Institute for Optics, Chris Supranowitz produced very nice micrographs of vinyl record grooves using a scanning electron microscope combine along with his own experimental post-processing techniques. Detailed explanations of the experiment, along with samples from the results are available online: “Micrograph Acquisition Post-Processing Techniques”. Large format of six of those images are available here in TIFF format (3072 x 2304 px, each file is 6.8 MB). Publishing is allowed as long each images is properly attributed: for example “Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano”. Supranowitz also produced micrographs of CD pits which, alongside the grooves, allows for a nice visual comparison between analog recording and digital recording.

Vinyl Record Grooves (A): micrograph produced by a scanning electron microscope. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
Vinyl Record Grooves (A): micrograph produced by a scanning electron microscope. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
Vinyl Record Grooves (B): micrograph produced by a scanning electron microscope. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
Vinyl Record Grooves (B): micrograph produced by a scanning electron microscope. Image courtesy of University of Rochester: URnano.
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