Physics of Music

In an innovative approach, Dan Nightingale collaborated with Music Director George Scharr and conducted an interdisciplinary lesson with Nightingale’s students titled "The Physics of Music." This lesson emphasized the inherent connections between these disciplines.

Class 1: Emotion Through Sound

The series began with George Scharr leading a session that explored the emotional impact of music. Students listened to various pieces, including the tension-filled shower scene from "Psycho" and various themes by Composer and Conductor John Williams. The class identified and discussed the emotions these compositions evoked, setting a foundational understanding of how music and feelings intertwine through sound.

Class 2: Unraveling Musical Physics

Dan Nightingale shifted the focus to the scientific principles underpinning music. Students delved into vibration, sound waves, and the harmonic series. They engaged in interactive activities such as creating waves with ropes and studying a replica of the Pythagoras monochord. This session was enriched by a demonstration on the grand piano, where students watched Leonard Bernstein’s explanation of the harmonic series.

Class 3: Setting the Tone

Under Scharr’s guidance, students determined the emotion they wanted to evoke with their original score. Then, they chose corresponding musical scales to compose melodies using basic piano software on their devices. This involved applying physics to calculate the exact length of PVC tubes needed for their instruments based on the speed of sound and frequency.

Classes 4 and 5: From Theory to Practice

The final sessions were hands-on, with students constructing their instruments in the scene shop under the guidance of both Scharr and Nightingale. They cut PVC tubes, adjusted for pitch accuracy, and assembled their creations using glue guns.

The last step was to demo their new instruments in the music room. Although hitting the right notes with their PVC pan pipes required a bit of finesse, students were able to play and record their original music. Through this lesson, they not only gained a greater understanding of how integral physics is to music but also developed an appreciation for the dedication and skill needed to play an instrument.
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