Symphony of Science

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The Symphony of Science is a music project created by Washington-based electronic musician John Boswell. The project seeks to "spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through musical remixes." Boswell uses pitch-corrected audio and video samples from television programs featuring popular scientists and educators. The audio and video clips are mixed into digital mashups and scored with Boswell's original compositions. Two of Boswell's music videos, "A Glorious Dawn" and "We are All Connected", feature appearances from Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Stephen Hawking. The audio and video is sampled from popular science television shows including Cosmos, The Universe, The Eyes of Nye, The Elegant Universe, and Stephen Hawking's Universe.

Unruly Media, a viral video tracking service, first charted "A Glorious Dawn" on September 21, 2009. A month later, the video had received more than a million views and was ranked in the music category on YouTube as one of the top rated videos of all time. On November 9, 2009, Third Man Records released a 7-inch single of "A Glorious Dawn" for the 75th anniversary of the birth of Carl Sagan.

John Boswell[edit]

Composer John Boswell had been experimenting with sampling and remixing for some time before creating his first YouTube videos. Boswell had worked with Auto-Tune in the past and thought people might be interested in hearing American astronomer Carl Sagan sing. He first saw Cosmos in 2004 and soon after bought the set of DVDs. Boswell looked through these episodes for "profound quotes" that lacked music in the background. Once he found these quotes, Boswell Auto-Tuned Sagan's voice and picked from the best ones. After completing what became "A Glorious Dawn", Boswell posted the video on YouTube in September 2009 and to his surprise, the video went viral within a week.[1][2] To date, the video has received more than seven million views and is ranked as one of the top rated videos of all time in the music category.[3]

John Boswell attended Gonzaga Preparatory School[2] and graduated from college with a degree in economics. Soon after, Boswell started Colorpulse, an electronica music project, and began to focus on production.[4] He released an album in 2010, titled Escaping the Tangle, which included some of these productions. Boswell lives in Bellingham, Washington.[2] His current music project, Symphony of Science, "aims to spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through musical remixes"[5] and to "deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form".[6] After his first few videos, Boswell began seeking permission to use the clips he uses in his project.[citation needed] In addition to Symphony of Science, Boswell is also working on a project called Remixes for the Soul, which he works on, in addition to Symphony of Science, under the moniker of melodysheep.

Music and video[edit]

A Glorious Dawn[edit]

"A Glorious Dawn"
Single by Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking
A-side A Glorious Dawn
B-side (Etched Design)
Released November 9, 2009 (2009-11-09)
Format 7" Single
Length 3:30
Label Third Man Records

Boswell's first video in the Symphony of Science series is 3 minutes, 34 seconds long and features Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. Samples include clips from Cosmos (1980) and Stephen Hawking's Universe (1997).[6] On September 21, 2009, Unruly Media, a viral video tracking service, began to chart the popularity of the video.[7] At the end of the first week of October, the video had received 800,000 views[2] and, by the end of the month, more than a million. By the end of 2010, the video had surpassed 5 million views.

The title takes its name from the chorus spoken by Carl Sagan, remixed from an episode of Cosmos:

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way[6]

Third Man Records released a 7-inch recording of "A Glorious Dawn" on November 9, 2009, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the birth of Carl Sagan.[8] The one-sided single was created by United Record Pressing in a unique "Cosmos Colored Vinyl", limited pressing of 150 copies; it was then re-pressed on regular vinyl in a larger run. The flipside is etched with a copy of the diagram found on the Voyager Golden Record.[8]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Carl Sagan: Cosmos (1980)
Stephen Hawking: Stephen Hawking's Universe

We Are All Connected[edit]

The second video in the series is 4 minutes, 12 seconds in length and features Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye. It was released on October 19, 2009. Audio and video samples are taken from The History Channel's Universe series, Carl Sagan's Cosmos, interviews with Richard Feynman in 1983, Neil deGrasse Tyson's cosmic sermon, and Bill Nye's The Eyes of Nye series. Additional visuals come from NOVA's The Elegant Universe, Stephen Hawking's Universe, and Cosmos, among others. On January 23, 2010, the video was shown at the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist Church in Long Island NY, as part of a youth-directed service. The video has been used in other churches and classrooms.

