SCANS fall lineup has ear on airwaves, eye on the skies

Bob Bauer is a award-winning recording engineer and producer with CBC Radio with 30 years experience. (Contributed)

The Chronicle Herald


Whether you’re interested in recorded sound, astronomy or Chinese culture, the Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia (SCANS) is offering a wide-ranging series of fall courses in Mahone Bay.

In the upcoming SCANS lecture series, The miracle of recorded sound: from Edison to MP3, students will hear everything from pre-electrical sounds to compact discs. Presenter Bob Bauer is an award-winning recording engineer and producer with CBC Radio for 30 years.

Bauer starts off his course with a background on different ways sound can be captured, whether it is recorded in a fixed format such as tape, wax discs, vinyl LPs, CDs and MP3s, or written down on paper, such as composers’ written scores which can be performed by musicians.

Next he explores mechanical instruments like player pianos and music boxes.

And then he begins delving into the process of capturing sound in a fixed format.

In 1857, 20 years before Thomas Edison created the first sound recording with his tinfoil cylinder, the phonograph, in 1877, a French inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, recorded sound with a boar’s hair on soot-covered paper, on a device he called the phonautograph.

But he could not play it back, Bauer explains. The phonautograph was largely hidden in the phonograph’s shadow until computer technology reproduced de Martinville’s recording. Ironically, now we can hear what the device’s inventor could not.

“About 20 years ago, some scientists in California did some digital sampling, and they were able to recreate the sound of the phonautograph. I’ve got a video showing that, and we can actually hear what that recording sounded like. That’s astonishing, and completely rewriting history.”

Students will also take part in some hands-on activities, such as using microphones and a home studio with digital technology. “By the end of the course, people should be able to download free software and play around with audio recording on their own at home.”

The sound recording series will be held on Wednesdays, Oct. 11 through Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

The other two fall courses offered in Mahone Bay will explore astronomy and Chinese culture.

Dr. Tony Schellinck is a regular presenter at the Halifax Planetarium and the Keji Dark Sky Weekend. Budding astronomers can share Dr. Schellinck’s knowledge in the SCANS course, a practical guide to observing the night sky.

Students will learn their way around the night sky in all seasons and both hemispheres, discovering how to identify constellations and nebulae, and using the latest technology to spy on the sky. Students will also spend an evening outdoors looking at the stars, weather permitting.

The astronomy series is offered on Tuesdays, Oct. 10 through Nov. 14, from 2-4 p.m.

Yongmei Wang is back by popular demand for Part 2 of an introduction to Chinese culture. This six-week illustrated lecture course includes the art of calligraphy, Peking Opera and the science behind Chinese medicine like gua sha, where the skin is scraped so that it bruises.

In China today – part 2, Wang will demystify aspects of Chinese culture by providing the historical context that shapes China today, so that students have a better understanding of how the past still influences life in modern China.

A Shanghai native, Wang has an M.A. in cross-cultural communication and international management. She works as a translator and teacher.

Wang’s course runs on Thursdays, Oct. 12 through Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

All courses will be held at the Mahone Bay Centre, located at 45 School St. in Mahone Bay.

Registration will be held on Monday, Sept. 11 at 10:30 a.m., at the Mahone Bay Centre, or students can register online, right up until the day of the course, at

To take these courses, one must be a SCANS member. The yearly membership fee is $155.25, which covers an unlimited number of courses at all nine sites throughout Nova Scotia.

SCANS is a non-profit educational organization offering academic courses to people age 50 and over.