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Pritzker Student Center, Junior Common Room

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“‘Secret Science’ and Piano Experiments: The Discovery of Harmonics” A Lecture by Peter Pesic

A Lecture by Peter Pesic Featuring Consuelo Sanudo (mezz0-soprano) David Forrest (piano)

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 3:15 p.m. - Junior Common Room


Harmonics are “little sounds” made by lightly touching a vibrating string at special points. Long used by string players, harmonics had a bad reputation until scientists discussed and named them. This lecture considers this story of science interacting with music as composers began using piano harmonics in the wake of experiments by Hermann Helmholtz. Arnold Schoenberg thought about these experiments in the midst of a profound personal crisis, then used harmonics in pioneering compositions as part of what he called a “secret science” within music. To illustrate this lecture, Consuelo Sanudo (SF92, GILA00) will perform Schoenberg’s song “Am Strande” and David Forrest will join in a performance of a rarely heard piano work by Jules Burgmein (Giulio Ricordi).

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