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The Place Principle

by Greg Crowther


Context

Georg von Bekesy's research on the human cochlea established the "place principle," as encapsulated in this jingle, originally written for Biology 220 at the University of Washington.


Lyrics

Which pitch
Will make your hair cells twitch?
Which pitch
Will make your hair cells twitch?
From the apex to the base,
Every pitch has its place!
From the apex to the base,
Every pitch has its place!


Other Files

sheet music (with melody play-back)


Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using the audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity should begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.


Study Questions

(1) This jingle states, "Every pitch has its place." Which specific structure within the ear -- where different parts respond to different frequencies of sound -- is being referenced here?

(2) How does the melody of this jingle reinforce its meaning?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)