The Music of Science

Over the past few months, a collaboration has progressed to a degree of substance that I am excited to start talking about it. For a long time I have been thinking about a creative way to make a contribution to STEM education, as someone who is passionate about education, but also science and engineering. There are plenty of people thinking about better content, more dynamic education strategies and more robust curriculum development. I have wanted to find a way to deliver a supportive but often elusive element, namely inspiration. I want young people who are imagining their future, to be as intrigued and amazed about science as I am… and I have always imagined doing this through the power of music.

But first I needed to be inspired myself, and that happened through a chance meeting about 18 months ago with Prof. Mary Finsterer, who – at the time – was also a Professorial Fellow at Monash University. She is now the Chamber Music Australia Chair of Composition, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University. I’ve always liked “musos” but I particularly liked Mary’s brilliant and unconventional style of thinking and communication. Slowly, over time, a collaboration began to take shape in the form of Scientifica.

Scientifica is a modern symphonic arrangement with four movements, composed by Mary. Each movement is framed around a “sound of science”, designed to capture and communicate the magic of those sounds. Three of those movements have been based on some really exciting sounds and have been developed as far as composition “samples” that you can actually hear performed on the Scientifica website. The first movement is inspired by the ethereal oscillations of stars – expanding the mind out beyond our planet through wonderful robotic instruments that are telling us all kinds of new things about the universe. The second movement brings us back to the Earth’s atmosphere with the eerie and fragile sounds of solar radiation striking our planet’s protective atmosphere, an extraordinary defense system that we can only detect with special electronic equipment. The final composition is based on the percussive beats of an MRI scanner, representing mankind’s inquiry and control of the biological world.

The fourth movement of Scientifica, as well as the exact order of the movements, has yet to be finalised. This is because we plan to open it up as a competition in early July. We want scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicians and researchers everywhere to send us the audible incarnations of science that move, mesmerise and inspire them. We then plan to select the best sound – and story – and build the fourth movement around it. We hope that the final product will be a performing arts experience that will weave Mary’s stunning composition with an audiovisual presentation of the actual science itself. Uniquely, our vision is that during this performance, the scientists creating these sounds will join their musical colleagues as an actual performer, hopefully projecting the creativity and passion that is an often poorly understood but fundamental part of scientific progress.

Please visit the project website for Scientifica to learn more. Be sure to listen to Mary’s incredible work.