Symphonic Symphony of Science

By Phil Plait | September 4, 2011 6:59 am

If you’re reading this, there’s already a good chance you know about Symphony of Science: John Boswell’s amazing collection of videos where he has autotuned the words of scientists and science promoters, creating a lovely and beautiful series of paeans to reality.

John has done something pretty cool: he’s taken the audio from ten different pieces he’s written (plus one bonus track) and put them all in one place to download. These are high-quality audio files, and the neat thing is that in exchange for the download he’s asking for donations to his project, whatever you think is fair. You can download them for free, but he’s hoping to raise funds to create more videos and promote more science.

I really love this project — as do a whole lot of other folks, too — so I expect his experiment in quid pro quo will do well. As you might remember, one of the songs, "Wave of Reason", has a line in it by me, too. I’m still really proud to have been included in this project to bring a love of science to even more people.

Tip o’ the baton to Noisy Astronomer.

Related posts:

The Unbroken Thread
New Symphony of Science: Wave of Reason
Symphony of Science: Children of Africa
The Symphonic Case for Mars

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (26)

  1. Chris

    Sorry Phil. Maybe I’m not hip enough to enjoy it. I appreciate the effort but I find that autotuning really annoying.

  2. Thorne

    I’m with you, Chris. I find that stuff childish and irritating, like someone deliberately scraping their nails on a chalkboard.


    @Chris & @ @Thorne,

    Whatever you two guys think, it still beats rap crap any day!

  4. TTS

    Chris, Thorne & IVAN3MAN isn’t it bit too mainstream to tell your hipsterism in public?

  5. Patricia

    Symphony of Science was the first use of autotuning that did NOT annoy me. Maybe because the original pieces were never intended as music. For me, using autotune as a novelty is one thing, but having to rely on it to be able to sell your voice skills is not something I want to listen to.

  6. stjobe

    They already were “all in one place to download”, at Sure, you had to click the “download” link and choose your format, but they were all there. And there was a “donate” button prominently displayed.

    You really should have said that they are now in one zip-file for easy download, and with a bonus track not available any other way, as well as some nice background art for your desktop.

    And just to thumb my nose at the three first posters who cared enough to post their dislike about something, I quite like these tunes.

  7. VinceRN

    The first symphony of science I heard was cool, despite how annoying autotune is. This Guy’s heart is in the right place, but 10 of these and working on more seems a bit much.

  8. good stuff

    awesome album thank you,
    will do some promote
    sure there will some income.

    Thanks for still putting it in for free (think it will be read)!

    maybe a little bit too “machinery”, but text and rhythms are fine

  9. Monkey

    I agree with y’all. A few for novelty sake would be good, but the impact is lost now that there are so many. I loved…LOVED…the first few but after a while they seemed to all blend together.

    That said, its only my opinion and his heart is definitely in the right place. I think as an educator I could work a few of these into the classroom, but I know to go beyond a few would limit the power. Still, Im glad they are here….we can choose to listen or not….and it is without a doubt the best use of autotuning ever, so we have to give him that!

  10. I hope it’s just a fad that goes away. I’m with Chris. I couldn’t get through the first one that people were raving about.

  11. I also enjoy lot of it. Especially, Connected, Wave of Reason, Our place in Cosmos and Children of Africa. Normally I also don’t like that autotuning.

  12. Sili

    Chris, Thorne & IVAN3MAN isn’t it bit too mainstream to tell your hipsterism in public?

    Yeah, it only really works is they write a letter and mail it to Phil. I guess they could send a telegram, if it was really urgent, but hand delivery really would be more authentic.

    his Guy’s heart is in the right place, but 10 of these and working on more seems a bit much.

    Be sure to tell that to Ann Druyan. I’m sure she’d just love to subscribe to your newsletter.

  13. Orlando

    Maybe we should look for some people to lip sync Mr. Sagan and Co… I love every SoS lyrics, despite the autotuning, and I think they’re worthy enough to keep going on.

  14. Brian

    It’s an important aspect of a free society that people should feel free to voice dissent. That said, it’s starting to get on my nerves that every single time that Symphony of Science is mentioned in a post on someone’s blog, the first N + 1 comments are people proudly proclaiming how they can’t stand his stuff because autotuning is so damn annoying. All right, already. You hate the sound of autotuning. We get it.

  15. Chris

    All the people voicing the dissent have been very respectful. While we appreciate the efforts of the artist and the message he is trying to convey, most of us would probably rather listen to and be inspired by the words of the scientist in their original voices. This autotuning is clearly meant for a different demographic.

  16. Brian

    Chris: I didn’t mean to imply that they were disrespectful. Not at all; it is merely the predictable repetitiveness that I reacted to.

  17. Ariana

    I think Symphony of Science is fantastic. The videos are very clever and the whole compisition is very well put together.

  18. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever said a word about it, Brian. And it was to be the last time. You know… I had my say as did others and Dr. Plait can act accordingly in the future.

  19. Svlad Cjelli

    “I hope it’s just a fad that goes away. I’m with Chris. I couldn’t get through the first one that people were raving about.”

    I hope you mean SoS and not autotuning in general. Because your hopes will be dashed against the rocks otherwise. We don’t even notice all of the tuning around us.

    I’m not sure if SoS technically uses Auto-Tune. Seems like it could just be a random vocoder. Boswell himself says auto-tune, though.

  20. I first became aware of the “Symphony of Science” series when I heard the “Poetry of Reality” tune played over International Space Station telescopic footage. I was immediately captivated, and a little Googling lead me to the website. I find myself watching the “Poetry of Reality” video over and over, and I find it inspiring. Carl Sagan has always been a hero of mine.

  21. Hugo

    I agree with Chuck, something similar happened to me. I already buy the album and love it :)

    I think what, putting the variety of music tastes aside, is important to support this kind of things, maybe is only a grain of sand… but it’s counts. Also, as Svlad says, if we eliminate all the tuning and auto-tuning of the musical productions of these days… well, thinks in the celebrities magazines without photoshop XD

  22. Kim

    SoS is love it or hate it material. Just don’t compare Boswell’s use of auto-tune, where songs are made from speech, to those where songs are robotized. “Bed Intruder” has 98% approval, while “Baby” has 33%.

    To the record, this was the first album I’ve ever bought on internet :) Paid 10 $, about 1 cent for every time I’ve heard his songs.

  23. Ed "Malfeitor"

    With all the venom there seems to be floating around in this comment thread, I thought I’d chime in just to say I LOVE “Symphony of Science”!

    I think autotune is a cheat when used for voice correction (though not always a bad thing imo) but when obvious and used in this fashion, to turn speak into song, I really enjoy it!

    I find if very hard in general to say something sucks…it may not be my taste but I will not diminish someone’s effort/likes/dislikes. I mean some people like the Transformers movies :)


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