Music . Acoustics . INsight

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What you see here… is the vibrations of strings. But these strings are not ordinary strings. Attached to these strings are bamboo clips, inserted carefully to control the sound generated by the strings. Our species, the Homo sapiens, has developed the art and science of sound, creating a wide array of musical instruments that are enriched by the vast natural and cultural diversity of our planet. The fundamental phenomena behind how all those musical instruments work are vibrations. So, by designing the vibrations in the instruments, we are also designing the sound generated by the instruments. This, however, is not as simple as it may
sound. For example, thanks to the bamboo clips that you see in this video, the strings can be made to produce metal-like sounds. This technique of sound control is used in the bundengan, a unique musical instrument from Java, Indonesia. A similar technique was developed by John Cage with the piano, resulting in the so-called “prepared piano”. An adaptation of this technique to the guitar results in the so-called “prepared guitar”. In the case of the bundengan, the clipped strings imitate the metal-like sounds of the gamelan, a popular instrument ensemble from Indonesia. This phenomenon is so intriguing, we are yet to fully understand how it works. The research field of music acoustics is centered on amazing phenomena like this one. Driven by curiosity, we use measurements and computations to gain insight into the musical instruments. With this insight, the ingenuity of the craftsmen and the musicians can be better documented, while the conservation of their intangible heritage can be better supported. For more on this research, visit

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