It’s one thing to understand the physics of sound, but quite another to build a synthesizer or figure out why the instrument resonates better in one auditorium than another. In similar fashion, mastering the history of the black freedom struggle won’t necessarily help explain all that the #MeToo movement owes it.
Starting this fall, 160 courses in the new College program in General Education are offering students the opportunity to engage with these questions and more, in ways that ask them to bridge the worlds of theory and practice across disciplines.
In devising their Gen Ed courses, faculty members were asked to take creative, in-depth approaches to examining persistent, often provocative issues that affect students’ academic and social lives. The courses are distributed across four categories: Aesthetics and Culture; Ethics and Civics; Histories, Societies, Individuals; and Science and Technology in Society.
How Music Works: Engineering the Acoustical World
In Robert Wood’s Gen Ed course, “How Music Works: Engineering the Acoustical World,” the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) wants students to learn the fundamentals of engineering while giving them the opportunity to be curious about acoustic experiences in everyday life. He adapted the course from his prior offering in SEAS (ES25).
In his new course, students build acoustic and electronic instruments as part of the lab component, and compose original pieces to be played on those instruments. The compositions will later be cut onto vinyl records as part of a unit on music storage and preservation. For Wood, bringing together Harvard’s rich scientific and musical traditions is one of the great joys of teaching the class.
“I want to dispel the myth that these concepts are not for people who have little or no experience in engineering and computer science,” he said. “It would be great to have people come out of the course with the confidence to examine phenomena or devices that they wouldn’t have explored earlier.”