FS 9: The Science of Music -- Fall 2018


Course Description (Click it.)

6 units (2-0-4) P/F

Fall 2018
Instructor: David Politzer
office: 416 Downs
e-mail: politzer at theory.caltech
Caltech phone: 395-4252

Classes meet Mondays and Fridays at 1:00pm in 258A Lauritsen, beginning on Monday, October 1.

For Friday, 10/5/18: Landfill Harmonic is a documentary film about an unusual music project. The film was several years in the making and completed a couple of years ago. It has won awards at film festivals. The best video description of the origins of the project is this YouTube, running about 12 minutes. Please watch it. Google and the film Web site will give you more links and information. There is a fine, official trailer and several YouTubes of talks and performances. Read and watch as much as you choose, but be sure to view that first 12 minute YouTube, which explains more of the background than other items on-line. If you are so moved, the entire film can be streamed or purchased as a DVD.

A short, personal essay is DUE by 4:00pm, Sunday, 10/7/18. Click here for instructions.

Reading schedule:

As you read, please make note (make actual, written notes somewhere) of anything that you do not understand, do not believe, or simply find amazing -- and bring it to class. You will be called on, and we will discuss it.

An e-book version of "This Is Your Brain..." is available through the Caltech library at: http://clas.caltech.edu/record/733317?ln=en. (You click on the "Linked resources: Caltech Connect" orange icon from a campus-connected computer; there might be other ways to get at it.) On the other hand, it is widely available as an inexpensive paperback.

From "This Is Your Brain..." DUE Monday, 10/8: Intro and chapter 1; DUE Monday, 10/15: chapters 2, 3, and 4; DUE Monday, 10/22 chapters 5, 6, and 7; DUE Monday, 10/29 chapters 8 and 9 AND re-read your essay on "Impact of Recorded Music."

Here is a list and description of some sound analysis freeware. Spectroid (linked here) is my latest addition to the list, a free app that gives a nice real-time spectrum of the sound coming in to your device.

There are zillions of "educational" sound-related pages on the Web, with demos, simulations, explanations, and derivations. Many of the ones I list explicitly are part of someone's much larger effort to present some science. So, if you use your browser to go back up their tree, you will likely come to a directory or a page with lots of related links.

Here are a few, in random order:

Visualizing molecule motion of sound in air -- a cartooney animation

whyyouhearwhatyouhear.com is a maintained and updated Web site that goes with the book of the same name (#18 on our SF Library reserve list). It's got great demos, resource links, and explanations.

At the University of New South Wales (Australia), they have a serious physics of music program with lots of stuff on-line. (Here is another portal to their site.)

An energetic science teacher worked up a course and put it into book form: The Physics of Music and Musical Instruments. Very readable and accessible and at an elementary level and only about 100 pages total, it might serve as a good reference for things mentioned in class.

A particle physics experimentalist has taught a sophisticated physics of music course at the University of Indiana. Its Web site from a couple of years ago (still posted [are there up-dates?]) has a lot of interesting stuff. Scroll down and click on "Teaching" and/or P105 - Basic Physics of Sound. (We should talk sometime about cochlear implants.)

A group at the University of Colorado produces wonderful interactive physics simulations. This is the one on waves on a string.

Hyperphysics, produced at Georgia State University, has a "Sound and Hearing" section with useful materials.

I can't figure out who Paul Falstad is, but he puts great physics applets on-line.

These days, Wolfram Enterprises is the home of much more than Mathematica. Three demonstrations on demonstrations.wolfram.com recently caught my eye: locating the hammer on a piano wire; string vibrations; and vibrations of simple systems. These demos are best with a free downloadable player. (Also note that Caltech has a Mathematica site license -- as well as lots of other stuff you can get for free from IMSS.)