Lehrer-inspired science album

January 15, 2011

For a while now I have been meaning to blog about a band whose last album was dedicated to songs about different areas of science. I know, I know, it sounds pretty terrible, but They Might Be Giants really hit the nail on the head if you ask me. (By the end of this post, I challenge you to stop the lyrics ‘The sun is a mass of incandescent gas’ from pin-balling around your head).

The album, titled ‘Here comes the science’ includes such songs as ‘Speed and Velocity’, ‘Solid liquid gas’ and  ‘Why does the sun shine?’ and they music isn’t half bad either. What finally pushed me to post this was a reminder in a Science-Online 2011 chatroom today about Tom Lehrer’s famous ‘The elements’ song, a groundbreaker in packaging science up for the masses (simply putting the name of every element of the periodic table to a relatively catchy tune). Here’s ‘The Elements’ if you’re unfamilair with it –

That’s the reason for deciding to finally blog about them. Now for the reason I’d always been holding back; it’s difficult to get music, in any easily accessible format, into a blog post so here are a few ways for you to listen:

Now, whilst the science isn’t always accurate and the music is, on the odd occasion, a little irritating; their effort to educate is commendable and the lyrics are nothing short of genius. The fact that they follow up the song ‘Why does the sun shine?’ with ‘Why does the sun really shine?’ reflects the familiar feeling of learning one thing and being satisfied, only to find later that you had only scratched the surface. That the deeper and deeper you study, the more detail there is to find. No one will ever know everything about science, and that is an idea that I, personally, am comfortable with.

That fact accepted – I will, however, endeavour to fill my future children’s neuro-plastic little brains with such catchy nuggets of information as these. Can’t hurt to start them young.

8 Comments

  1. Sleepwalker says:

    Lehrer is great fun. I learnt ‘The Elements’ on piano as my party piece for a science festival ceilidh interlude. The Tom Lehrer elements music score is in the book ‘Too many songs’ by Tom Lehrer. There are so many more elements though. Simon Singh is very keen on factually correct science lyrics. I saw this album advertised and it’s had great reviews.

  2. Cacodaemonia says:

    I just came across your Twitter account and after reading this post am convinced that I need to have a look through the rest of your blog. 🙂 I’ve loved They Might Be Giants for years, and The Elements song is one of my new favorites. Science is wonderful!

  3. @Sleepwalker I would LOVE to learn this on piano, I smell a collaboration!

    @Cacodaemonia Wow thanks very much, I hope you enjoy reading the rest of it! Spread the word and stick around, lots more to come! 🙂

  4. I enjoyed reading your post. I’ll definitely listen to “Here comes the science”. There is a song by the very contemporary rock band Gogol Bordello.It is not exactly pedagogic, but the lyrics of “Supertheory of Supereverything” are great for teens and grownups. Art and science have to be more available to the public and with smart lyrics, popular bands can do so much for the younger generations.

  5. with all these suggestions, I think I’m going to post a theartinscience playlist for next weekend. Any more science inspired song or lyric (pedagogical or otherwise!) suggestions welcome!

  6. Sleepwalker says:

    Tim Minchin is great. He has quite a few on a science theme. Try ‘Storm’ and ‘If you open your mind too much’ for starters. He has also just composed the musical version of Matilda, just mentioning. Crash Test Dummies had some which touched on science very lightly but I’d have to look up the song titles as I can only remember the lyrics. There’s that one from Monty Python, ‘Just remember that we’re living on a planet that’s revolving…’

  7. Sleepwalker says:

    Grease the musical ‘reproduction’
    Sam Sparro ‘Black and Gold’

  8. Wow Sleepwalker! Thanks for those!

    I adore Tim Minchin and he didn’t even cross my mind! Totally off-topic but Take Your Canvas Bags is amazing! haha

    Some amazing suggestions. I have a good list gathered up now! (and may have to credit you in the final compilation!! haha

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