The Doppler Effect With Charles Hazlewood



Conductor Charles Hazlewood and Dr Brian May of Queen celebrate the Doppler effect.

The Doppler effect not only proved that the universe was expanding, it also helped John Lennon sound like the Dalai Lama on a mountaintop - or so he hoped.
Just what is the story behind the Doppler Effect and what does it have to do with music?

BBC Radio 4 turns the volume up to 11, as conductor Charles Hazlewood recreates an ambitious experiment which first proved the Doppler Effect in 1845, while Dr Brian May, guitarist with rock band Queen gives him the low-down on the Doppler Shift in astrophysics.

A steam train, a brass band and an internationally famous conductor recreate one of the most unusual experiments - to prove the existence of the Doppler Effect - what could possibly go wrong?

So what is the Doppler Effect? Everyone today is aware of it, even if they can't name it. The pitch of the siren on a passing police car appears to change as it zooms past - the note appearing to rise and fall as the source of the sound approaches and fades away.

Austrian physicist Christian Doppler, who first proposed his theory in 1842, was interested in the behaviour of light waves, but because sound waves are similar - if longer - the way the theory was tested was using a steam train loaded up with trumpet players holding a single note, travelling at speed past a station.
What a sight - and a sound - it must have been. And now you need imagine it no longer, as conductor Charles Hazlewood attempts to re-create this extraordinary experiment for BBC Radio 4.

With the help of the locomotive steam power of the Great Central Railway and the wind power of the Hathern Brass Band, Charles fills a railway carriage with brass players and sends them from Loughborough, through Quorn Station, blasting out a single note, to recreate that moment.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney, author of "The Wave Watcher's Companion" helps Hazelwood get to grips with the physics and pit falls behind the original experiment.
Dr Brian May talks of his own close understanding of the Doppler Shift in his study of astrophysics, and how the theory helps us understand the universe.
And, from the Beatles to Booker T and the MG's, composer and creator of musical instruments Sarah Angliss, demonstrates the beauty of the Leslie Speaker and Hammond Organ, which make the most of the phenomenon.

Producer: Sara Jane Hall
Technical presentation: Giles Aspen

Choir: Siona Stockel, Naomi MacLeod-Jones, Stephen Harvey, Tim Wilson, Iain MacLeod-Jones, Oscar Golden-Lee, Craig Bissex, William Drakett.

Music in the programme:
The Smiths - How Soon Is Now
Kraftwerk - Autobahn
The Hathern Band - Death or Glory
Queen - White Queen
Jimmy McGriff - Discotheque
Jimi Hendrix - Little Wing
The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows.