Symphony of Science, Movement #4

By Phil Plait | February 26, 2010 10:00 am

The Symphony of Science is a wonderful project taking words from famous scientists and using an autotuner to create music. It’s pretty popular; the first one has over 3 million views on YouTube!

The newest version has statements by a dozen different scientists, all talking about what science is and what it does. As Richard Dawkins says, science is the Poetry of Reality:

Pretty cool. I love the sentiment, and it’s fun to see how many friends are in there, too. And you know what? Everything they say in there is true.

Tip o’ the semiquaver to Julia Sherred.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (29)

  1. CameronSS

    Wouldn’t that be the fifth movement?

    I love these, I just wish they would actually email me when a new one is released, I’ve signed up a half-dozen times. Make sure to keep us posted, it’s easier to check here!

  2. Oded

    While I love the sentiment, and I thought the video “Galaxy rise” was great, the autotuning in this video is really really bad. I just can’t enjoy it, it is completely screeching to listen to… The words alone are better in this case!

  3. These are awesome, and it’s nice to see the fad of autotune being put to good use for a change…

  4. John Greg

    Words alone are always better.

    This Autotune foolishness trivializes the content.

    Autotune is to musicality and pith what Beavis and Butthead is to sophistication and thought. Death to Autotune.

    Tsk, tsk. Have you no shame, you people of science and intellgence?

    Philistines, I say, philistines!

  5. Brian The Coyote

    While I’m usually vehemently opposed to the autotune, I’ve really enjoyed some of the music in this series. Perhaps Dr. Plait will sing something profound so it can be used in the next song without autotune.

  6. Marcello

    man, this is SAD!
    autotuner is one of the cases where scientific advancement DIDN’T make life any better ;)

  7. As a nitpick, most of this is done with a vocoder, not autotune. They have very different sounds and principles of operation.

  8. cuggy

    I have nothing against autotune when used as a fun effect in dance music but I hate hate hate hate hate hate these things. Hate.

  9. dWhisper

    @4 – I can’t tell I’d that is sarcasm or not… While I have no intentions to argue the cultural heritage or worth of Bevis & Butthead, it was a well done, if absurdly immature show. If you want to pick something to liken to te decline of civilization and insight, I’d suggest that Tyra Bank’s model search reality show.

    Personally, I love these, and the the mix of composed music and the autotuning (or vox or whatever) adds a level of beauty to the words. That being said, this one was “eh” at best. It started nice, then took a sharp turn into pop tunes land. I would have preferred the piano to drive it instead.

  10. David

    To some people that might not otherwise show any interest in science because they see it as boring, stuffy, or snobby, the music videos might appeal to them and open up very profound and moving scientific conclusions. There’s really no reason not to encourage creative promotion of science if it increases its appeal and popularity in society.

  11. Michael Swanson

    Not fond of the music, don’t like autotuning or vocoding very much. I’ve disliked this sort of thing even since the days of Peter Frampton singing through his guitar. However, that’s just personal taste. The fact that someone who does like this sort of thing has chosen to express their love of science, to express the “poetry of science” through their art is wonderful. It is simply wonderful.

  12. I’ve been a big fan of “Glorious Dawn” for awhile (not so much with the other pieces). The reason I think it works, is that it stayed true to the vibe of Sagan’s show. He had such a musical delivery and it’s great to hear it realized in this way. A fitting tribute to Sagan and his legacy.

    John, I think maybe you missed the point. Beavis and Butthead was to social commentary as punk rock was to music.

  13. jcm

    When do we get to see you singing some about astromony/skepticism/critical thinking/science in general?

  14. Christine P.

    I am surprised that several of the first comments here about these videos were negative. I don’t care how the audio was done – I found them to be simply astonishing and very moving. “The Unbroken Thread” literally brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes, people, you need to stop being critical of the minutia and simply embrace, or at least appreciate, the emotional impact. With more efforts like these videos, perhaps fewer people would see scientists (and by extension the skeptical movement) as stuffy, disconnected, unemotional, ivory-tower elites who lack imagination and a sense of wonder. To the producers of these videos, I say “Bravo!”

  15. Jeff L

    Really, this sounds like new age crap, seeming to me to elevate science to a position of worship instead of the (extremely useful) tool that it is. Seems like a misguided effort.

  16. Denise

    sorry, I agree with the words….but I found it just creepy.

    “With more efforts like these videos, perhaps fewer people would see scientists (and by extension the skeptical movement) as stuffy, disconnected, unemotional, ivory-tower elites who lack imagination and a sense of wonder”

    While I see your point, I am not saying it SHOULDN’T be done. I just don’t tear up watching it. Instead it gave me the willies….but to each his own.

  17. Come on Phil, you need to start saying more poetic things about the universe if you’re ever going to make it to one of these videos. Or is that what spurred the “Beauty in Violence” post?

  18. BH

    I just realized watching that video where my distaste for most of the skeptical movement comes from. They claim science as their own, and at the same time reject those who hold religious beliefs as uneducated or foolish. Yet as the more wise here have said, religion and science have very little to do with each other, so the skeptics are ejecting the religious scientists from a field they’re usurping as their own — and where do those scientists go? Can I not study the universe and still believe in God? Will you discard a man’s real findings because of his beliefs? The answer looks like a sideways “yes”, and that really saddens me.

    There are bad religionists just like there are bad astronomists, but please don’t discount legitimate scientific findings from good religionists just because you dislike the bad ones.

  19. I was getting worried about these. None had come close to matching the first…but this one comes close. Good job!

  20. JH

    If you are upset about the kind of music used, I have a suggestion.

    Stop worrying about what kind of music it is.. and listen.

    Just listen.

  21. Ben

    These autotuned/vocoded voices creep me out.

  22. Naomi

    Yeah, autotune sucks when it comes to altering actual music. When it comes to MAKING music from words? It’s very, very cool.

    I’ve found myself humming the, “There’s real poetry in the real world – science is the poetry of reality” lines for two days, now. And I’ve had A Glorious Dawn stuck in my head since September XD

  23. I think I have to agree that this one is not as successful as the earlier installments. It seemed really forced somehow, and that took away from the message which stands quite well on its own.

    I also thought it was interesting that they kept saying “science” but showing technology. Of course, it’s really difficult to illustrate science outside of the scientists themselves.

    - Jack

  24. Gary Ansorge

    Something tells me I should load up on another tankard of coffee before I try to tackle this subject but it’s getting late(in the postings) so I’ll give this a shot anyway.

    Poetry is the art of encapsulating a complex idea in rhythm and minimal descriptive verbiage.

    Science is a discipline that attempts to describe complex ideas in a concise, exact format, replicable by any other interested party.

    There is great overlap between these two human endeavors. When we meet another technological sentient species, if we can’t share poetry, dance and music we’ll be so different we’ll probably go to war. Even dolphins sing and dance.

    This rendition is interesting and emotionally evocative. The Dead could do it better but this is a good effort.

    Gary 7

  25. It is movement #4, if you are counting from 0, like any good programmer ;-)

    And, this may be my second fave of the bunch (I doubt I’ll love any as much as I love “Glorious Dawn.”)

    @BH: I’m sorry you seem to have run into a few people who would reject a scientific finding based on a person’s beliefs, but that is not representative of most scientists or, I think, many in the skeptical movement. Although, I’m pretty sure astronomist isn’t a proper term for one who studies astronomy.

  26. Tom

    A mash-up is always better with spoken words. The auto-tuning sounds forced and not very harmonious.

  27. Frode

    I love these.. Makes me tear up every time.. :) Why some people overlook the natural reality in their search for beauty and meaning in the universe is beyond me.

  28. gunnar-medial

    The most odd thing is how its creator can go on making several such videos.
    I mean that autotune style gets boring already into the first video.
    It sadly has me question the autenticity and motives of its creator.
    Is it a money thing (enough people out there to give a short sensation?) or
    a genuine belief in the format ? At least a new way to get the soul transcendation gospel through.

    Great video though. Only the speaking is best done using ordinary voices.

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