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Creative Teaching with Astronomically Inspired Music

Mercury Spring 2012 Table of Contents

by Matthew Whitehouse

Student observing through telescope

Following the introductory activity, I perform my organ work Nebulae, a musical journey through the star formation process, for camp participants. Image courtesy Kate Brutlag Follette (The University of Arizona).

Imagine that you are sitting on the floor in the dome of a large scope — perhaps the 2.3-meter Bok telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. You're at The University of Arizona's Astronomy Camp, and sunset's glow is fading — time for the nightly dark-adaptation music presentation.

Following a few logistical announcements, the dome lights dim to red and a brief explanation of the night's dark-adaptation music selection commences. The dome lights are then turned out completely, and the music begins to play. This piece is more unusual than the selections from the preceding nights of Camp, and you find the music almost perplexing.

After the music finishes, you join in a discussion regarding the ways in which you think the music connects with astronomical concepts. The whole experience leaves you ready to "let your mind start a journey through a strange new world," to quote from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Music of the Night."

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