The title comes from the chorus spoken by Neil deGrasse Tyson and remixed by Boswell:

We are all connected
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Universe + 2006 Beyond Belief Science, Reason, Religion
Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine
Carl Sagan: Cosmos (1980)
Bill Nye: The Eyes of Nye

Our Place in the Cosmos[edit]

The third video in the series is 4 minutes, 21 seconds in length and was released on November 23, 2009. "Our Place in the Cosmos" features Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Michio Kaku, and Robert Jastrow. Samples were taken from Cosmos, Genius of Charles Darwin, a TED talk, Stephen Hawking's Universe, interviews and visuals from Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi, History Channel's Universe series, and Cosmic Voyage.

The title comes from words spoken by Carl Sagan and remixed by Boswell:

The exploration of the cosmos
Is a voyage of self discovery
As long as there have been humans
We have searched for our place in the cosmos[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Robert Jastrow: Unknown
Carl Sagan: Cosmos (1980)
Richard Dawkins: Why the universe seems so strange + The Genius of Charles Darwin
Michio Kaku: Michio Kaku On Aliens On Physics

The Unbroken Thread[edit]

The fourth video in the series is 4 minutes in length and was released on January 6, 2010. "The Unbroken Thread" is themed around biology and evolution rather than the cosmos, and features Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and Jane Goodall.

The video uses clips from Cosmos, several David Attenborough documentaries (Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, The Life of Mammals, The Living Planet, and BBC Life), XVIVO Scientific Animations, IMAX Cosmic Voyage, Jane Goodall's TED Talk, and a Guinness commercial.

The title comes from Sagan's Cosmos, and features in the refrain:

The secrets of evolution
Are time and death
There's an unbroken thread that stretches
From those first cells to us[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Carl Sagan: Cosmos (1980)
David Attenborough: Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life - David Attenborough
Jane Goodall: What Separates us from Chimpanzees

The Poetry of Reality (An Anthem for Science)[edit]

The fifth installment uses clips from various prominent scientists and speakers - including Jacob Bronowski, Sagan, Feynman, Dawkins, Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, PZ Myers, Lawrence Krauss, Michael Shermer, and deGrasse Tyson - to explain and promote science, its process, and its benefits. The video was released on February 25, 2010. It uses clips from many sources, including Cosmos and The Genius of Charles Darwin. The chorus in this piece is sung by Dawkins and Sagan:

There's real poetry in the real world
Science is the poetry of reality
We can do science and with it
We can improve our lives[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Michael Shermer: Unknown
Jacob Bronowski: The Ascent of Man
Carl Sagan: Cosmos (1980)
Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Conversations at KCTS
Richard Dawkins: The Enemies of Reason
Jill Tarter: Join the SETI Search
Lawrence Krauss: A Universe From Nothing
Richard Feynman: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
Brian Greene: What's the Big Idea?
Stephen Hawking: Unknown
Carolyn Porco: Science in Hollywood

The Case for Mars[edit]

The sixth installment is about the colonization of Mars. It features Sagan, Robert Zubrin, Brian Cox, and Penelope Boston, and it features clips from The Mars Underground (2007), Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, and Wonders of the Solar System. The video was released on June 3, 2010. The title of this song stems from Zubrin's book The Case For Mars.

The chorus is sung by Sagan and Cox:

Mars is a world of wonders
It has canyons, river valleys,
and giant ice sheets[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Robert Zubrin: The Mars Underground
Carl Sagan: Cosmos (1980)
Brian Cox: Wonders of the Solar System
Penelope Boston: Unknown

A Wave of Reason[edit]

The seventh installment, released on November 23, 2010‏, is about reasoning and skepticism. It features Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, Carolyn Porco, Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Phil Plait, and James Randi. It is intended to promote scientific reasoning and skepticism in the face of growing amounts of pseudoscientific pursuits, such as Astrology and Homeopathy, and also to "promote the scientific worldview as equally enlightening as religion."[9] The chorus is sung by Dawkins, except for the last line which is Phil Plait's:

There is a new wave of reason
Sweeping across America, Britain, Europe, Australia
South America, the Middle East and Africa
There is a new wave of reason
Where superstition had a firm hold
Teach a man to reason, and he'll think for a lifetime[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Bertrand Russell: Face to Face - BBC
Carl Sagan: Carl Sagan's last interview with Charlie Rose + Cosmos (1980)
Michael Shermer: The Pattern Behind Self-Deception - TED
Lawrence Krauss: Lawrence Krauss discussion with Richard Dawkins - YouTube
Phil Plait: Don't Be A Dick - TAM
Richard Feynman: The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out

The Big Beginning[edit]

