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Acoustics, Part 1

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

Acoustics is the science of sound. More specifically, it’s the branch of physics that deals with sound waves and their properties—how sound waves are generated, how they behave in various circumstances, how they interact.

Applied to music, acoustics is the basis for understanding all sorts of things: the functioning of all musical instruments and of the voice; the nature of notes, or pitches—their relationships, and why they sound the way they do in different combinations; the differences in quality of musical sounds, from differences in volume to differences in timbre, or “tone color.” Now when I say “understanding,” I mean understanding from the scientific perspective…which is very different from “appreciating,” or “perceiving.” Luckily, none of us has to be an acoustical physicist in order to appreciate the sound—and the sounds—of music, and to be sensitive to the infinite range of meaning in music. But, more on acoustics tomorrow.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.