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Making Music From Particle Energy

  • June 5, 2014
  • By Anya Ventura     
Students from MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering sonify gamma radiation in introductory composition class.


Junior Keldin Sergheyev candidly admits he didn’t know much about Western musical notation before taking “Introduction to Musical Composition” this spring. Most of what he did know about sound, Sergheyev adds, came from “Vibrations and Waves,” a required physics class for all nuclear science and engineering majors at MIT.

Midway through “Introduction to Musical Composition,” however, Sergheyev and two fellow MIT students had invented a new technique for generating musical sound — one that uses gamma radiation. Reflecting on the project, Sergheyev says, “The nuclear part was easy. The music part was the larger challenge.”

In past classes, students have created soundwalks and graphic scores, learning about experimental pieces that broaden conventional ideas about sound. “We start off doing things that are meant to expand what the students think of as being ‘music,’ and get them listening more deeply,” Makan says. In his most recent class, students were asked to design a musical instrument. Some made flutes, chimes, and drums. Sergheyev, Lopez, and Liu decided to make musical textures from nuclear radiation.

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Link to Full Source: MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology