This new tune from A Capella Science is the bomb. It’s a hip-hop retelling of the difficult day when mankind harnessed nuclear fission and scientific progress came face to face with war… all set to an Eminem song.
Join me on a jazzy journey through Mister Rogers Neighborhood…
This morning I was reminded how much I love Mister Rogers (present tense), and how much that show influenced me as a kid. Fred made me the curious adult I am today. Well, Fred and Sesame Street, but I refuse to pick favorites.
I especially remember the above video, about how crayons are made. It must have had a hell of an impact to stick in my noggin after all these years, eh? But as awesome as the story of the classic Crayola 64-pack is (remember the built-in sharpener?), today I want to talk about the music.
I never realized it until now, but most of the “how it’s made” segments on Mister Rogers had no sound. That makes sense, because factories are horribly loud places and are a nightmare to film in. But listen to how the iconic Mister Rogers jazz soundtrack takes the place of sound effects! The clicks and whirrs are really just the drummer using brushes or percussion blocks. And the piano runs match the action so well!
Reminds me of the Dutch filmmaker Bert Haanstra, whose 1958 film Glas won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Glas features a bunch of glass-blowers doing their glass-blowing thing, but instead of live sound their motions are blended perfectly with a peppy, beat-driven jazz soundtrack. Watch it below and compare to Mister Rogers:
See the similarities? I wonder if the influence was intentional. The virtuoso pianist behind Mister Rogers iconic jazz arrangements was Mr. Johnny Costa, whose trio recorded the music live as the show was videotaped! It’s pretty progressive music for a children’s show, but I think by pushing the boundaries Rogers and Costa were able to create some really special experiences, and prove that kids have no problem enjoying complex creativity.
Here’s a short chat with Johnny Costa (man, those fingers!) about what it was like to work on Mister Rogers Neighborhood:
Since music is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man.
Cataracts - A science-y cover of Macklemore’s “Cadillacs” from everyone’s favorite rapping science teacher, Tom McFadden.
If you haven’t heard of Tom, he’s a teacher at The Nueva School in the Bay Area. His students don’t just learn science, they rap it, and they rap it well. Here’s some of their previous hits:
- That’s Metal (“Gas Pedal” cover)
- Watson and Crick vs. Rosalind Franklin rap battle
- All the Salamanders (“Drank” and “All the Single Ladies” cover)
- Alfred Wegener and continental drift
- Black plague vs. Yellow Fever (“Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa)
And Tom’s not just a producer, he’s got rhymes of his own. Don’t miss his first hit, a 50 Cent/Jay-Z-inspired ode to the TCA (Krebs) Cycle: Oxidate it or Love It/Electron to the Next One
Reggie Watts Riffs on the Red Planet
I too have dreamed of going to Mars, in addition to also not dreaming about going to Mars, because not all our dreams can be about Mars, that’s just crazy talk.
A musical reminder of tonight’s full lunar eclipse!
Tonight, for the first time since 2011, folks in North America will get the chance to see a total lunar eclipse. It’s supposed to start in earnest around 2 AM on the east coast (11 PM west coast).
Unfortunately I think clouds will spoil the fun for me (and most people on the east coast). But I woke with this song stuck in my head and ended up recording it before I headed out for work with my phone. (My sincerest apologies to Bonnie Tyler)
You can find more detailed information about the eclipse here.
And if you miss it this time, good news: Another blood moon is forecast for October, and again next April.
The eclipse photo I use in the video was taken in 2011 by Fred Espenak (NASA Marshall Space Center).
Related to the last, but in musical form.
Putting the “pi” in “piano”
Check out this awesome piano melody created from the digits of pi! By transposing the numbers 0-9 onto an A minor scale, the irrational melody is played with the right hand and notes are added with the left. It’s pretty mathemagical.
Also, try singing this along with the melody, either out loud or in your head (it totally works):
"I am listening to a sonnnnng about piiiiiii, maaaaking a melody as the numbers fly byyyyy"
Bonus: Check out Daniel Starr-Tambor’s “Mandala”, a melody created from the orbits of the planets placed onto a musical scale. At 62 viginitillion notes (I didn’t even know that was a number), it’s the longest palindrome ever created.
A Porcelain Raft: “Giove”
B The Antlers: “Jupiter”
A Mutual Benefit: “Terraform”
B Anna Meredith: “Miranda”
A The Spiritualized Mississippi Space Program: “Always Together With You (The Bridge Song)”
B The Holydrug Couple: “Amphitrites Lost”
A Youth Lagoon: “Worms”
B Blues Control: “Blues Danube”
A Beach House: “Saturn Song”
B Zomes: “Moonlet”
A Absolutely Free: “EARTH I”
B Jesu: “Song of Earth”
A Benoit & Sergio: “Long Neglected Words”
B Larry Gus: “Sphere of Io (For Georg Cantor)”
I’m no stranger to music that’s made of space stuff. I even made a whole episode about it. That’s why I am reaching Bieber-fever-like levels excitement about this album.
Voyager 1 and 2 collected loads of data about electromagnetic radiation during their journey through the solar system. You can’t hear that radiation, of course, but it does exist as waves, just the same way sound does (in the simplest sense, anyway). By converting the frequency and amplitude of the radiation into an audible format, that space data can become music. Magical stuff.
After you check out the teaser songs above, I think you’ll join me in my excitement. To call one track out by name, I’m a huge Beach House fan, so I can’t wait to see what they do with Saturn as their muse, since it is clearly the best planet.
But since we have to wait until April for the rest, in the meantime check out my previous Voyager music posts:
- NASA’s hard-to-find 1992 ambient music album, made from Voyager data, listen here in full: Symphonies of the Planets
- Dominic Vicinanza’s 37-year symphonic duet of Voyager 1 and 2.
- Another Vicinanza symphonic creation, this time just Voyager 1.
- My Space Sounds episode features music made from sunspots, solar wind, magnetic fields, and the orbits of the planets themselves.
In an alternate universe where spacesuits have skinny pants, this is the official soundtrack for exploring the stars.
A Voyager Duet
Voyager 1 and 2 are mankind’s most distant scientific instruments. And now, they are our most distant musical instruments.
Dominic Vicinanza, a musician with a Ph.D. in physics, has taken almost 37 years (320,000 hourly data points!!) worth of readings from each spacecraft’s cosmic ray detector and converted them to a classical duet using Europe’s Géant data network.
What you’re hearing are cosmic protons, hitting the detectors with different amounts of energy, a scientific duet on piano and strings played by two spacecraft separated by billions of kilometers of cold, quiet space. That raw data is then converted to notes on a scale and set to a tempo using hours as its notes. Sonification like this can help human brains pick out patterns in complex data that might be overlooked, literally, if we only used our eyes.
Previously: This isn’t the first musical creation Vicinanza has created from Voyager’s data. Check out a previous one here.
Double bonus: Want more space sonification? I did a video about that last year. Here’s some music that’s out of this world.
Source: SoundCloud / GEANT-Sounds