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Use Music to Teach K12 Science

Interdisciplinary Science Resources

Rappin' about CERN's Large Hadron Collider!

The most important scientific instrument in decades was just turned on yesterday. We will finally be able to split subatomic particles and get a glimpse of the stuff that makes our universe work.



3rd - 12th


Musical Inventions

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K-12 TEACH Science-themed material, ranging from:

SCIENCE OF MUSIC - Study Shows iPods Help Doctors Hear the Beat of your heart.

"You Can Tell It's a Cell" by J.P. Taylor offers a nice overview of cellular structures Flandersand Swann's "First and Second Law" serves as a lead-in to lectures on thermodynamics.

Phil Tulga great interdisciplinary activities

Geometry Through Dance

Art and Science Collaborations

Do the Circulation

The theremin or thereminvox is one of the earliest fully electronic musical instruments. Invented in 1919 by Russian Lev Sergeivitch Termen (also Termin, later gallicized to Léon Theremin), the theremin is unique in that it requires no physical contact in order to produce music and was, in fact, the first musical instrument designed to be played without being touched. The instrument consists of a box with two projecting radio antennas around which the user moves his or her hands to play.

The Mathematics of Musical Instruments

From Crypto to Jazz
By Alexander Gelfand Aug, 31, 2006
To the uninitiated, modern jazz can sound like a secret language, full of unpredictable melodies and unexpected rhythms. For alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, however, the idea of jazz as code is more than just a metaphor.
Mahanthappa is best known for combining avant-garde jazz with Indian classical music. But for his latest release, Codebook [1], from Pi Recordings, the artist looked instead to cryptography and number theory for inspiration. (The album's title pays homage to The Code Book, a history of cryptography by the British science writer Simon Singh.)
The very first track, "The Decider," is a groovy primer on how to turn math into music. Its bristling melody (.mp3) [2] is derived from the Fibonacci sequence, an infinite series of integers that governs the structure of everything from pineapples to the Parthenon.
Fibonacci's fingerprints can be found in the work of classical composers from Bach to Bartok, but intentionally basing a composition on the series is hardly standard practice in jazz. What's most striking about "The Decider," however, is how closely its written melody resembles one
of Mahanthappa's improvised solos, a correspondence that reveals just how deeply the saxophonist has internalized what might have remained an abstruse, pencil-and-paper exercise.
Later on in the piece, drummer Dan Weiss spells his own name in Morse code, using short durations to represent dots and long ones to represent dashes. ("Play It Again Sam" begins in similar fashion, with every member of Mahanthappa's quartet dotting and dashing (.mp3) [3] his
Returning to the realm of number theory, the tune "Further and In Between" is based on the cyclical number 142857. Like all cyclical numbers, this one has some very strange properties; for example, if you multiply it by 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, you get the same digits in a different configuration (for example, 2 x 142857 = 285714).
By mapping particular musical pitches to each digit and running through his multiplication tables, Mahanthappa came up with a winding, circuitous melody (.mp3) [4] that makes a surprising amount of sense. That's partly because he wedded it to a strong, swinging rhythm, and partly because he gave himself permission to fudge things a bit in order to prevent the math from overwhelming the music.
"Frontburner," based on a heavily encrypted form of John Coltrane's classic "Giant Steps," demonstrates a similar balance between musicality and mathematical rigor.
Cryptonerds will be pleased to know that Mahanthappa used a portion of the "Giant Steps" melody as a musical keyword in conjunction with several different scales to encipher the original tune (.mp3) [5]. He used a similar method to generate the melody for "Play It Again Sam,"
further complicating matters by throwing in a biblical Hebrew cipher known as "atbash".
In cryptographic circles, this is known as a polyalphabetic substitution cipher, and it was the preferred form of military encryption right up through World War II.
In this particular case, it may have been too effective: The first, properly encrypted form of "Frontburner" didn't quite work from a musical perspective, so Mahanthappa massaged the results until he got something that did. The end result (.mp3) [6] is a tune that will keep both sides of your brain buzzing happily away.
Making avant-garde jazz accessible to the general public is no mean feat. Making math-based music easy on the ears is even harder. Yet somehow Mahanthappa has managed to do both. And that's a code many musicians would doubtless like to crack.

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