Music that reinforces the lyrics

When I give a guest presentation about music in science education — not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen — one of my favorite parts is to discuss how the music of a song can add special clarity and emphasis to the meaning of its lyrics. Some not-so-random examples are below.

The Waltz of the Ribosomes indeed is a waltz. This is to underscore that the genetic code is based on triplets, i.e., each set of three bases encodes one amino acid.

• At 1:42 into Twinkle, Twinkle, T2*, we encounter the line “Something pulls those spins apart,” during which a unison vocal splits into multiple parts. A beautiful representation of spinning nuclei losing their coherence, I think.

• Ken Whiteley’s song Big Wheel – Little Wheel discusses large and small gears, focusing on the fact that meshing gears of different sizes spin at different rates. His delivery of the refrain illustrates this quite nicely. It sounds like this: “… And the big [pause] wheel [pause] slow – ly turns … and the littlewheelturnsaround!”

• Monty Harper’s new Songs From the Science Frontier CD contains a song I particularly like called Wind Energy. The full chain of events captured in the song is as follows: “This is the book I’m reading in the light from the lamp I lit with electricity flowing from the generator running on the rotor spinning in the wind blowing in beneath the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on Earth.” But he builds up to this chain in a pleasing way that highlights how the parts are connected. First he sings, “This is the sun shining down on earth.” Then he expands that to, “This is the warmth of the sun shining down on earth,” which is then amended to become, “This is the air rising up through the warmth of the sun shining down on earth,” and so on, one step at a time, until the sequence is complete, by which time you know it pretty darn well.

If you have other favorite examples of music that reinforces the lyrics, please leave a comment!

This entry was posted in songwriting. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *