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The Science of Sound: Introduction to the Physics and Mathematics of Music

September 25, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm


Registrations are closed.

About the workshop

This workshop, which is the first in our Science of Sound series, will provide a high-level overview of the physics and mathematics of musical sound. We will explore the physical phenomena of sound waves and how these waves are captured and interpreted by the human auditory system. We will examine, moreover, how these principles help us understand how acoustic and electronic musical instruments work. Finally, we will look at some of the mathematical structures that underly traditional Western and many non-Western scales and harmonic systems.

Though a basic familiarity with musical notation and elementary mathematics will be helpful for some of the more advanced topics, every participant, regardless of background, will find something of value in the course. The instructor will illustrate the underlying physical and mathematical principles of sound using computer animation, sound synthesis, and live acoustic musical instruments.

The following topics will be covered:

  • Sound, vibration, and waves
  • Some characteristics of sound waves (frequency and pitch, amplitude and intensity)
  • The human auditory system (ear anatomy, the brain and the subjective experience of sound)
  • The behavior of sound waves (sound wave interaction: interference and beats, acoustics)
  • Musical Instruments (systems of pitch manipulation, timbre and harmonics, introduction to the principles of musical sound synthesis)
  • Musical intervals as integer ratios (just intervals, consonance and dissonance)
  • How to build a scale (Pythagoras and just interval scales, equal temperament)

About the Science of Sound workshop series

The primary purposes of this series is to provide introductory-level, hands-on instruction in electronic music making over a range of approaches and to demystify electronic music and electronic music composition. This workshop series is not centered around learning specific technologies or electronic music generating equipment as such, or learning the newest technologies for their own sake; instead, they will learn how to learn new tools. Particular technologies and applications introduced in the series will play a supporting role in teaching participants the fundamentals of sound and the physics of sound as it pertains to experimental and electronic music making.

This workshop series is divided into four sections covering the various approaches contemporary electronic musicians and composers take regarding the technologies they prefer to utilize:

  • Fundamentals of physics, mathematics and music
  • Using the iPad to make music
  • Introduction to coding and open source computer applications
  • Exploring electronic music equipment and gear (pedals, controllers, field recording equipment, etc.)

This workshop series is supported by an Arts Partnership grant from the Ohio Arts Council.

About the Instructor

Michael Perkins, Ph.D. is a technologist, musician and philosopher with special interests in discrete mathematics, data science, and algorithmic music and art. He is a graduate of Georgia State University where he studied music and philosophy and The Ohio State University where he studied philosophy and computer science. He completed a Ph.D. in Philosophy at The Ohio State University in 1983. For 35 years, Michael has developed advanced software systems for some of the world’s leading software vendors. He has designed and implemented special-purpose programming languages, data management tools, application generators, cross-platform networking software, and IT systems management software.