Science is complex and the entire body of scientific literature currently in existence is too vast for any single person to completely understand. Indeed it is entirely likely that if a person were to devote their entire lifetime to the study of science that person would understand only a very small fraction of today’s scientific knowledge. Science contributes to culture in many ways. One facet of this contribution is the communication of science to the general public. If the devoted scientist is able to master only a very small fraction of scientific knowledge then for the general public this fraction is very much smaller. There are many competing interests. If science does not feature centrally in someone’s work then in their own time there would need to be a very strong motivation for them to sit down and to learn more about science.
Without an effective means of communicating science to the general public this science ‘literacy’ is diminished. There are indeed many effective strategies for communicating science and there are many people or organisations doing this quite effectively. However one effective very medium for engaging with the public is music. One needs only look at the leading contemporary musicians to see a connection with the public. Needless to say personality and hard work behind the scenes play a significant role. The structure of the music also plays a significant role. The voice, instruments, lyrics, rhythm, melody, harmony and acoustic engineering combine to bring popular appeal.
This brings me neatly to the point of this post. If we have science explanations in a text format can we add music to make this more engaging? Writing science songs is hardly a new idea. Here are a few videos I found on YouTube illustrating the point.
The Elements Song
The Large Hadron Rap
My suggestion however is slightly more simple and practical – to use the medium of YouTube to convert text into a music video. This is a fairly simple approach and suitable for people with limited resources for generating videos with more complex soundtracks. In other words it is a relatively easy way to communicate written text in a more engaging way. YouTube makes it easy to do this. Youtube as well as a number of software packages enable the conversion of text slides into videos. Then it is a simple matter of choosing suitable audio tracks on YouTube and publishing the video.
Although there are potential benefits to this approach there are some drawbacks as well. Sometimes the audio may not be well matched to the video and the video may have to be crafted to the soundtrack rather than the other way around. Another drawback is that turning static text into dynamic text requires technical solutions of varying complexity although this is a fast evolving area. There is also the possibility that a person could simply switch off the sound and listen to some other music in the background. The music has to bring something to the production.
There are other problems. Although it appears intuitively that music can add value to the communication of science, there needs to be an evidence base. Additionally there are various pieces of research that suggest music can either enhance or interfere with learning.
On the other hand there is a lot of new music being generated. Leaving science ‘out of the loop’ has the potential to impair the contribution of science to culture and decrease appeal. Science also offers a structured body of knowledge that can be strategically used within a musical ‘movement’ to offer narrative, educational and economic value and to link areas within culture. Licensing instrumentals with a creative commons license would enable musicians to add lyrics and for the audience to decide on the most successful solutions. This discussion is limited not just to science communication but by inference also to Public Health. Indeed there are a number of educational videos in which people carry out Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in time to the Bee Gees ‘Staying Alive’ (e.g one video produced by the British Heart Foundation).
So below is one of the earlier posts featuring a theoretical discussion of Evolutionary Psychiatry. The video has been combined with different types of music to examine the potential to engage with different audiences. The music ranges from Classical to Jazz and features vocals including Barry White.
World Music Version
Hip Hop/Rap Version
Easy Listening Version
Dance and Electronic Version
Country and Folk Version
Alternative and Punk Version
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