"The Big Beginning" is the eighth installment in the Symphony of Science music video series, released on January 20, 2011‏. It deals with the origins of our universe, covering the Big Bang theory, expansion and cooling of the universe, formation of galaxies, the interplay between matter and anti-matter, and cosmic radiation. The music video features Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Tara Shears, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Videos sampled for this installment include Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking; God, the Universe, and Everything Else; The Universe on The History Channel; NOVA scienceNOW; interviews with Richard Dawkins and Tara Shears; and Carl Sagan's Cosmos. There is no clear chorus, but two quotes from Hawking and Dawkins come back several times:

[Hawking] It was the beginning of the universe, and of time itself
[Dawkins] Science is opening your eyes, to the poetry of the expanding universe

Ode to the Brain[edit]

"Ode to the Brain" is the ninth episode in the Symphony of Science series about the brain including its evolution, folding, and neuron networks. It features Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye and Oliver Sacks. It features clips from Carl Sagan's Cosmos, BBC's The Human Body, Discovery Channel's Human Body: Pushing the Limits and various TED Talks. It was released on March 23, 2011‏. The chorus is sung by Taylor:

Information in the form of energy
Streams in simultaneously
Through all of our sensory systems
In the form of energy
And then it explodes into this enormous collage
Of what this present moment looks like
What it feels like
And what it sounds like
And then it explodes into this enormous collage
And in this moment we are perfect
We are whole and we are beautiful[6]

Children of Africa (The Story of Us)[edit]

"Children of Africa" is the tenth installment of the Symphony of Science series, released on July 6, 2011‏. It deals with the cultural evolution of humans from their origins in Africa, through the conquest of Europe from the Neanderthals to the space age. It features Alice Roberts, Jacob Bronowski, Carolyn Porco, Jane Goodall, Robert Sapolsky, Neil deGrasse Tyson and David Attenborough. Programs sampled for this installment include Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man, Alice Roberts' The Incredible Human Journey, along with BBC documentaries Life of Mammals, Walking With Cavemen, and Human Planet. The refrain is sung by Carolyn Porco:

These beings with soaring imagination
Eventually flung themselves and their machines
Into interplanetary space[6]

The Quantum World[edit]

"The Quantum World" is the eleventh installment of the Symphony of Science series, released on September 6, 2011. It deals with the bizarre discoveries made in the field of quantum mechanics, through "a musical investigation into the nature of atoms and subatomic particles." It features Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Cox, Richard Feynman, and Frank Close. Programs sampled for this instalment include Richard Feynman's Fun to Imagine, Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole, Brian Cox's TED Talk, along with BBC documentaries Visions of the Future, What Time is it, Wonders of the Universe, and What Is Reality. The refrain is sung by Cox:

The universe is made of
Twelve particles of matter
Four forces of nature
That's a wonderful and significant story[6]

Some of the videos used for lyrics are:

Morgan Freeman: Through the Wormhole
Frank Close: Unknown
Michio Kaku: The Universe in a Nutshell
Brian Cox: Brian Cox: CERN's supercollider
Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine
Stephen Hawking: Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking

Onward to the Edge[edit]

"Onward to the Edge," "a musical investigation into the importance and inspirational qualities of space exploration (human and robotic), as well as a look at some of the amazing worlds in our solar system," is the twelfth installment of the Symphony of Science series, released on November 9, 2011. It features Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Carolyn Porco. Programs sampled for this installment include Wonders of the Solar System, My Favorite Universe, A Traveler's Guide to the Planets, and Carolyn Porco's TED Talk. The refrain is sung by Tyson:

Onward to the edge
We're moving onward to the edge
Here we are together
This fragile little world[6]

The Greatest Show on Earth[edit]

"The Greatest Show on Earth," the thirteenth installment of the Symphony of Science series, released on January 17, 2012, is a "musical celebration of the wonders of biology, including evolution, natural selection, DNA, and more." It features David Attenborough, Bill Nye, and Richard Dawkins. Programs sampled include Life (BBC TV series), Planet Earth, David Attenborough's First Life, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, Bill Nye the Science Guy's episode on evolution, and Dawkins' "There is grandeur in this view of life" speech. The refrain is sung by Dawkins:

We are surrounded by endless forms
Most beautiful, most wonderful
Evolution - the greatest show on Earth
There is grandeur in this view of life
Evolution - the greatest show on Earth[6]

The World of the Dinosaurs[edit]

