Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

Physics Ensemble: An Audio Visual Experience

  • Photo by Donald Tetto

By Pelham Keahey and Will Hardy

In this project, our group seeks to connect physics and music. We employ three devices in our work: a Rubens tube, a theremin, and a stylophone.

I. The Rubens Tube by Pelham Keahey and Will Hardy

There are many types of musical instruments which all have unique and various sounds. However, on a fundamental level, they all operate the same by adjusting the frequency (pitch) at which sound waves are produced. The intent of this project is to produce a piece of music both visually and acoustically through the use of a Rubens tube (visual) and precisely controlled electronic musical instruments. The Rubens tube will also be compatible with other instruments, thus any sound produced from an instrument that can be plugged into an amplifier can be reproduced visually using the tube.
II. The Theremin By Audrey Olena

The theremin, the first electronic musical instrument ever created, uses electronic capacitance and interference to produce audible sound waves. When the theremin is plugged in and connected to an amplifier and speaker, we can hear the sound waves produced by the theremin’s reaction to electromagnetic interference because of two radio-frequency oscillators connected in the theremin’s circuit board. The instrument itself has two metal rods: one straight vertical rod, which controls pitch, and a horizontal looped rod which controls volume. Because the human body has a certain capacitance, the interference between the player’s hands and the two rods can create different pitches (different frequencies) and different volumes, depending on the distance between each rod and each hand. Such movement between hands and rods mimics changing distance between capacitor plates, thereby interpreted by the oscillators and produced as sound waves by the connection to the speaker.

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