Symphony of Science


Several years ago, I happened across several videos in a series called Symphony of Science from an artist who goes by the name Melody Sheep. The videos are mashups that took bits to video from various sources (mostly science documentaries) and spliced them together with an upbeat melody and a LOT of autotune magic. The resulting mix is based on a satisfyingly geeky subject matter. But it is also transmogrified into a melodic and I daresay beautiful sonic portrait of the ideas, inspiration, and optimism of science.

The audience for such videos would seem to be limited to science aficionados, but I would disagree. Modern science itself is multivariate and replete with specializations that even the most ambitious polymath would avoid trying to master. So a song about “dissecting the chemical interactions and substrate structural signatures governing RNA polymerase II trigger loop closure by synthetic nucleic acid analogues” would hardly have wide appeal – or much appeal at all.

But the key to the Symphony of Science series is that it uses speeches from the most eloquent and public-friendly personalities of science (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Alice Roberts, Brian Cox, Carolyn Porco, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Michio Kaku, and of course the late, great Carl Sagan). Morgan Freeman makes several appearances as he has apparently been a prolific science documentary narrator.

By distilling the best quotes and sound-bytes of probably hundreds of hours of speeches and science documentaries, Melody Sheep manages to take what would seem to be a dry topic and imbue it with such emotional and moving musical swells that it embodies the namesake of one of its video mashup titles: The Poetry of Reality. It is with this concentration of the conceptual punch that science delivers to our understanding of the world around us that Symphony of Science derives its potency as a musical medium.

As the economists are quick to say, de gustibus non est disputandum (“in matters of taste, there can be no disputes”). So I won’t try to argue that everyone should find universal appeal with these videos. But for the sake of our appreciation of the vast universe and incredibly complex environment in which we live, a few minutes spent letting that realization sink in while watching a few of these videos would be time well spent.

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