Music Faculty Lecture Brings Wave of Sounds

Composer connects music, math, science at annual science festival.

MSU Associate Professor of Composition, Mark Sullivan talks about sounds waves and shares fascinating examples to a standing-room only gathering during MSU’s Science Festival.

There's more to music than meets the ear.

Mark Sullivan can prove it.

In April, the associate professor of composition in the MSU College of Music applied some scientific and mathematical reasoning to show that music inhabits both the natural and cultural worlds.

Sullivan’s hour-long presentation at the 2015 MSU Science Festival included multi-media examples of flaming sound waves, rising goo on a loud speaker, vibrating strings as seen from the inside of a guitar, and a hands-on demonstration involving pressed and unpressed piano keys. Audience members were also treated to a lively discussion about the evolution of musical instruments, including tidbits on a contemporary orchestra that performs entirely on instruments made from vegetables.

“At its most basic level, science is trying to explain the natural world,” says Sullivan. “My goal is to give people a guided tour and to provide some resources if they want to further explore the connections between science, math, and music on their own.”

The popular family-friendly event was attended by about 50 people of all ages. Sullivan says he continues to amass online resources and demonstrations and to fine-tune the presentation that has been part of the campus-wide festival for three straight years.

“There’s a bridge between science and math and music,” says Sullivan. “Once you start thinking about the connections, it becomes fascinating very quickly.”

Video Examples: Music, math, and science.

Associate Professor of Music Mark Sullivan has amassed a collection of resources for those curious in exploring the connection between music, math, and science. Below, a list of some of the most popular videos.

See PDF from Sullivan’s lecture.



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