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written by members of WTJU Charlottesville's folk department with stuff maybe of interest to listeners to the station. This blog is not an official WTJU or UVA website. Want to leave a message about any of our programs (or us in general) that we can broadcast over the air? Call 434-218-3655, and leave a voice mail.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Acoustics of World Instruments

The BBC World Service (The BBC's International Radio Station heard on WTJU from 3-6 am six nights a week) has a number of wonderful programs on its schedule; including one called Discovery.

The emphasis of the program is to explore today's most significant scientific discoveries and talk to the scientists behind them.  How does this apply to folk music?  Well, they recently did a three part series on the "Acoustics of World Instruments".

Episode 1: The Human Voice
  • From Mongolian throat singing to the grand opera houses of Europe and folk singing in the fields of Bulgaria, Trevor Cox examines how the human voice makes sound.
  • He hears of a study in Australia that suggests Wagner may have chosen specific vowel sounds to help female singers battle against vast orchestral forces. And how Mongolian throat singers took inspiration from the multiple sounds they heard in the wind.

Episode 2: Wind Instruments
  • What makes the sound of a clarinet different to an oboe or a recorder? Trevor Cox - acoustic engineer and saxophone player - examines the science of wind instruments.
  •  He learns how playing the didgeridoo could help the best jazz saxophonists. And discovers the shared science between simple squeeze boxes and Asian free reed instruments.

Episode 3: Percussion and String Instruments
  • Trevor Cox explores how percussion and string instruments make their own particular sounds.
  • He finds surprising scientific connections between a Stradivarius violin, singing bowls of Tibet and playing a saw used for cutting wood.
  • And he learns how the rise of the oil industry in World War II gave birth to the hand crafting of Steel Pans in the Caribbean - a skill that is attracting scientific analysis today.

Each program is approximately 27 minutes, and can either be streamed or downloaded as a podcast.  You can listen to them all, or pick and choose.

Submitted by Peter Jones, Host of  Leftover Biscuits

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