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Autotuning has become a mainstay of popular American music production. It gives musicians and music producers control over their sound in a way that they have never before had. They can remove noise, or add it, turn a bad singer good, or a good singer into a robot. The Symphony of Science is a work using music editing on audio that was not previously set to music. In 1980 Carl Sagan's Cosmos Television series set a new gold standard for science popularization. State of the art effects and narrative clarity allowed Sagan to clearly state the majesty of the universe and the humble art of its observation. To explore important conceptual subjects in a way which is accessible for all ages. More recently the composer John Boswell obtained the boxed DVD collection of Cosmos and splitting from his other R&B auto-tune project Colorpulse he created a mash-up of his own composed work and scenes and audio from Cosmos in the first video in the series A Glorious Dawn.

Each video composition uses piano and synthesizer music as a foundation for auto-tune singing audio from Cosmos and other works by a variety of important science popularizers: Richard P. Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, David Attenborough, Michio Kaku, Bill Nye and Jane Goodall. Each work is created around some important point brought forward in Cosmos and from that point Boswell incorporates a variety of statements related to it from other documentaries or video.

I believe our future depends powerfully
On how well we understand this cosmos
In which we float like a mote of dust
In the morning sky

In A Glorious Dawn the theme is the future. Sagan's quotes expound upon the mystery and awesome qualities of our universe which we and our descendants will explore and how it will affect us. The major point is that our understanding of the universe has reached the point where we can see a future of its exploration. This first video offering garnered acclaim across the span of geekdom, generating renewed interest in Sagan and Cosmos and gained a good deal of support from Ann Druyan and the rest of Sagan's family.

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

The second offering We are All Connected incorporates a number of different voices, Feynman, Tyson, and Nye into a work that is much more of an artificial conversation. Tyson describes the connectedness of the universe and ourselves, Feynman reflects upon nature and its complexity. Nye shrinks himself into a speck on a speck on a speck and finally Sagan draws everything together poetically by pointing out that the beauty of life is not in its components but their whole. This video is also notable as its beat is provided by Feynman himself.

The exploration of the cosmos
Is a voyage of self discovery

Our Place in the Cosmos explore the point made by Nye in the second video. For all that humanity has accomplished our greatest achievement is perhaps the acknowledgment of how small we are compared to the universe as a whole. Here the voices of science describe our species and its minuscule planet in comparison to the vast stretches time and space. Sagan's voice, however, brings another point out, that we as thinking beings have the opportunity to take from this knowledge a place in that cosmos.

Our planet, the Earth, is as far as we know
Unique in the universe; it contains life

The latest video, The Unbroken Thread, explores the biological universe that we each carry within us. In this work, Sagan seems to differ, more than anything else, to Attenborough to describe evolution. Sagan provides the chorus to the piece and its title. Where in the third video our place in the universe is described as relatively small, here the theme is inverted, the stage of life exists at levels that are as small to us as we are to the rest of the universe. The explanation of life on Earth describes our connection with those first simple organisms. The beauty of life, the triumph of natural selection is counted trillions of times within us. The video ends with Attenborough's establishment of our responsibility for this unique, life-filled world.

With each new video Boswell takes the work of many science popularizers, takes their voices and makes them sing. He uses music and rhythm to give their statements force and nuance and poetry. Each video is unique, containing distinct musical and contextual themes but all of them point to a set of central ideas; that the universe is a vast and interesting place and that our understanding of it is our greatest achievement and greatest goal. My words cannot do justice to these videos or their message, so I highly encourage everyone to go and watch.

Our obligation to survive and flourish
Is owed not just to ourselves
But also to that cosmos
Ancient and vast, from which we spring

UPDATE: The fifth video is currently up, I suggest everyone watch it.

I am not the best resource for hip-hop/R&B criticism. If anyone has a follow-up which explores the Symphony of Science from a musical perspective that would be most welcome.

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