A major project brought together science, art, music and motion to come up with a way of transforming Glenfiddich 21 Year Old whisky into “a visible expression of itself”.
Over 12 months, a diverse “cast” was brought together including experts in the science of cymatics – the study of visible sound waves – as well as Caribbean vocalist Calma Carmona and the Co-Operative Orchestra Scotland. They conducted a revolutionary experiment designed to explore the effects of live music on single malt, inspired by the 21 Year Old which is finished in rum-infused casks from the Caribbean.
A Franz Ferdinand track, Love Illumination, was selected as the experiment’s catalyst, with a new interpretation fusing the musical heritage of both cultures through powerful Scottish orchestration and Carmona’s distinctive Caribbean vocal. The artists performed the track in a London warehouse in real time to an “audience” of bespoke, precision-crafted devices, developed by creative laboratory TenHertz, and manufactured to capture the various cymatic effects of the music on the 21-year-old liquid. Each device was specifically attuned to respond and react to different note ranges and sound frequencies, isolated through a speaker via specially programmed software.
The Decanter devices produced horizontal pulses and vibrations associated with the stringed instruments and Calma’s vocals. Additionally, the Double Helix and Zig Zag devices manifested air twists and zig zag patterns created by flowing whisky in response to the double bass and percussion of the orchestra and band. Most spectacularly, a fourth device, the Levitron, isolated one drop of “levitating” single malt between two ultrasonic transducers in mid-air. This spectacular result, the whisky in suspended animation, was created by the notes of the song’s finale – the first time this has been witnessed outside of a laboratory.
Describing the painstaking set-up of the experiment, Felix Thorn, director at TenHertz, said: “This was a first for us, taking months of research and testing of the device prototypes before we built the final installation you see in the film. Liquid is, by its nature, a fluid medium and we weren’t able to offer any guarantees that these specially developed techniques would work away from a laboratory environment.
“Isolating sound frequencies in the context of a warehouse full of people, equipment, background noise as well as a 12-piece orchestra also proved a challenge. But the sweat and stress was worth it when we captured that single drop of single malt in blissful isolation. As an image, and as an outcome of more than a year’s work, it was a beautiful thing.”
The full experiment, and the dramatic impact of the sound on the whisky, was captured in this film released by Glenfiddich’s owner, William Grant & Sons.