ATEC Students Design Sound for New Perot Museum

When the Perot Museum of Nature and Science opens this weekend, the state-of-the-art facility will feature the work of Arts and Technology students from The University of Texas at Dallas.

Derrick Dugan (left) and Charles McCormick were among students in the digital music production course.

During the last year, a group of undergraduates created soundscapes for the museum, giving the students hands-on experience in the field of sound design.

“This is a typical project that comes out of ATEC in that it connects art, science and technology in a creative dialogue and also contributes to positioning the University as a pertinent partner with major cultural institutions in the Metroplex,” said Dr. Frank Dufour, a professor of sound design who led the digital music production course. “Students were given a wonderful opportunity to express themselves in a professional environment in which their creativity was welcome.”

Dr. Frank Dufour

The students worked closely with Dufour and Roxanne Minnish, a UT Dallas sound design instructor, composer and project manager, and with museum officials to refine their designs throughout the semester.

“Dr. Dufour was conceptual in the way he taught, but also practical and logical. He is inspiring as a teacher,” said Josh Casey, a senior who worked on the project. “He guided us and gave us advice and challenged students to think about what the soundscapes should really represent.”

Located north of downtown Dallas near Victory Park, the 180,000-square-foot museum features five floors of public space with 11 permanent exhibit halls, including a children’s museum and a hall designed to host traveling exhibitions. The museum opens to the public on Saturday, Dec. 1.

The digital music production class worked on sound designs for the 11 exhibit halls, which include the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall, Being Human Hall, Discovering Life Hall, Rose Hall of Birds, Sports Hall and the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall, among others.

The students worked together, collaborating on certain designs and critiquing each other’s projects throughout the semester.

Audio Samples

“At first, when people criticize your work you may be offended, but I learned to become grateful for criticism – I learned a lot about the creative process and how to collaborate and bring new ideas together,” Casey said.

Each design required specific sounds that would enhance the educational and artistic quality of the exhibit. For example, there are heartbeats for baselines in the Being Human Hall soundscape and sweeping notes that rise and fall – like a flight pattern – in the Rose Hall of Birds design.

“Collaborating with UT Dallas on this project is just one of the ways that the Perot Museum seeks to enhance the visitor experience through highly immersive exhibits that cater to diverse learning styles,” said Steve Hinkley, vice president of programs at the Museum. “The students’ work demonstrates not only their dedication to innovation, but is a testament to visitors that the intersection of art and science is all around us.”