Sounds to Astound wows audiences

An acoustics demonstrator lights a balloon full of Hydrogen and Oxygen on fire at the beginning of the show. (Theresa Davis)

Warning: This show will be loud.

The audience of Sounds to Astound: The Science of Music read this statement as the show started in the Eyring Science Center on Sept. 29, 2015.

The interactive show was sponsored by the BYU Student Chapter of the Acoustical Society of America, the BYU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Students in the Acoustics program at BYU performed the demonstrations and taught the science behind how musical instruments make their distinct sounds.

The demonstrators instructed the audience to put in earplugs before an Acoustics student set fire to a balloon filled with hydrogen and oxygen. The balloon went up in a ball of fire and the loud explosion reverberated throughout the lecture hall.

“That’s how we start the show off with a bang,” the demonstrator said.

Jenny Whiting, one of the Acoustical Society Outreach Coordinators, defined acoustics and explained why the audience should be exciting about the upcoming demonstrations.

“Acoustics is amazing, because it is science and music blended together,” Whiting said.

Demonstrators discussed the science behind the sounds of brass and string instruments. One student played the trumpet to reveal how the pitch changed when he placed his fingers on different valves. He then inhaled from a helium balloon, resumed playing and the sound’s pitch became higher.

The acoustics students then discussed the science of woodwinds. One demonstrator elicited laughs when he said he was going to make a clarinet out of a carrot.

And he did. He drilled holes in the carrot, added a reed and played several notes on the finished carrot clarinet. He said as long as there was a reed for sound vibrations, as well as a long area for the sound to travel through, anyone could make a woodwind instrument.

A BYU Synthesis Band member played the saxophone and explained how the vibrating reed was responsible for the different sounds emanating from the instrument.

The acoustics students then played with fire once more. This time, they lit a large propane-filled horizontal tube, called a Rubens’ tube. The tube was connected to speakers. Audience members saw distinct frequencies and wavelengths demonstrated by the line of flames along the pipe. The flames fluctuated in height when the frequency from the speakers changed.

The show’s grand finale was a combination of all the demonstrations, with a large dose of audience participation. Acoustics students played an electric guitar, the saxophone, the piano, the Rubens’ tube and the trumpet while audience members played the kazoos they were given.

Travis Hoyt, a senior majoring in Applied Physics with an emphasis in Acoustics, said the finale is always his favorite part of the show.

“The closing number gives me goosebumps every time,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt said this is the seventh year of the Sounds to Astound event. He explained that this year’s show was redesigned to focus specifically on the science of musical sounds.

The Acoustics students performed the show four times this past week.

“We were able to sell out 700 seats in two days, so that’s pretty incredible,” Hoyt said.

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