25 August 2021

#AGURocks: BumbleBee Blues

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#AGURocks is a series of posts by musicians who create science-inspired music and explain their process and inspiration while also showcasing their pieces. Learn more about contributing. The views and lyrics expressed in this post and song do not reflect those of Sharing Science and AGU. This week, Phillip Hermans.

I am a multi-instrumentalist and composer with an interest i n technology and the natural world. I have pursued interdisciplinary study of music and related engineering disciplines to better understand the creation, manipulation, propagation and perception of sound and music.

The natural world abounds with beauty and science reveals deeper patterns that provoke new questions. Science is not only a wellspring of inspiration for musicians but the tools and data of the scientific process can be used to create music as well. For example, I have used mathematical algorithms that mimic the behavior of flocking birds, predator/prey cycles and the human cardiovascular system to create some of my music compositions.

I am also inspired by science i n a less direct way when I compose music for science documentaries and educational video games. This music i s intended to be more accessible i n order to promote scientific findings and science literacy.

My process begins by engaging with the topic and reading relevant scientific literature, whether that is about phytoplankton blooms, traffic patterns, geo-thermal deep ocean vents or the vocalizations of manatees. Recording can sometimes contain field recordings from nature, music from my home studio, or audio created via sonification of scientific data. In general, the process changes with each piece, and that is part of the joy of interdisciplinary work! Each project allows me to investigate new ideas and experiment with different approaches to creating music and collaborating with others.



BumbleBee Blues:

Guide me
My l ittle honey bee
Fly away
To better days on Earth

Guide me
My fuzzy bumble bee
Buzz away
To the stars beyond

Tomorrow, equipped with pressurized space suits, the brood swarm travels to distant stars,
colonizing new worlds and pollinating the cosmos. Let us follow these blustering bumblers, as
we have since the neolithic era. In humble imitation of their advanced communication, that we
merely interpret as dance. Let us move together.

Flap your wings
Wiggle your antennae
Shake your stingers
Buzz around

-Phillip Hermans is a musician, engineer, and educator. He’s co-host of Soundproofist podcast. Learn more via his website, Instagram, and LinkedIn.