Kurt Hoffman and team

A multidivisional conversation about the production and perception of sounds

Kurt Hoffman, workshop coordinator, professor of physics

Description: The workshop will focus on the topic of sound with music being the unifying theme. We will explore disciplinary viewpoints of music: its perception, analysis and production. Peter Crawford will engage the subject from the point of view of creating music bottom up; as an instructor of music technology, he is well versed in combining simple sounds into complex musical compositions. I will highlight experimental techniques to break complex sounds into their simpler components. This analytic approach is often utilized in the general education course "Sound and Music" as a way to understand the connection between the physical structure of a musical instrument and the unique sounds it produces. Walter Herbranson will focus on the neural basis of music perception and its evolutionary significance. Matthew Prull will integrate cognitive perspectives to the perception of sound, speech and music into the exchange of ideas. Finally, Keith Farrington will introduce some sense of the cultural into this overall mosaic. For example, he will look at how exactly the cultural production of musical sound comes to take place within society, and with what gains and what losses. This multifaceted approach to the subject of music and sound will force us to consider new ideas, new vocabulary and new approaches. By including members of three different divisions and four traditional academic departments, we have ensured a wide-open conversation that will certainly challenge our individual viewpoints.

How will you accomplish this? We will hold 10 90-minute meetings during spring semester. Each participant will lead a discussion, which will highlight a particular disciplinary exploration of sound or music. Since many of the members of this workshop utilize laboratory-based learning related to the subject of sound, several sessions will include hands-on activities. The other five meetings will be designed for course development activities. We also will have three meetings that will use a book, journal article or other media as a focal point for a group discussion. This will be an opportunity for us to engage ideas outside any group member's expertise to explore how our different perspectives can lead to a new understanding of the material we encounter. These discussions may be the most important component of the workshop in that the disciplinary differences in perspective will be pushed to the forefront as we engage these texts.

How will this work be applied to your curriculum/classes? Two of the meetings near the end of the semester will focus on synthesizing information for possible incorporation into existing classes. These discussions will focus on leveraging our individual expertise to help with technical, pedagogical or resource questions.