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ExpeRience: The science of music

Join us as we explore the science of sound and music with talks and hands-on science demos and activities.

PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay

Event description

The Royal Institution is alive with the sound of music.

Start the evening with physicist and musician Mark Lewney as he explores if physics and neuroscience really can explain music. Then wander around in our building and take part in hands-on activities and science demonstrations. Delve into auditory hallucinations and DNA sonification, discover how to make music using fruit and fire, and sing your heart out in our pop-up karaoke tent. You'll then be able to capture your memories of the evening using the Momentous photo booth Gif Booth for free.  

 This event is strictly for those aged 18 and older. 


6.00pm - Building open. Please be aware that the building will be shut before this time to allow set up for the event. 

6.30pm - Doors open to the theatre

7.00pm - Talk begins in the theatre. 

Latecomers for the talk will be admitted to the gallery. Please note that food and drink isn't permitted in the theatre. 

8.15pm - Talk ends, demos and activities begin. 

10.00pm - Doors close.

About the speaker

Dr Mark Lewney, the Rock Doctor and winner of the first ever FameLab competition is a guitar physicist who will blow your ears with rock guitar and your mind with Superstring Theory.

Mark Lewney has appeared on Radio 4's 'Material World' as a guitar expert, on BBC's as a 'physics evangelist', and on CBBC's 'Xchange!' as the Rock Doctor, being introduced as a cross between Einstein and Jimi Hendrix. In 2007 Mark presented his guitar physics '3 Minute Wonder' on Channel 4.


UCL Speech Hearing and Phonetic Sciences 

Demo 1: What did you say?!! Speech communication in challenging conditions

Most communication occurs in less than ideal listening conditions. There might be noise in the background or we may be communication with someone with a hearing loss or who does not share our native language. We are very good at adapting the way that we speak to make ourselves understood in these circumstances. In this demo, you will carry out an interactive ‘spot the difference’ picture task with another person and we will make communication more challenging by  giving one participant a simulated hearing loss or by adding background noise. We will consider what strategies participants use to continue to communicate effectively despite these communication barriers. 

Demo 2: Live demonstration

This 5-minute live demonstration will show how human physiology is affected when we have to use effort to understand others in difficult listening situations, by measuring how pupil responses vary in response to being exposed to speech embedded in noise.

UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Join members of 2017 Christmas Lecturer Sophie Scott's team in our special Karaoke room. They'll bring along some breath belts so you can visualise how your diaphragm moves while you sing. 

School of Noise

The School of Noise run workshops for all ages exploring music and the science of sound. During this hands-on activity you'll have chance to play on a theremin, observe beautiful Chladni patterns in sand, plus more!

"The School of Noise is one of those ideas that you just know is right: bringing back a sense of wonder & accessibility to music-making" - Jarvis Cocker.

Ri Patrons

There will be a private lounge for patrons throughout this event, where complimentary food and drink will be served. 


The theatre is on the first floor and there is step-free access from the street via lift.

The closest underground station is Green Park, which is step-free.

There is space at floor level in the theatre for wheelchair users.

Seating is usually unreserved for our events. If you and your group require seating reservations, please do let us know by email and we’ll be more than happy to help. Email:

Carers can receive a free ticket to an event by emailing

Our theatre is equipped with an Audio Induction Loop.