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00:03:20
PETER WHITEHEAD is an instrument builder, performer, and composer. His singular instruments, often based on folk instruments from around the world, feature unusual found materials. Among his many instruments are the Heart Banjo, made from a baking tin; the Lawn Lyre, made from an old lawnmower and a metal oil pan; and the Spoonharp, made from a five-gallon metal drum, a eucalyptus branch, and kitchen spoons. Originally from England, Whitehead is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founding member of the Mobius Operandi performance group, he also performs regularly with Closer To Carbon, an improvisational trio.

00:00:11
An clip of the Aeolian Landscape exhibit by artist Ned Kahn. Blowing air sculpts sand into an ever-changing landscape.

00:53:00
A discussion about the artistic, scientific, and moral interpretations of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his legacy as the father of the atomic bomb. Composer John Adams and librettist Peter Sellars of the Doctor Atomic opera are joined by Richard Rhodes, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Kip Cranna, musical administrator at the San Francisco Opera, moderates.

00:60:00
A discussion about the artistic, scientific, and moral interpretations of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his legacy as the father of the atomic bomb. Composer John Adams and librettist Peter Sellars of the Doctor Atomic opera are joined by Richard Rhodes, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Kip Cranna, musical administrator at the San Francisco Opera, moderates.

00:00:38
Mike Wiltberger, magnetospheric physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, narrates this artist’s rendering of a coronal mass ejecting from the sun and then impacting the earth’s magnetic field. Animation produced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

00:03:07
If you’ve ever gone to hear an orchestra play, you know that the performance begins only after a session of tuning. An oft-repeated story tells of a visiting foreigner attending a concert in Paris. Afterwards, when asked which part of the performance he liked best, he replied, “The beginning, just before the man with the stick came in.” Tuning means adjusting the pitch of an instrument. The pitch of a sound depends on its frequency, the number of vibrations per second that produce the sound. For example, plucking a cello string might cause it to vibrate back and forth 200 times each second. You hear that sound as a low pitch of 200 cycles per second, or 200 hertz. An orchestra tunes itself to a very particular frequency, usually 440 hertz, a note known as A 440. The note is played by the oboist, and the rest of the orchestra tunes their instruments to match it. The oboe leads the tuning because of all the instruments, it is least affected by humidity or other weather conditions.

00:02:29
Music is more than meets the ears directly. Just as no sound exists in a vacuum, every space sculpts the sound within it. Like a site-specific equalizer, reflections, absorption, and resonances combine to give each venue a unique acoustic stamp. A subway tunnel is “live” space, rich with reverberations that trap and reflect sound in a well of hard tile. True to their name, “dead” spaces do nothing: The only sound heard is what travels directly from instrument to ear. An open field is the ultimate dead space. As you follow this wandering riff, listen to the changes wrought by environment. Distance is also a factor here—the sound you hear is recorded from the camera’s vantage. Which spaces sound live? Which sound dead? Do the acoustic changes affect the feeling of the music? Saxophonist Michael Pearce plays with the Highwater Blues Band in the San Francisco Bay Area.

00:02:48
Stepping is rhythmic movement that uses the hands and feet as an instrument. Known best among African American fraternities and sororities, stepping draws on a long African tradition of using the body to make music. Synchronized movement and chants are coordinated by the leader, or step master. Sometimes improvising, always cultivating their own distinctive moves and rhythms, step teams reflect and reaffirm both the unity and the unique style of their group.

00:00:40
This wobbly luminescent sculpture by Liz Hickok is both art work and a simulation of how a San Francisco neighborhood might jiggle when the Big One strikes.

00:57:36
Originally produced for NOVA in 1982, Jon Else's film takes a look behind the scenes at the Exploratorium. The film follows the development of three exhibits from prototype to museum floor. Palace of Delights won a Cine Golden Eagle Award and was shown at the International Film and Television Festival of New York.