This factual investigation of frequency covers vast tracts of science with swiftness and fine detail. The sections I found most interesting were those on the music of the spheres, sound as a means of controlling rebellious youth, the locational powers of elephants as they identify missing frequencies, and the adventures of the lost pigeon from East Manchester. And, of course, Vic Tandy is there, the ghost in the machine.
In each section the reader is introduced to new material that is sketched out, as a Jimi Hendrix song or another song matches a particular frequency. The invisibility of frequency enables Richard Mainwaring to identify a subterranean world of sounds from different domains, from warfare to melodies in a rat’s whiskers (yes they have them) !
If popular science can often be seen as a simplification of the complexities of science, this is far from that. It offers a deepening understanding of the everyday and the remarkable.
Perhaps one of the most interesting sections covers the vibrations that run through the Millennium Bridge and how the engineers made alterations to make the bridge safe. At times the book combines the hunches of a good detective novel with accurate science. A horse crashes out of a race with its rider, owing to a directed blast of sound, from those with criminal intent. This story could be a novel in itself. A Ripley novel?
For someone with little musical knowledge or scientific knowledge of frequency, the book opened up several new micro-worlds. Like the best scientific writing it offers questions as well as answers. The sub-text could be, our scientific knowledge is never complete.
Any Cop?: If there is a push towards STEM subjects from above, the government should give away this book to get young adults interested in Music and Science. Voodoo Child meets the music of the spheres. What more could you want? A synthesiser, perhaps, to go along with the book, and a Lonelady CD, brimming with electronic sounds.