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Why You Hear What You Hear: An Experiential Approach to Sound, Music, and Psychoacoustics Hardcover – December 9, 2012
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"Why You Hear What You Hear . . . has much to interest physicists and physics students. . . . This book contains a lot of physical insight, and I think it will be the rare acoustician who does not enjoy reading it. I particularly liked the use of color coding to introduce (with a minimum of math) a graphical algorithm to represent autocorrelation. Also interesting are the author's diversions into history, including a story in which John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) and William Henry Bragg seem to have been mistaken about an echo transposed in pitch. . . . Acousticians will enjoy its interesting perspectives, and physicists and engineers outside of acoustics will find it an attractive introduction to some important parts of the discipline."--Joe Wolfe, Physics Today
"This book contains a lot of physical insight, and I think it will be the rare acoustician who does not enjoy reading it. . . . Acousticians will enjoy its interesting perspectives, and physicists and engineers outside of acoustics will find it an attractive introduction to some important parts of the discipline."--Joe Wolfe, Acoustics Australia
"This book by a distinguished professor of chemistry and physics at Harvard is a joy to read. . . . I highly recommend this as a book to be read, preferably with the book's website on a computer nearby for easy and frequent reference."--Thomas D. Rossing, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
"This book is highly instructive for people with an interest in the wave aspects of sound, for anyone interested in how musical instruments fundamentally work and why they sound how they sound, and for those interested in the human perception of sound. It is richly illustrated in full color, printed on high-quality paper and at an excellent standard of bookmaking. It deserves a clear recommendation for a wide readership."--Manuel Vogel, Contemporary Physics
From the Back Cover
"Rich in explanations and do-it-yourself activities, and assuming only a high school background, this is the best text I know on how sound actually works. But what makes this book truly a treasure is the degree to which it is so fully informed by Heller's particular scientific genius: he shows by example after example how to think through complex and nonlinear systems to capture their essential features, leading to deep, novel, and practically applicable insights."--David Politzer, Nobel Laureate in Physics
"This delightful book is written for a wide-ranging audience with diverse interests and musical/acoustical backgrounds. With detailed and physically intuitive discussions, interesting historical information, richly illustrated figures, exemplary sound files, and interactive computer animations (via whyyouhearwhatyouhear.com), this textbook covers an abundance of acoustical physics topics associated with the generation of sound, sound propagation, music, musical instruments, human perception of sound, room acoustics, and much more."--Steven Errede, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
"Covering a massive amount of material, this sweeping book contains sophisticated concepts and an immense amount of information, and includes topics left out in other books on the same subject. Singular and unique, it has no worthy competitors."--William Bickel, University of Arizona
"This book--with its accessibility and breadth of scholarship--is an impressive work that I would recommend highly. This is a fantastic addition to the subject."--Paulo Bedaque, University of Maryland
Top customer reviews
On the plus side: (1) the writing style is informal, non mathematical and informative, (2) there are some interesting explanations of phenomena that are often glossed over by resorting to dry mathematical derivations sans insightful comments in other books, (3) Heller makes extensive use of the autocorrelation as a metric for estimating pitch. Many physics of music and acoustics texts give a one sentence definition of pitch and move on. (4) there are many graphs and pictures to augment the discussion.
On the negative side: (1) Prof. Heller's explanations occasionally become a bit convoluted and his arguments sometimes appear to be circular in that he uses a concept that he is attempting to explain to also support his arguments. (2) many of the graphs use color but are often quite small and the axes are not labeled. (3) Heller occasionally inserts some mathematics into the discussion but in my humble opinion not effectively. His discussion of waves gets descriptively entangled while he could have concisely and clearly presented the material via the wave equation. His discussion of traveling waves on a vibrating string seems lacking. (4) I have applied Matlab to his many examples, especially those dealing with the autocorrelation and I have found errors in his conclusions as to the pitch. Although excited about this supposedly neat tool for estimating pitch, I am a bit mystified at his use of it.
I wish there were a way to communicate my concerns to Prof. Heller but his web site gives no email nor does the Harvard faculty directory. I suppose that his fame precludes accessibility.
In spite of these negative comments, I greatly value this book and have learned a lot from it. I continue to read and study it...but with a jaundiced eye.
Heller has used his knowledge of waves gained from decades of leading research on quantum wave-packets to bring sound wave mechanics and its human experience to a general audience.
Heller has also used his talent as an artist and expertise in computer graphics to provide lavish illustrations to expose what would otherwise be a highly mathematical subject.
The book grew out of a Harvard course intended for non-science majors on music and acoustics.
It has resulted in an exposition that all can learn from and enjoy, even some of those geeky science majors!
The Kindle version is often quite convenient (including the ability to call up international dictionaries), but the equation formatting isn't very pretty (not the author's fault!). His use of the Falstad "Ripple" app (also available as a stand-alone app for iOS) is welcome, as one can often learn more from interactive demonstrations than from even patient explanations. This is a rich and deep resource, to which students and their teachers can return indefinitely to continuously mine for ideas and insights.
The text glosses over much of the math, but the way the course was taught I think we needed a more rigorous text that had more example and practice problems. Also detailed explanations of the derivations. Ultimately I resorted to using the library, books I already had, and internet resources to learn what I needed to get through the class, which was deriving the acoustic wave equation from state functions. So if you're a broke engineering student who needs to determine the Helmholtz frequency of an intake manifold, this book may not help you. In the end, it just didn't resonate with me.
I'm taking an acoustics class and this is/was the required text. The author doesn't use pictures to explain concepts and instead has blocks of text describing a picture. The website has some resources for learning, but I found it was more helpful to watch youtube videos to learn about acoustics.