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.
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 DVD's. 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, thinking he might get a few thousand views at most. Surprisingly, the video went viral within a week. To date, the video has received more than two million views and is ranked as one of the top rated videos of all time in the music category.
John Boswell attended Gonzaga Preparatory School and graduated from college with a degree in economics. Soon after, Boswell started Colorpulse, an electronica music project, and began to focus on production. Boswell lives in Bellingham, Washington. His current music project, Symphony of Science, "aims to spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through musical remixes" and to "deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form".
Music and video
A Glorious Dawn
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
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. 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.
We are All Connected
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. 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.
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
Our Place in the Cosmos
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
The Unbroken Thread
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, BBC Life), XVIVO Scientific Animations, IMAX Cosmic Voyage, Jane Goodall's TED Talk, and a Guinness commercial.
The title comes 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
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". 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."
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".