Music in the Stars – An Eventful Week – Anne Katherine

I am currently in possession of a very exciting book, Interpreting Astronomical Spectra, by D. Emerson of the University of Edinburg. According to our wonderful librarian, Teacher Victoria, this book, an interlibrary loan from Penn State University, is worth almost $500. It really should be kept in a glass case in my dorm room and only browsed through with pristine gloves on.

As is evident by the title, this book is exactly what I was looking for last week when I was feeling frustrated about understanding the meaning behind the composition. Already this book had brought me a great deal of clarity as I’m sure it will continue to do in the coming weeks. One of the most important topics I have learned about this week is the idea of resonance lines. According to Emerson,

“The transition between the ground state [of the electron] and the first excited state permitted to radiatively decay to ground is called the resonance line. The energy level structures of other atoms and ions are more complex than that of hydrogen, but the strongest line is often the resonance line, and the stronger lines tend to be found at the shortest wavelengths.” (Emerson, 151)

This is applicable to my project because many of the data pieces in my Lyman-alpha forest data set are in fact resonance lines. The fact that stronger lines tend to be found at shorter wavelengths is helpful in terms of composition because a short wavelength musically correlates to a note of a lower pitch; perhaps in one version of my composition I will play the lower notes more loudly. Anyway, something to consider.

Speaking of composition, this week I spent hours in the arts center working on modifying my handwritten shed music. While what I have come up with is no Mozart concerto, I’m proud of the work that I have done and excited to continue. Without spoiling too much of the final product, a short (very short) sound clip of my composition is here. My composition process is difficult to describe. Usually I play a few measures of the music as written and then try out different modifications of dynamics, rhythm, and pitch that I know will sound good and then pick the best one. In this process I try to make the sound cohesive, so far the composition starts out sounds a bit melancholy and then slowly morphs into something resemblant of an 18th country dance — the combination is not as odd as I’m making it seem, I promise.

Until next time, have a wonderful week!



“Interpreting Astronomical Spectra.” Wiley:. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.

Emerson, David. Interpreting Astronomical Spectra. Chichester: J. Wiley & Sons, 1996. Print.

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