Aspen Science Center



he Science of Music is a series of lectures and demonstrations on the science of music; a collaboration between the Aspen Science Center (ASC) and the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS). All programs are at the “enthusiastic novice” level, with no previous knowledge of physics or music theory assumed.

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The Science of Music will return for the summer of 2018! 

  • Thursday, July 26th: The Science of Acoustical Design, exploring how architects, acoustical engineers, and artistic directors work together to design concert halls with accurate and stunning acoustics. With Aspen architect Harry Teague and acoustical designer Larry Kirkegaard of Kirkegaard Associates, who worked together to design AMFS venues like the Benedict Music Tent, Harris Hall and the Bucksbaum Campus.
  • Thursday, August 2nd: Musics of Memory, a new work by Bruce Adolphe, Composer-in-Residence at the  Brain and Creativity Institute (USC), explores the connection between music and how memory works. Following the performance, there will be a discussion of music and memory with Adolphe and neuroscientist Assal Habibi.
  • Thursday, August 9th: The Science of Percussion, featuring Cynthia Yeh, Principal Percussionist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Performances will be at Aspen Community Church from 5:00 to 6:30pm. All sessions are hosted and moderated by Alan Fletcher, President and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Tickets available by clicking the links below. $25. Students free on day of concert.

Thursday, July 26th: The Science of Acoustical Design

Thursday, August 2nd: Music and Memory

Thursday, August 9th: The Science of Percussion

Past Events and Videos

July 14, 2016: Harmony and Harmonics, Part II

Building on his very informative discussion from last year, Andy Cohen continues to discuss the physics and math behind music.

Harmony and Harmonics, Part II

July 28, 2016: Evolution of the Flute and Engineering of the Horn

In this installment of The Science of Music, Nadine Asin describes how the flute evolved into its current form, and John Zirbel explains the intricacies of playing the French Horn. Hosted by AMFS President Alan Fletcher.

Evolution of the Flute and Engineering of the Horn

August 11, 2016: The Musical Brain Born or Made

In this episode of The Science of Music, Dr. Robert Zatorre discusses the inner workings of the brain, and what happens when you listen to music.Hosted by AMFS President Alan Fletcher.

The Musical Brain: Born or Made?

July 23, 2015 at 4pm: Harmonics in Music and Science 

Alan Fletcher and Andrew Cohen, Professor of Physics at Boston University, introduced the science underlying music: how waves work and how waves forms determine the tone color of different instruments; the ‘harmonic series” and how it affects tuning; acoustics, and more.

July 30, 2015 at 6pm: Evaluating Musical Instruments

Alan Fletcher interviewed noted violinist Robert McDuffie, in a comparison of the instruments, including Guarneri, Stradivarius, and contemporary violins. Consideration was given to current studies analyzing the properties of great violins, both modern and historic. Violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn brought her renowned Stradivarius, known as “The Red Mendelssohn,” which inspired “The Red Violin,” as well as a copy of it made by a modern master. McDuffie and Pitcairn played the various instruments, and led the audience in an appreciation of their differing sounds.

August 6, 2015 at 6pm: Neuroscience of Music

Music-lovers already know how music can affect the soul, but its impact on the brain may seem like murkier territory. Dr. Robert Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute joined Alan Fletcher for a lecture that revealed the complex relationship between music and our cognitive functions. Zatorre’s research is in the forefront of insight into the mechanism by which music can produce neurological responses. The interview was illustrated with musical examples.

August 13, 2015 at 6pm; Pianos: How They Work

Perhaps no instrument is as universally beloved as the piano–but what, exactly, goes into creating this magnificent apparatus? Peter Sumner, the AMFS’s head piano technician and master technician for Steinway & Sons, explained the art of piano-making and explained how these instruments make their glorious sound.