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Do you hear what I hear?

 
Programme
A feast of auditory brain trickery illusions awaited over 250 visitors at a stimulating and interactive evening of science, music and fun at the British Library on the evening of 11 October 2010.
Demo of travelling sound wave

The evening was a collaborative venture between the British Library (Karen Walshe), UCL Neuroscience (Alison Brindle) and UCL Ear Institute (Ifat Yasin), working closely with UCL Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences (SH&PS), UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences and the charity, Deafness Research UK.

The result was an awe-inspiring evening of interactive science aimed at all ages, exploring how the brain perceives sound and interprets speech and music.

The evening started with an auspicious parp on a vuvuzela and an introduction by Prof Stuart Rosen (SH&PS), which was followed by a lively demonstration of how the ear works by Tobin May (Deafness Research UK’s Bionic Ear Show presenter), complete with a giant ear and brain.

Next, Dr. Ifat Yasin explained how the brain interprets sounds by asking the audience to listen to some entertaining auditory illusions. The presentation included a live performance by Rebecca Smith, Leader of the Orchestra of the City, as she played a piece of music by Bach, to illustrate how some composers used knowledge of auditory illusion in their musical compostitions,

The Harmonettes

Visitors then got the opportunity to visit five different demonstration rooms focused on a host of auditory delights, including

  • being able to test their own ears by trying out a range of speech-based illusions;
  • seeing how a cochlear implant processes sound;
  • watching a live electroencephalography (EEG) demo and seeing the brain in action; listening to music from the Congo used as language;
  • finding out what happens when you try to speak at the same time as listening to a delayed recording of your own voice; and
  • discovering what can be learned about hearing by listening to simulations of how an owl, a bat, a bird and a cricket hear.

During the interlude, people were treated to music from the glamorous retro group The Harmonettes, who were joined by an impromptu beat-boxer on the night – they sounded fantastic. With people queuing round the block for tickets for the evening, this event was in high demand, proving that science can be both engaging and fun.