Spring 2024

Science and Music

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-108  |  Physics and Astronomy, as PHYS-108


Jonathan R. Friedman (Section 01)
Eric W. Sawyer (Section 01)


(Offered as MUSI 108 and PHYS 108) Appreciating music requires no special scientific or mathematical ability. Yet science and mathematics have a lot to tell us about how we make music and build instruments, what we consider harmonious, and how music is processed by the ear and brain. This course will delve into the fundamentals of music theory, perceptual psychology, and physics in exploring such topics as scales and tunings, the physical properties of sound, Fourier analysis, organizing principles of musical forms, fundamentals of instrument construction, vocal sound production, and elements of sound recording and music production. We will consider ways in which science can be part of the creative process as well as the role creativity plays in scientific discovery. The course will include laboratories during the usual class times that cover a variety of topics ranging from basic acoustics to the formants of vowel sounds. The semester will culminate in an artistic or scientific project located at the crossroads of music and science. No background in music or physics is required. Students are expected to be well versed in high-school-level mathematics, but no knowledge of calculus will be assumed.

Spring semester. Limited to 20 students. Professors Sawyer and Friedman

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to first-years and Sophomores.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Readings, oral presentations and discussions, written responses, lab work, aural and quantitative analysis, and creative projects ranging from conducting and experiment to composing a piece to building an instrument. Evaluated work will include written assignments on elements of music and science, lab reports, a midterm paper, and a final project presented in class.

MUSI 108 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM ARMU 212
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM SCCE A111


Other years: Offered in Spring 2022, Spring 2023