Can science inspire music?

26 November 2012

Adam Thelwall investigates…

What inspires music? Popular theories cite love, politics and drugs. But what of us lonely NatScis who don’t experience these things? Maybe rock legends Muse can help, whose latest album cover is an image generated by the Human Connectome Project (which aims to map all the connections in the brain). Aesthetics aside, did science inspire the actual music? It seems so – the album title, ‘The 2nd Law’, turns out to be inspired by a thermodynamic law which is quoted on the song Unsustainable. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is a dramatic statement of scientific truth, and Unsustainable is a dramatic ode to the science.

Music contains countless references to science- from The Chemical Brothers to We Are Scientists – but references aren’t the same as inspiration. However, one artist does stand out for scientific passion. Kurt Cobain’s songs are saturated with reflections on the womb, foetuses and reproduction- he even called his final album ‘In Utero’. He was inspired in the purest sense by simple biology.

And science reciprocates: the electric guitar changed music forever and music is becoming ever more technological. Okay so love songs are still pretty popular and the next number one isn’t going to be about quantum physics. But, it seems, science can inspire great music!