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Listen: Making Sense of Sound

For Immediate Release:
October 01, 2006

Media Available
Jenny Slafkosky (415) 528-4367

Listen: Making Sense of Sound

Selected New Exhibits
Listening for Pleasure and Patterns

An Exploratorium visitor
trying the Pinnae Play

Listening Room
Relax in this listening oasis with an authentic jukebox and hear a wide selection of unusual and unfamiliar music. Musical taste depends on who you are — your culture, your age, your life experience. What subtleties in the sounds do other people notice that you may have missed? What is music? What is noise?
Mysterious Melodies
How accurately can you identify these familiar yet jumbled tunes? Listen to well-known nursery rhyme melodies in which the notes have been altered. How much sonic information do you need to identify the tunes?

Find the Groove
Rhythm is all about timing — and feeling. Experiment with making different rhythms against a steady bass line. Which ones feel “in the groove” to you?

Keeping the Beat
Experience this hands-on drumming lesson! Listen to samples of various types of music and see if you can identify the beginning of each new rhythmic cycle known as a time signature (2/4, 4/4, 6/8, 7/8, 2/3, 5/4…). Can you tell how many beats are in each cycle?

Soundscapes in the Sonic Soup

Soundscapes (Where Are You?)
Every place has its own special combination of sounds. Listen and name that soundscape. Sit in a specially designed room and carefully listen to recordings of sounds from around the city. What kind of place are you in? Is it a swimming pool? An ice rink? A restaurant?

What’s Wrong With This Car?
Diagnose mechanical problems with your ears! Gather around a real car engine and listen. What sounds does it make when something’s wrong? Mechanic Lisa Miller will guide you through this ordinary yet, for some, unfamiliar soundscape — the automobile.

Sonic Storytelling
How does sound evoke a place or an action? Step into the world of a radio sound effects artist and explore the art of sonic storytelling. From a creaking door to a galloping horse, use ordinary mechanical objects to create extraordinary sound effects and build the soundscape of a radio drama. Hitch your ear to your imagination.

Sound Puzzles
Listen to everyday sounds in a whole new way! From a toilet flushing to a soda can opening, listen to mundane sound sequences that have been cut up and rearranged. Can you put the sounds back in their correct order by carefully listening to the subtle patterns?

Parabolic Listening Device
This “audio periscope” allows visitors on the Exploratorium Mezzanine to eavesdrop on conversations on the museum floor below. This highly focused microphone in a parabolic dish can be aimed at different listening targets.

Listening to Understand Each Other

What makes you drop in to some conversations and not others? Listen to three conversations at once — in a restaurant, at a hair salon, and in a classroom — while considering which ones pull you in and why. You’ll be relaxing in a salon chair eavesdropping on the conversations played through your hairdryer.

Listening While Talking
It’s easy to listen while you’re talking, right? Find out when you pick up the telephone receiver to listen to the jokes. The trick is that you have to keep talking in order to hear the punch lines.

That’s Not What I Meant
“That not what I meant” or “You don’t listen to me,” are common complaints among couples. While watching a series of video clips of couples communicating, observe patterns of behavior. Do they lead to effective communication and active listening? A psychologist trained in the nuances of couple’s therapy is your Listening Guide for this experience.

Auditory Illusions
At this multimedia exhibit, explore an array of auditory illusions related to speech comprehension. Among them is Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, a version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” which demonstrates just how important context is to the meaning of language. At Repeating Words, as you listen for meaning, your brain interprets sounds that aren’t really there. At McGurk Effect, the dissonance between a spoken utterance carefully aligned with video of someone speaking a different sound results in a bizarre effect.

Listening Depends on Who We Are

Sound Memories
What's the most memorable sound you've ever heard? Maybe it's a baby's first cry, the sound of an approaching avalanche, or the pouring of mercury into a flask. Explore the relationships between sound, motion and memory.

Listening Guide Theater
From a wildlife tracker to a car mechanic, meet expert listeners as they share stores of how they listen attentively to the acoustic world. Learn a few skills for listening in new ways.

Pathways and Impediments to Hearing

Sound Bite
You don’t need your ears to listen! Plug your ears and bite down on one of the rods. What do you hear in your head? Experience bone conduction, sound conducted through your jawbones instead of through your ears.

Pinnae Play
The shape of an animal’s ears affects the sounds it hears. Visitors can try on these oddly shaped pinnae, or outer ears, and experiment with filtering and locating sounds.

Hearing Health Risks
Is listening to your MP3 or going to loud concerts affecting your hearing? Our noisy world is becoming an increasing public health risk. Listen to the sounds around you through filters that simulate several common hearing impairments including the high-pitch ringing of tinnitus, a noise-induced hearing loss common with rock 'n’ roll musicians.

Listening Skills

Out-Quiet Yourself
Make as little noise as possible as you cross the sound course. You need to be quiet in order to listen, but it’s not as easy as you think!

Acoustic Navigation
Find your way through an underground train — with a person who is blind as your guide. Join Listening Guide Dean Hudson on an immersive sonic journey and sharpen your listening skills along the way.

Audio Pong
The ultimate sound localization challenge… Try to play this “un-video” game with your eyes closed!

Reversed Ears
How would your world sound different if your left and right ears were reversed? Try on these wild listening contraptions to find out.

Hours of Operation & New Evening Hours
Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm;  every Thursday evening adults only (ages 18 and up) 6pm-10pm.

$29 for adults, with lower rates for SF Bay Area residents, youth, seniors, students, teachers and the disabled. Tickets available at the door and advance tickets available online at www.exploratorium.edu/visit/tickets.

Getting Here
The Exploratorium is easily accessible by public transit. Convenient parking is available nearby. For more information, visit www.exploratorium.edu/visit/location-directions

About the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is the global leader in informal learning, igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. The world-renowned science museum creates original, interactive exhibits, on display at more than 1,000 science centers, museums and public spaces around the world. Dedicated to education reform in and out of the classroom, the Exploratorium is a premier professional development center for educators and a creator of award-winning educational resources. Since 1969, the Exploratorium has influenced generations of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, teachers, students, children, museum professionals and everyday doers, reaching nearly 180 million people annually from around the globe. On April 17, 2013, the Exploratorium opened at Pier 15 in the heart of San Francisco's Embarcadero, where it will celebrate a new era of experiences that encourage critical thinking and awaken wonder for generations to come. For more information, visit www.exploratorium.edu/visit.

Pier 15
San Francisco
California 94111
(415) 528-4444 telephone

Contact Us:
Jenny Slafkosky (415) 528-4367