Welcome to Music Mondays – something a little different I’m trying this summer.
If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ll know that one of the (way too many) things that interests me is points of contact between science and the arts. I’ve asked, for example, why there seem to be relatively few novels about science and scientists. I’ve written about my experience examining an MA thesis in poetry, and reviewed the resulting book of poems that are (sort of) caribou. I’ve reviewed two books now by poet and scientist Madhur Anand… As I think I’ve said before, high-school me would be gobsmacked.
But I haven’t said much about music. It’s not for lack of inclination: I’ve had several posts half-written on musical topics: songs about writing, songs about evolution, songs about teaching, even song about statistics.* But I think they’ll work better like this: each Monday this summer, I’ll link to a song that’s in some way connected to what I blog about here. I’ll be a bit loose about that, but I’m not looking for songs that are parodies,** or performed by scientists themselves, or intended primarily as teaching or SciComm tools. So I won’t pick the Zheng lab Lady Gaga parody “Bad Project” (even though it’s loads of fun); and I won’t pick the Horrible Histories David Bowie parody “Natural Selection” (even though it’s even more loads of fun). I’m more interested in science (etc.) appearing in “regular” songs, intended for general audiences as part of a songwriter’s creative practice. Science is amazing – why shouldn’t it provide a metaphor, or a story worth telling in song? And indeed, sometimes it does.
So, a song referring to science, or to writing, or to teaching…. and then, because I feel like it (and this blog is free, and you get what you pay for), a second song: one I just like. Fair warning: my taste in music is rather catholic, and sometimes a bit strange, and other times a bit hokey. You’ll hate some of what I post, I’m sure, but perhaps you’ll find something new to enjoy.
All right, on to this week’s picks. For the science song, let’s do some astronomy. (I’m an evolutionary ecologist and an entomologist, so you’d probably expect a song about that – but not this week***.)
“Jupiter Crash” is a 1996 song from The Cure, the English post-punk/goth/new wave band. The lyrics tell of a love affair that faded, with metaphors about gravity and, especially, the 1994 collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter:
Meanwhile millions of miles away in space
The incoming comet brushes Jupiter’s face
And disappears away with barely a trace
“Was that it? was that the Jupiter show?
Kinda wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, you know”
The music is moody but lovely, the lyrics (which don’t start until about 1:37, in case you weren’t patient) are gorgeous, and the songwriter (Robert Smith) uses the astronomy metaphors without forcing them. Now, I suppose you could argue that “Jupiter Crash” doesn’t really mention science as much as just mentioning part of our natural world. But I think it counts, because it reaches beyond the ordinary. It could have been a falling star or a sunset, but Comet Shoemaker-Levy engages a little more with what we know about our solar system.
For a bonus song, no science necessary (but still with a hint of astronomical flavour), let’s go with something much more recent. This is Dave Simonett’s folky-bluegrassy “By The Light Of The Moon”.
Hope you enjoyed this. Back soon with my more usual kind of weird.
© Stephen Heard July 5, 2021
Thanks to Jeremy Fox, whose move to add music videos to Friday Links over on Dynamic Ecology showed me how I could rescue my half-written music posts. Jeremy graciously encouraged me in this blatant ripoff. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, Jeremy.
Image: own work from CC0 clipart.
*^Yes, there are. You may be skeptical, but there really are. But I’m not tipping my hand just yet; stay tuned for a future Music Monday.