Among the many pieces of memorabilia that Loar’s widow Bertha entrusted to my care was a well-illustrated lab note book entitled The Physics of Music prepared by one of Professor Loar’s students from a class at Northwestern University during the summer of 1943. This was to be Loar’s last class. As dated in the book, the first lecture was given on June 23, 1943 and class continued for 11 lectures until Loar became ill in the summer of that year, just one month prior to his death. Sadly, lecture 12 was never given and one can only surmise what his wrap-up would have been.
I have transcribed the notebook verbatim and have scanned all of the illustrations in their original form with the hope of preserving as much as possible of what Professor Loar might have drawn on the board. The text has been appended with margin notes where I felt clarification and expansion of some of the ideas was necessary. And, in an added effort to maintain the original integrity of the text, Rosemary Wagner carefully edited the manuscript with the goal of preserving the student’s spellings, punctuation, and language of the day.
The text goes through some of the basics of musical acoustics, how sound is produced by various instruments, the job of air chambers and apertures, how strings produce sound, what the soundpost in a violin does, and more. References are made to tuned air chambers and apertures. Loar refers to the violin as the “king” of string musical instruments and tells why, and he expresses dissatisfaction for the inability of members of the lute family (which includes mandolins, guitars, etc.) to produce a quality tone.
It’s a wonderful piece of history filled with lots of good data from the guy who gave us the F5 mandolin!
The Physics of Music:
Publication #508, $24.95.
1) The Physics of Music is published by Roger H. Siminoff, Atascadero, CA, 93423.
2) Available only from Siminoff Banjo and Mandolin.
3) 44 pages plus cover, plastic covers, 8-1/2″ x 11″
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