Music of Earthquakes

Debi Kilb, & Daniel T. Trugman

Published August 15, 2016, SCEC Contribution #6499, 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #326 (PDF)

Poster Image: 
A new middle school class titled 'The Music of Earthquakes' was offered this summer as part of the Sally Ride Science Junior Academy for Girls ( Exploring the interplay between music and earthquakes, this class was part of a new drive to include arts within the science field, a program with the acronym STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. This week long, 15-hour summer class included: playacting to understand seismic intensity metrics, the creation of guitar pick necklaces and rubber-band guitars, learning the difference between high- and low-frequencies using musical instruments, understanding the distinction between P- and S-waves using Slinkies, and extending these concepts to understand earthquake early warning. To practice earthquake safety, students could yell EARTHQUAKE at an unexpected time, at which point all quickly secured themselves using the duck-cover-hold-on technique; it wasn't until the proclaimed passage of the three seismic phases (P, S and Surface waves) and an 'all clear' that students ventured back to their desk. Students were also given the opportunity to 'conduct' their own seismograms using a music stand and an official music conductor’s baton. Students learned how to read and understand a spectrogram using the Audacity Software (, exploring variations in dynamic range using different instrument types (in addition to screaming at the top of their lungs), Rounding out the class, there were a smattering of 'dance parties' to get our wiggles-on and get our wiggles-out, fostering a genuine excitement for music and its deep connection to wave physics and earthquake seismology.

Key Words
earthquake, music, education, Sally Ride Science, Spectra, Frequency, STEAM, P-wave, S-wave, earthquake early warning

Kilb, D., & Trugman, D. T. (2016, 08). Music of Earthquakes. Poster Presentation at 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO)