UTG INTERVIEW: John D. Boswell (Symphony Of Science)


This feature sets itself apart from our typical arsenal of interviews here at UTG, but as the focus is an incredible project not only comprised of music, but also a fresh aim at teaching the wonders of science, we feel it’s only appropriate that anyone and everyone be aware of John Boswell and his brainchild, Symphony Of Science.

You may have stumbled upon an installment from this viral sensation in the past few years and had its catchy auto-tuned melodies about dinosaurs or the cosmos stuck in your head. If so, you may have wondered (like I did) why someone took the time to create this unique audio/visual combo and why learning about science was never this entertaining when you were in school. Well the creator himself, John Boswell, took some time to speak with UTG about his inspirations and reasoning behind his project, so without any further bustle, flurry, or fuss, read through and get the scoop on Symphony Of Science!

Can you state, for those unaware, what it is that you do?
I am involved in remixing popular online content into music videos, which carry a message through inspiring and sometimes humorous songs.

What was your key purpose for creating Symphony Of Science when you started it?
Although the series started with a video that was intended to stand on its own (“A Glorious Dawn” in 2009), I quickly realized that there was potential in the medium to convey scientific ideas to the internet generation in a way that hadn’t been done before. Since they are so fun to do, it was a no-brainer to continue producing similar work and turn it into a series.

Do you make all the music videos yourself?
I am the sole producer and creator behind all the content. 

What software or equipment do you use to compile and edit them?
I use Reason 6 to create the instrumentals, Melodyne to do the auto-tuning and Adobe Premiere for video editing.  

Are there any rights issues with using the clips from various BBC shows, TEDTalks, etc.?
My work can definitely be considered a grey area for usage rights, but I believe the content owners if they are familiar with my work don’t see it as a threat to their original content and hopefully embrace what I have done. I try to be as respectful as I can to the original sources. 

Do you have a science background?
I am not formally educated in science; my passion comes from watching shows like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and taking a few introductory classes in college.  

How long have you been involved with music?
My music background began when I was a keyboardist and DJ for a band in high school. I took a year of piano lessons and took an interest in music theory and production, and have been self taught since then.  

So you have a new album on the way. What can you tell us about that?
Recently I decided to undertake the creation of a more traditional album about science with my good friend and fellow musician/science enthusiast Will Crowley. The project is named Terra Lumina and it’s been a fun and challenging undertaking. So far we’ve been writing songs about geology, water, photosynthesis and other fascinating topics in a more traditional musical style.

How does it feel to be the only music project to have a wide array of vocal contributions including Morgan Freeman, Carl Sagan and Bill Nye the Science guy?
Working with an array of figures like Bill Nye and Carl Sagan has been a blast. The nuances of each of their voices and messages means there is no end to how creative you want to get.  

What is your personal favorite field of science?
I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite, but astronomy has always appealed to me on a different level than the other fields. The epic scale of it and the profound insights that come from studying the heavens make it a very inspiring topic to study.

Are you currently involved with any other projects, musically or otherwise?
I am involved in a number of other musical projects; Terra Lumina, a traditional music companion to SoS, if you will; Hudson, a folk rock band that creates concept albums; Colorpulse, my IDM electronica side project, and a couple more that aren’t public yet.

With Symphony Of Science in full force, what do you hope to achieve with the project?
SoS was designed to deliver scientific information and philosophy in musical form, and I think in a way it has succeeded in fulfilling that goal. Many people have commented on the ability of the videos to inspire them to learn more about science; both students and adults alike.  

What personal effect do scientists like Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan have on you?
Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking are hugely inspirational figures, mostly because of their deep and sincere awe at the natural world, their prowess in sharing the beauty of it through their eyes and the general kindness of their characters.  

What has been the biggest highlight of your career surrounding Symphony Of Science?
I cannot pinpoint any moment as a highlight in the making of the series. There has been so much great feedback and all the songs have been a blast to create, start to finish. I hope to continue as long as possible. I’ll keep doing SoS videos until I feel like I can no longer contribute anything great to the series. Hard to say when that will be, but there will come a day.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc]


Written and conducted by: Brian Lion

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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