Dick's life with physics, page 2


A year later, he was appointed to a lectureship.   It was a period when many of the undergraduates he taught had served in the Forces during the war.   At least one of them still remembers his disgust at being taught by someone who had been a fellow student earlier in the decade.   Most interesting and enthusiastic were the Music students to whom Dick lectured on acoustics; one of them had run a radio station for the Allied Forces in Germany while another had played on some famous Baroque organs.   An amusing by-product of this was the invitation to give a talk on musical temperament to accompany a recital on the newly created McClure organ.   Presided over by Professor of Music, Sidney Newman, this was part of the 1951 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, a meeting for which Dick was one of the local secretaries along with John McPherson and Robert Taubman from the University Administration.

In March 1952 a 15-minute BBC Home Service broadcast began:

In tonight's Science Review R M Sillitto discusses the latest attempt to construct an organ which will play harmoniously in any key.   This is the McClure Organ at present in the University of Edinburgh.
Illustrations were played by Herrick Bunney, some on the St Giles organ, some on the McClure.   Two BBC pianos were used by Dick, one of them 'mistuned' under his guidance, to just temperament for the key of C, the other in standard equal temperament.   The broadcast was repeated in response to listeners' requests, and was broadcast in the BBC Overseas Service.

A young English composer, John Buckland, composed a Piéta making use of the organ's microtones and sent it to Dick.   Other musicians got in touch, particularly during the Edinburgh Festival, and Dick showed them the special features of the organ.   Father Laurence Bévenot of the Priory, Workington, started a lengthy correspondence during which Dick analysed Dr McClure's notes and tuning instructions to determine precisely the temperament to which the organ was tuned (see Appendix 1.1).

In May, 1952, an audience of about 80, including some Edinburgh organists, attended a public lecture which Dick gave under the auspices of the Edinburgh University Physical Society.   Illustrations included recordings made on the McClure organ by student Kenneth Greenway.   The following February a lecture to the Scientific Society of the University College of Dundee, on the development of tempered scales, attracted an audience of nearly 100.   These lectures were illustrated by recordings of Herrick Bunney and the Edinburgh University Singers - superbly made for the BBC record library by BBC engineers led by John Robertson (who famously wrote a Scottish country dance, The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh) for use in a half-hour talk on the Third Programme in November, 1952 (Appendix 1.2).   This programme was faded out to the strains of Prelude and 4 Chorales by John Buckland.

Then requests came from physicists in Nottingham and Manchester, asking for copies of the musical recordings.   From Jodrell Bank A. Maxwell wrote

I listened to your Third Programme talk last November with considerable interest, but (with the greatest of respect to Mr Buckland) the music specially written for the Edinburgh organ, with its sprinkling of D sharps and E flats was almost more than my ears could bear!

In January 1953, Dick took part in a 13-minute broadcast for schoolchildren, Making Sounds.   BBC Scotland producer Harry Hoggan wrote

There have been some very good reports about your last Nature Study broadcast which was not an easy one for these young children, but I thought the final show came off very well.
Dick's 12-year-old niece had a very different opinion.   Indeed the rehearsed and pre-scripted alternation of demonstration and question made for a 'Listen with Mother' delivery which was not really Dick's style.   In April, however, at the annual meeting of the Science Masters' Association Scottish Branch, Dick
gave an excellent lecture-demonstration on Sound in Schools, with special reference to the new Scottish Leaving Certificate syllabus.   His demonstrations covered every aspect of the syllabus, and were highly suitable for a school course.   He ended by asking that school pupils should be trained in the habit of precise quantitative thinking, which was far more valuable as a basis for university work than mere factual knowledge.

An earlier request for acoustical investigation came from Stuart Piggott, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology.   An ancient bronze horn, apocryphally linked to Old King Cole and found in Caprington, Ayrshire, in the late nineteenth century, had been lent to the National Museum of Antiquities in early 1950 so that a replica could be made for exhibition there.   Dick recorded the waveforms it produced, and also those of the replica - which were quite different.   When the horn was returned for the Edinburgh Festival, the Museum's Keeper, Robert B K Stevenson, made careful measurements which Dick used for his report at the end of the year (Appendix 2.1).   Dick greatly appreciated the advice he received from Marion Ross who was still teaching the building acoustics course; she had pioneered the course for music students as a young lecturer in Professor Barkla's department, and during the war worked at Rosyth on underwater acoustics before returning to Edinburgh to pursue her own research.

Some of Dick's work on the horn was done with apparatus in the department of Linguistics, and members of that department, Betsy Uldall, professor David Abercrombie, and technician 'Tony' Anthony, often consulted Dick in the ensuing decade.   With Betsy he "offered a great deal of helpful criticism" to Peter Ladefoged about his 1957 thesis on the perception of vowel sounds.   The teaching of musical acoustics in the physics department later passed to Bob Galloway and subsequently to Murray Campbell.   Many years later Murray, with Clive Greated, set up an excellent acoustics laboratory within the James Clerk Maxwell building.

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