PHY103 Physics of Music -- Fall 2014

Class web site:
Note: the subdirectory "Sounds" that contains soundfiles used in class and called by the lecture notes is password protected with user name phy103 and password to be given in class.


Alice Quillen, Bausch and Lomb Hall(B+L) 424, 275-9625, aquillen at
Office hours: After class on Tuesday morning. After or during lab on most Thursday mornings. I am generally available in my office 9-5pm. However you can call or email me to set up a specific time if you would like to be sure to find me free. I will be giving lectures and attending 1 lab a week. If there is a request for additional or more formal office hours I will set up a time.

Lectures and Labs:

Classroom: B+L407
Class meeting time: Tuesdays 9:40-10:55AM. Note lectures are usually only on Tuesdays. The first week we will have a lecture on Thursday.
Laboratory: B+L403
Lab meeting times: 2 hour sessions of about 10 students each. Once a week.

The First Class: Tuesday Sept 2, 2014. The first week we will have lecture on both Tuesday and Thursday. After Sept 4, lectures will be only on Tuesdays. (except possibly the week of Oct 7)
Your First Lab: At your lab time during the week starting Tuesday Sept 9, 2014.


If you are having trouble registering please see me or email me so I can make it possible for you to register. You need to register for both class and a lab time (unless you are attending the Thursday morning lab).


In this class we will explore the natural world of music through experiments and demonstrations and by building and testing our own musical instruments in the lab. We will probe physics concepts by searching for explanations for musical and acoustic phenomena. We will seek to understand the compromises involved in the elegant design of classical and folk musical instruments. This year in the lab we will construct fretted monochords, didgeridus and flutes. Because of the experimental approach, this class is divided into 1 lecture and 1 lab a week. Labs and the final student project are an important part of this class. Lab reports are required to pass this class.

Topics covered

Teaching Instructors (TIís) and Lab Times

Lab times: We expect some adjustments in lab groups the first week of class. You must attend a weekly lab to complete this class. We are expecting 2 lab groups of about 10 students each. Depending upon enrollment there will might be more or fewer labs. Labs will start the second week of classes. The first lab will be during the week starting Monday, Sept 8, 2014. There are 2 TI's this year: Ivory Stokes and Dahyun Chung. As long as no lab is too crowded, you can attend a different lab time on some weeks than other weeks.
Weekly lab times will be among the following times: TI/TA Office hours: Available during their lab time. At other times set up a time to see them. Please let the TI/TAs know if you plan to be later than 1/2 hour to your lab time or if you would like to come at a different time one week.
Lab Manual: As the lab manual contually needs revision it will not be printed and available at the bookstore. The uptodate version should be available here To handouts


In place of a midterm, there could be a concert at the end of the year, organized by this class, that features music from members of this class, sometimes showing instruments we have made and music played by members of the physics and astronomy department and invited guests. The students of this class have in past performed with innovative instruments in other locations on campus.


Recommended and available at bookstore Also put on reserve at Physics Optics and Astronomy Library (B+L374) : The books on reserve contain some of the material also covered in lecture and will help you write more informed lab reports. Most similar university classes country are more lecture based and less lab based than this class. Some of them use the last 4 on the reserve list to introduce musical acoustics.


Lateness policy

Late reports and assignments will not be accepted unless via prior arrangement with the instructor. Please let the instructor know if you have a conflict or problem. Assignments will rarely be accepted one week past the assigned due date. Only 8 of 10 labs reports (or activities) must be submitted. It is difficult to set up multiple labs at the same time, consequently students must complete the labs when they are scheduled. As you don't need to complete every lab there should be no reason for make-up labs or late lab reports.
Try to start your lab reports during your lab period to make sure that you clearly understand your data! We are available to help with your lab reports.

Due Dates and where to turn things in

Lab reports are due 1 week after your lab period. They should be turned in before 9pm to the mail box outside of B+L404. Please do not email your lab reports to the professor or TA. Only entire labs or exams (not parts of them) may be regraded.

Prerequisites: None

Collaboration policy and Academic Honesty

Collaboration in this class is encouraged. However lab reports and the final project must be written by the individual student. In the case of a collaborative final project, each student must have an specific part of the project that he/she is responsible for. Academic dishonesty is a serious violation of the trust upon which an academic community depends. Please follow our university's academic honesty guidelines. Copying any part of a lab report is not allowed in this class.