Sounds of Science: Can Music Help Bring Science into Pop Culture? An Experiment in Public Communication

by John LaCava

With this short article, I’d like to re-introduce the campus community to a project I started a few years ago: The Sounds Of Science. In February 2010, I penned an article for Natural Selections introducing the project and participants at the time. We made our music, launched the website—and the project was born. The group was the result of a diverse collaboration; it was never intended to be enduring—this is New York City—people come together, they execute a project, and ride off into the sunset or surf another wave, and so it goes. The music had been made, much to my satisfaction, and the goal was to just make something damn cool that could highlight research as both hip and creative; the way in which it should honestly always be portrayed, but often isn’t. The second main goal of the project, aside from production, was to launch a public repository of science and engineering sounds—I believe, the first of its kind. That is precisely what we have now done. It can be accessed through the main website above, or directly at Any scientist can record their favorite research sounds and lodge them with our repository, and likewise, any artist or producer could use those sounds in a work, and we would happily host that work. In time, a vibrant and diverse community could grow, and foster give-and-take between disciplines too. At least, that is the hope: that, with good music and good source samples as a draw, science can be well communicated in popular culture. This is an experiment in the public communication of science and technology—a form of outreach really—and that is the topic of an article I’ve written for the ASBMB Today magazine. It will run in the November issue, so please look for it in the mag, or online ( In addition to re-acquainting the campus with this project, I’d like to call out for new collaborators. The project needs love and care from diverse people, in numerous ways, to proliferate. So, if this interests you in any capacity, please do get in touch with me. One of our major goals for 2013 is to have a concert on campus—if you like this idea and want to help make that happen, then please get involved and pass the word on to anyone you think may be interested. Currently, I owe big thanks to Dustin Gerding, who helps me administer the website and Facebook page—which, incidentally, has the most up-to-date collection of music tracks—where we also post news about science, society, and fun stuff. Many thanks also go out to Bernie Langs, who continues to produce catchy new songs about research and incorporates our samples collection into his work; Jesse Ausubel, who continues to support our project financially and in spirit; and to the campus IT department, including Anthony Popowicz, George Lee, and Kwan Yu Ng, who did an amazing job of getting our database up and running on our very modest budget. I’ve several more GB of samples data to upload, which I do in spare time, when I find it. It’s a labor of love.

November 2012