Alan Cooper Reviews: Discovery Day

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Having already been at the Maritime Museum and St Andrew’s Cathedral I thought I would drop in to the Aberdeen Science Centre, the first time I had been there, to see how Professor Pete Stollery was getting on with his full day (10.30am to 4.30pm) presenting an exciting day of activities exploring the Science of Sound. In this enterprise he was ably assisted by fellow electroacoustic expert and composer Duncan Chapman and by a splendid team of music students from the University of Aberdeen. I am so glad I went. I found the place humming with activity, all its many stands and demonstrations surrounded by enthusiastic youngsters and older people too.
Pete showed me how to make a gong out of a metal coat hanger. You tie equal lengths of string to either end of the hanger holding it upside down. On the other ends of the string you make small loops. Next put your little fingers through the loops and stick your little fingers (not the string) in your ears. Bang the hook part of the hanger against a table and you will be amazed by what you hear. I watched a screen that displayed the various overtones of a sound, played with a sonar device that could almost have been a Theremin (sadly no actual Theremin on display – perhaps next year?).

Best of all I went to a seminar on the Capture of sounds led by Pete Stollery with a major input by Duncan Chapman. The little lecture theatre was packed, mostly with young children, but a few adults too. We had to stand in an oval at the front while a microphone was passed round and each person was invited to make a sound into it. The sounds were indeed “captured” each one added to the sum. We had a go at making long sounds, short noises or just a word. Banana seemed to be a favourite with the children. Their enthusiasm just grew and grew. Duncan Chapman was splendid with the children. By the end, even the shyest members were jumping up and down with enthusiasm in taking part. I am certain many of them will remember the event fondly for the rest of their lives. Thank you soundfestival and the Aberdeen Science Centre you are both doing a marvellous job!

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