Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Want to Sing About Science!

It's been awhile since I posted any new science songs. But they've been on my mind again and with good reason.

Back in the fall, I had written a song called "I want to sing about science." It was inspired by a conversation with Greg Crowther, who manages the website Sing About Science... and Math. I had just finished recording Greg's song "Scientific State of Mind" for the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival Song Contest. We spent about an hour on the phone talking about science and music and what we wanted out of educational songs. He told me he wished there were more songs about actual great discoveries and how they were made, presented in a way that made people want to make discoveries themselves, too. Songs that would be about the process of science, rather than just the data we've derived by using it.

As we hung up the phone, I resolved to rise to the challenge. I thought I'd see if I could write a "theme song" for his site, using these ideas. We had also just talked about how hard it would be to fit heliocentrism into a song, so that was where I started. Within a day or two, I had the basic ideas of the song, and I finally sent him a rough draft. I think he was pleased, but he also came back to me with some really helpful criticism, and suggestions for improvement. I took these into account, and it made a big difference in the quality of the song.

Though my usual practice with these songs has been to write and record them in a single evening, I took several weeks to "finish" the song, and paid more attention to the recording quality this time. When I presented Greg with the final result, he not only featured it on his blog, but suggested that I enter it into the aforementioned contest as well. With his blessing, I did so.

Months passed, but in early December, I was notified that my song was a finalist in the contest! I was pleased, and shared the news with my friends, not knowing what to expect next. Both of the other songs in the category were also really good.

I had plenty of things to distract me in the meantime, as I sang in a performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors with Opera Roanoke and prepared for my role in "Le Roi et Le Fermier" with Opera Lafayette that was presented in the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and then for two performances at the Opera Royale in Versailles. It was a magical journey, and I brought my family along with me to France, staying in Paris for several days after the last performance.

It was on one of my last days in Paris that I received the email that my song had been named one of the winners of the contest!

I'm looking forward to attending the festival in April. Meanwhile, here is the song... I hope you enjoy it!

Lyrics after the jump...


I want to sing about science!
Cause it's a method I can use to work things out.
And it's a process for reducing any doubt.
I want to sing about science!
I want to sing about science!
It's how I know that something isn't just a guess,
Cause using science I can put it to the test.
I want to sing about science!

Alec Fleming found a mold
That was killing some bacteria in his lab
So he tested how that mold could do its killin'.
And he found what it excretes
Most bacteria could simply not withstand.
And he finally named that "mould juice" Penicillin.
Thanks to his discoveries,
We have a drug that cures disease!


I want to sing about things that I can do
To verify that the things I think are true,
And maybe I can make great discoveries, too!
Using science.

When Copernicus was born,
Everybody* thought the sun went round the earth.
But that didn't fit with all his observations.
He kept studying the stars,
And recorded how they moved across the sky
And it led to an amazing revelation.
And when his work was done
He proved the earth went round the sun.


And learn about science... (like astronomy)
And celebrate science... (or biology)
I want to sing about science!

*[well, most people, anyway...]