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The Physics of Music and Neuroscience of Hearing - Senior SPARK

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

What does it take to hear music? What makes musical instruments sound different from one another even when you play the same note? How can an opera singer shatter glass? Why is a cello much bigger than a violin? Why are the sound of a cymbal and a snare drum different from each other? Why does the note change when you hold different finger holes on a flute?

In this multidisciplinary course you will answer these questions along with many other interesting ones. We will start by learning about physical characteristics of the sound such as energy, frequency, and resonance. We will demonstrate such characteristics by doing fun physical experiments. For example, you will observe how sound waves can break a glass by putting it in resonance. You can see a similar phenomenon in music such as resonance of a guitar soundboard.

We will learn how sound can be generated naturally by human voice or artificially by a musical instrument. We will discuss the source of the sound in different musical instruments including string, bowed, wind, percussion, and brass instruments. We will learn how the structure of an instrument will impact the sound generated by that. Moreover, we will discuss how different techniques for playing some instruments would affect the produced sound by those instruments. For instance, you will learn how you can lower the pitch of a sound played with an instrument based on Physics without need for knowing how to play it.

We will see why male and female voices are different. We will learn how the generated sound travels toward your ears and we will understand how sound propagation in water differs from that in air. Later, we discuss how our hearing system translate sounds into electrical signals and send them toward our brain. In addition, we will learn how our brain interprets musical events and make us able to perceive the sound.

By the end of this course, the students will be able to visualize sound as a physical phenomenon and explain the physical properties of musical sounds. They will understand how different structures of musical instruments can create a unique sound through understanding the physics of musical instruments. This course would make music absolutely more joyful.

Knowledge of music and Physics is not necessary, though it is certainly welcome.

*This Senior SPARK course is designed for students currently in 8th grade (entering 9th grade Fall 2014). Younger students are encouraged to register for our Junior SPARK courses.