Tune into the World

If you’re like me, you probably pay much more attention to what you see around you than to what you hear. Maybe you even “tune out” much of the time. But actually sound is just as important as sight to our existence – maybe even more so. We hear before we see in the womb. The vibrations of sound penetrate our bodies in a way that images never do. So this fascinating program is not about dry, technical information. It’s all about waking you up to the sound world around you and to the amazing way our bodies and brains are built to perceive and process sound. You may well have no idea what an impact sound—and of course music, which is organized sound—has on all of us.

Enter Good Vibrations at this year's World Science Festival. The virtuoso New York musicians of Polygraph Lounge, Rob Schwimmer and Mark Stewart, will dazzle the audience with a vast array of fascinating instruments from a theremin, to PVC plumbing saxophones, to something called the “waterphone”. Polygraph Lounge Polygraph Lounge tours and records with Simon and Garfunkel, and New York City music afficiandos have heard them at Carnegie Hall and at Joe’s Pub. Polygraph will perform at the open and close of the program and demonstrate along with the scientists throughout the discussion. They’re also planning an interactive “experiment” for the audience that will let ticket-holders create tones that will sound as if they’re coming from inside their own heads.

Composer Jacob Kirkegaard will also do an interactive presentation with the audience, playing a work he composed made from tones coming from his own ears. It turns out, as we’ll learn, that our ears actually amplify tones we hear. When the audience members hear Kirkegaard’s piece, they’ll be able to hear the tones their own ears are producing in response.

This is going to be an engaging and entertaining program during which you’ll also learn fascinating new information about sound. Neuroscientist Jamshed Bharucha will join astrophysicists Michael Turner and Mark Whittle in discussing the foundations of sound and vibration. Whittle will let us hear the “sounds of the universe” that he’s transposed within the human hearing range. Auditory specialist Christopher Shera will talk about his amazing research showing how our ears actually produce sound.

What I’ve learned about sound has surely gotten me to “tune in” to what I’m hearing – both intentionally and not. It’s really interesting and often much more fun. Come join these great scientists and musicians. Tune in!

—Elena Mannes

Good Vibrations takes place on June 3 at 8:00pm at The Kaye Playhouse. Visit the World Science Festival website to purchase tickets and learn more about the many other 2010 Festival programs.

Elena Mannes is a program producer at the World Science Festival.

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