Virginia Symphony’s Ben Rous conducts the orchestra during its “Science is Music” program at Southampton High School. Elementary school students and faculty were invited. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS
Virginia Symphony’s Ben Rous conducts the orchestra during its “Science is Music” program at Southampton High School. Elementary school students and faculty were invited. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS

Archived Story

Students learn science of music

Published 1:43pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

COURTLAND—Sporting a lab coat, goggles and orange rubber gloves, conductor Ben Rous led the Virginia Symphony on Thursday in its program, “Science is music.”

The audience was made up of the students and faculty of elementary schools in Southampton County.

“All sound is vibration,” said Rous, and he and the orchestra demonstrated that point through different sections playing their instruments individually, as well as together in short compositions.

“You never see sound,” the conductor said, but showed it exists by placing foam pieces atop a speaker. When a double-bass player moved his bow across the strings, the audience could see how the invisible sound waves made the pieces jump up and down.

Rous further explained that just as vowels are used to change notes and pitch in speech, how the orchestra members play their instruments can alter those two qualities.

A fanfare by composer Paul Dukas illustrated that point. A piece by Charles Ives demonstrated organization in music.

Sandpaper blocks were used in another work to show timbre or tone color.

To explain loudness, which is measured by decibels, Ivor Stravinsky’s “Firebird” featured notes ranging from the softest to the loudest.

Finally, the students were given kazoos and hummed the chorus in Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his ninth symphony.

Dalton Gillette of Nottoway Elementary School said he had a good time.

Trista Darden of Capron Elementary School said she also liked the show, and she also saw how “it could be a little bit hard to play music.”

“It was absolutely outstanding,” Southampton School Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish said about the program, is sponsored annually by the Camp Foundation.

Parrish added that the orchestra’s visit is a part of keeping children exposed to the arts and developing creativity. Also, they can be inspired to find out what area of gifts they might have in the way of music, painting or band. Finally, the arts can help to make students well-rounded individuals.

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