Love of Lyrics

With some frequency, people (generally those without much exposure to good hip hop) ask me why I like it so much. They often have a pretty one-sided and stereotypical notion of what the music is all about. I don’t have time to articulate my full response in this post. But one of my top reasons is lyricism – the bliss of wordplay, rhyme scheme, and flow.

This video, where Homeboy Sandman waxes poetic on the skills of Black Thought of The Roots, captures the joy of jaw-dropping lyricis (I’d recommend skipping to 1:13).

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Sing About Science Interview

So I’ve been to Japan and back. I gave a speech about shrubberies in Tauranga, NZ (while rapping over “Award Tour”). And for the past month I’ve been gathering data like a madman. Hopefully there will be more time for in-depth blog coverage of those experiences later.

But I did have enough time to give a quick interview to the University of Washington-based Greg Crowther for his Sing about Science website. I cover a lot of ground, including my latest thoughts on what I learned from Science Idol. Check it out here.

And here’s something from the primordial soup. A classy use of the “insane in the membrane” hook. From the people who brought you the beat boxing cockroach.

Thanks to Andy Mitchell (of Fulrbight NZ) for sending me the vid.

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And the winner is…

So I’ve only got a few moments before I head off to Japan (I’ll be doing some workshops, lectures, and performances at Kyoto University from 10 July to 13 July. Whoa!).

But before I go, here’s a quick wrap up of Science Idol 2012.

The tour was an absolute blast. Seeing the diversity and innovativeness of New Zealand schools was an unforgettable experience. For a great taste of the tour, produced for Our Changing World on Radio New Zealand, listen here.

The submissions came in from all over the country. Check out a reel of the finalists below:

To see them in their entirity visit the SciFest website.

I spent the last week working with Grand Prize Winner James Mustapic. We expanded his song “Covalent Long” into a full length song. He laid it down at the Otago University Music Department’ albany street studio. And he absolutely killed it.

If you’re a chemistry teacher (or fan) who wants to use this song in your class… stay tuned. We’ll have a full music video coming out next month.

One more huge shoutout to Klablab for sponsoring the iPad prizes for all of our category winners and for the U.S. embassy in New Zealand for sponsoring the tour. Special thanks to Stephen Stedman of the Otago Music Department who engineered the sound, and to the whole NZ SciFest crew for bringing it all together.

James and I (and his new iPad courtesy of KlabLab!). Image taken by Otago Daily Times (sorry ODT – I didn’t have time to ask your permission. Let me know if that’s not OK. 🙂 )

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Snakes are Born This Way

I’ll update on Science Idol 2012 soon. But on a completely separate note…

This music video is simply incredible. 2nd graders & snakes FTW.

In terms of concept, lyrics, music, performance, animations, production values, and kids having an amazing time, this is the best class-wide science song I’ve ever seen. Congratulations to the students, teachers, and staff at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, Massachusetts!

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Science Idol 2012

New Zealand Science Idol 2012 is upon us. It’s a chance for any student, teacher, or science lover above the age of eight to share their passion for a scientific topic via music or spoken word.

Allow me to introduce it:

Entries are due by 17 June 2012, so get started now!

I’ll be going on a tour of schools across New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin) over the next two weeks to perform new songs, promote school science, and get some buzz going for the competition.

The competition is part of the 2012 New Zealand International Science Festival. There are tons of details about the competition on the festival website here.

Even though I’m only hitting the huge urban centers in New Zealand, I’m hoping that people across NZ will get involved. In order to facilitate that, I have a series of video tutorials to walk you through the entire process from writing lyrics to performing your song.

I’d like to give a special thanks to KlabLab for allowing use of their audio templates and for sponsoring prizes for the category winners. I’d also like to thank the U.S. embassy for sponsoring the tour. And the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago for allowing me to do all of this as part of my Masters thesis.

And of course NZISF:

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Schoolhouse Rock Research

I just came across a great paper on learning through educational songs. Can watching Schoolhouse Rock help people memorize the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States?

Researchers found it did. The video is above, and the paper is here.

The most interesting nuance I found in the paper was the role of repetition. It’s not necessarily that music is stored and recalled in a privileged way (though that is not ruled out). But it is certainly true that the more times you go over something, the more likely you are to remember it. So if songs (via catchiness and getting stuck in your head) cause you to repeat something over and over, they may improve recall more effectively than a single reading of a textbook whose words aren’t so “sticky”.

The other nuance, which wasn’t discussed much, is that these authors were only testing verbatim recall: how perfectly people could remember every word of the Preamble. They were not testing anything deeper, such as the meaning or principles that those words represent. Just raw memorization. Thats an area I hope to expand on in my work.

But their combination of long-term follow-up and randomized control trials is very similar to the methodology I’ve got cookin’ over here in New Zealand. More Schoolhouse Rock videos can be found here.

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Doin’ the cockroach

A neuroscientist controls the muscle movements of a cockroach via beatboxing.

Keep an eye out on TED’s new education-focused channel, Ted-Ed.

Not sure if there old school Modest Mouse fans out there, but I will have a mashup of “Doin’ the Cockroach” and Rhazel in my head for a while.


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