"The World of the Dinosaurs," released on March 20, 2012, is the fourteenth installment of the Symphony of Science series. It is a "musical celebration of dinosaurs" and investigates their habits, extinction, and how we learn about them. It features Alice Roberts, Bill Nye, Nigel Marven, Dallas Campbell and more. The refrain is sung by Roberts and Campbell:

[Roberts]
The more we find
The more complete our understanding
Utterly awe-inspiring
The world of the dinosaurs
[Campbell]
There are always new discoveries out there
Waiting to be found
[Roberts]
Utterly awe-inspiring
The world of the dinosaurs[6]

We are Star Dust[edit]

"We are Star Dust," released in May 9, 2012, is the fifteenth installment of the series. It features Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, and Lawrence Krauss. The song explains the origins of the elements that make up our bodies, in stars and supernovae. The refrain is sung by Tyson.

Look up at the night sky
We are part of that
The universe itself
Exists within us
We are star dust
In the highest exalted way
Called by the universe
Reaching out to the universe
We are star dust
In the highest exalted way
Reaching out to the universe
With these methods and tools of science[6]

Our Biggest Challenge (Climate Change Music Video)[edit]

The sixteenth installment, released September 12, 2012, is titled "Our Biggest Challenge (Climate Change Music Video)". It features Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov. The song speaks the stark realities of climate change, however the message is that if we can come together, we can overcome this challenge. The refrain is sung mostly by Richard Alley while the last three lines are sung by Isaac Asimov:

Our use of fossil fuels for energy is pushing us towards a climate
unlike any seen in the history of civilization
Adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere
Warms things up
The rise in CO2
Comes from burning fossil fuels
When you burn them, add oxygen
That makes CO2 that goes in the air
We're reversing the process by which they formed
We're talking about something
That affects the entire Earth
Problems that transcend nations[6]

The Secret of the Stars[edit]

On February 26, 2013, Boswell released the seventeenth installment, "The Secret of the Stars," which explores the beauty of Einstein's concept of relativity, its applications to time, speed, energy and mass, and its effects on the movement and light of stars. The music video features Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, and Brian Cox. Michio Kaku performs the chorus with Brian Cox, who sings only the first and fourth lines:

E equals MC squared
That is the engine that lights up the stars
Energy turns into mass
E equals MC squared -
That is the secret of the stars[6]

Note: in actual fact, the process of nuclear fusion in stars turns mass turns into energy rather than vice versa. This lights up the stars: the stars get lighter and produce energy.

Monsters of the Cosmos[edit]

On August 27, 2013, Boswell released the eighteenth installment, "Monsters of the Cosmos", which explains the black hole phenomenon and how they are both terrible and beautiful, destroying stars but creating galaxies. The music video features Morgan Freeman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Lawrence Krauss. Morgan Freeman performs the chorus with Lawrence Krauss:

An anomaly of gravity so strange. Nothing is more seductive.

There are monsters out in the cosmos that can swallow entire stars. That can destroy space itself completely invisible. Anything that strays too close will be pulled in millions and millions of black holes zipping around our galaxy, nothing there to light them up. Millions and millions of black holes zipping around our galaxy, nothing there to light them up.[6]

Related projects[edit]

Symphony of Bang Goes The Theory[edit]

Not strictly part of the Symphony of Science series as this was made for the BBC science show Bang Goes the Theory, it nevertheless uses the same formula of pitch correction of spoken words over an original music track. It celebrates the tantalising questions that science throws up, as well as being an entertaining showreel for the show itself. In addition to the four presenters - Liz Bonnin, Dallas Campbell, Jem Stansfield, and Yan Wong - there are guest spots for Jim Al-Khalili and Tara Shears. The clips are all taken from the TV show or its website.[10]

The chorus is sung by Yan Wong:

The more questions you answer
The more you find there is to investigate
And the more questions you pose
And that's the beauty of science

"Symphony of Bang Goes The Theory" on YouTube.

PBS Digital Studios[edit]

While not strictly part of the Symphony of Science series, Boswell uses the same formula of pitch correction of spoken words over an original music track. Made for the Public Broadcasting Service's PBS Digital Studios, various clips from present and past PBS programming are sampled to make these songs.

Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind[edit]

Sampled from various clips from Fred Rogers' program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the title takes its name from the chorus spoken by Rogers:

Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?
You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind
It's good to be curious about many things
You can think about things and make-believe
All you have to do is think
And they'll grow

"Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind" on YouTube.

Bob Ross Remixed: Happy Little Clouds[edit]

Sampled from various clips from Bob Ross' program The Joy of Painting, the song contains three choruses spoken by Ross. The title takes its name from the second of these:

I believe
I believe
Every day's a good day when you paint
I believe
I believe
It'll bring a lot of good thoughts to your heart
Let's build a happy little cloud
Let's build some happy little trees
There are no limits here
You start out by believing here
This is your world
You're the creator
Find freedom on this canvas
Believe that you can do it
Cause you can do it

"Bob Ross Remixed: Happy Little Clouds" on YouTube.

Julia Child Remixed: Keep On Cooking[edit]

Sampled from various clips from Julia Child's various programs on PBS, including The French Chef, Cooking with Master Chefs: Hosted by Julia Child, and Baking with Julia, the song contains two choruses spoken by Child. The title takes its name from the second of these:

Freshness is essential
That makes all the difference
I like the smells of good cooking
Makes me feel at home
Bring on the roasted potatoes!
Bring on the Montrachet!
This is what good cooking is all about
This is what good cooking is all about
Cook and cook and keep on cooking
This is the way to live
Cook and cook and keep on cooking
This is the way to eat
Bon appetit!

"Julia Child Remixed: Keep On Cooking" on YouTube.

Reading Rainbow Remixed: In Your Imagination[edit]

Sampled from various clips from LeVar Burton's program Reading Rainbow, the song contains three choruses spoken by Burton. The title takes its name from the first of these:

Whether you head north, south, east or west
A book can be your passport
From your own neighborhood to the craters of the moon
In your imagination
A book lets you zoom through time and space
But don't bother packing, you can stay in one place
Zoom (zoom) through time and space
But you don't have to take my word for it
There are stories everywhere you look
If you look in the right way
New castles to build, mysteries to be solved
The answer is in a book

"Reading Rainbow Remixed: In Your Imagination" on YouTube.

Reviews[edit]

Musician Carrie Brownstein found the idea behind Symphony of Science "quite beautiful and amazing in both its sincerity and aims". She also enjoyed the "hip-hop stylings" of the camera angle on Bill Nye while he is moving his hands around and expressing himself on "We Are All Connected".[11] Writer Nick Sagan, son of Carl Sagan, was impressed with "A Glorious Dawn", giving it a favorable review and stamp of approval. Sagan writes, "John Boswell over at Colorpulse Music is a mad genius, sampling both Cosmos and Stephen Hawking's Universe series into three minutes and thirty-four seconds of pure, concentrated awesomeness... Love it, love it, love it. Dad would have loved it, too."[12]

Columnist Franklin Harris argues that Boswell's videos show that science can arouse the minds of artists just as much as religion and mythology have in the past. Harris calls the videos "art for the Information Age, inspired by science".[13]

New Music Transmission, a podcast who featured Symphony of Science in 2009, gave "A Glorious Dawn" positive reviews and called Symphony of Science as "A thinking man's Pogo", referring to the Australian electro artist who was featured 2 weeks before.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "GWC Podcast #191". Galactic Watercooler (Podcast). 2009-10-24. Retrieved October 25, 2009.  Interview with John Boswell. (60.8 MB MP3)
  2. ^ a b c d Sowa, Tom (2009-10-09). "'Cosmos,' Carl Sagan and John Boswell's YouTube video hit". The Spokesman-Review. 
  3. ^ Melodysheep (2009-09-17). "Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Cosmos Remixed)". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  4. ^ Boswell, John. "About". The Symphony of Science - Spreading scientific knowledge and philosophy through music. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  5. ^ "Melodysheep". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Spreading scientific knowledge and philosophy through music". The Symphony of Science. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  7. ^ "Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Cosmos Remixed)". Viral Video Chart. Unruly Media. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  8. ^ a b Blackwell, Ben (2009-11-02). "A Glorious Dawn!". News. Third Man Records. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  9. ^ "Symphony of Science: A Wave of Reason" Punctuated Equilibrium 1 December 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2010/dec/01/1
  10. ^ "One Programmes - Bang Goes the Theory". BBC. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  11. ^ Brownstein, Carrie (2009-10-20). "The Symphony Of Science". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  12. ^ Sagan, Nick (2009-09-25). "A Glorious Dawn". Nick Sagan Online. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  13. ^ Harris, Franklin (2009-10-22). "Gap between art, science no longer so wide". The Decatur Daily (Tennessee Valley Printing Company). 
  14. ^ Hunter, Stephen (2010-12-18). "Featured Artist Profile: Symphony of Science". New Music Transmission. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]