To quantify the presence of these elements in the music market, Álvarez analysed the English and Spanish names of each element in a musical cyber store. The chemist explained to SINC that the results may include some redundancies due to different versions of a same piece - especially in classical music - and that some elements appear overvalued since they have several meanings (such as radio or indio in Spanish, lead in English or mercury (mercurio) in both languages). In any case the final aim of the study was not so much a comprehensive statistical analysis. but rather to "build bridges between science and music".
In general, with the exception of oxygen, the elements that appear most frequently in musical compositions are the metals seen most often over the history of humanity and daily life, comments Álvarez, "and silver and gold share the pedestal of popular imagination". Both appear in songs not only because they are components of a large variety of objects, but also because they are the symbol of wealth, luxury and power or due to the metaphors referring to their properties such as metallic shine.
Numerous classical composers have referred to gold or silver in their works such as Bach (Gold und Ophir ist zu schlecht, aria from the cantata BWV 64), Beethoven (Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben, from Fidelio), Dvorák (O Silver Moon, from Rusalka), or Wagner, in his opera Rhinegold, whose plot revolves around a golden ring and power and the accompanying curse. In the field of pop and rock music there is an abundance of groups that mention these precious metals in their songs: the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Genesis, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Spandau Ballet, Status Quo and many more.
Another metal with a significant musical presence is tin, which Krzysztof Penderecki uses as an instrument in his work Fluoresences together with pieces of wood and glass, a siren and a typewriter. It is also found in March of the Tin Soldiers by Tchaikovsky although perhaps the piece most related to this metal is Tin Roof Blues interpreted by legendary jazz figures such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory or Tommy Dorsey. Curiously, in English the expression "tin ear” is used to refer to people who have little ear for music, observes Álvarez.
The chemical element often related to love is oxygen. So, for example The Spice Girls sing about a love that is "as essential as oxygen" in their song Oxygen, a name that is also used by the "Christian music" group Ávalon as the title for one of its albums. "To offset the hyperventilation with pop oxygen," continues the chemist, "one can relax by listening to the suite Oxygen by the classical guitarist Sulaiman Zai or the salsa aspect characterised by the rhythm of Oxygen by the Cuban American Willy Chirino". The French composer Jean Michael Jarre also composed and recorded what many experts consider as the foundational work of electronic music: Oxygène:
Iron also appears frequently in music, for instance, as "the iron sceptres" mentioned in one of the psalms of Handel’s Messiah or in his opera Esther. The association of this metal with what is more or less hard rock also appears in groups such as Iron Maiden or Iron Butterfly and in titles of musical pieces, for example, Judas Priest (Hard as Iron), Black Sabbath (Iron Man) or Dire Straits (Iron Hand)
Another element, boron, appears in a cowboy song, Borax Bill, "as boron is obtained from borax, for which there are many important deposits in California", explains Álvarez. Platinum, on the other hand, appears in the piece Density 21.5 by Edgar Varése, which refers to the density of this heavy metal (21.5 g/cm3). Lithium also gave rise to the title of one of the songs by the group Nirvana, whose leader, Kurt Cobain, used chemical salts of this element to fight against the depression that eventually led him to suicide. Furthermore Carbon is a Girl’s Best Friend, as Lynda Williams sings it, paraphrasing the famous Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, immortalised by Marilyn Monroe in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Musical pieces that include various chemical elements at the same time have also been composed; for instance, we could mention "oxygen, nitrogen and argon" from the song Air by the group Mecano. Even among Anglo-Saxon chemists there is a classical piece titled The Elements by Tom Lehrer who interpreted it at the piano at Harvard University whilst reciting, one after the other, the first 92 elements of the periodic table of elements at a stratospheric pace with theatrical pauses for breath. This chemical table also served the cantaor Diego Carrasco to conjure up amusing play on words in The Chemist.
"The idea behind publishing this study arose during the events held in 2007 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Mendeléiev, the Russian chemist who created the periodic table of elements, clarifies Álvarez. The chemist concluded that an analysis of song titles and group names shows that "a non-negligible portion of scientific terminology has already been incorporated into popular tradition, although this is often used superficially".
SINC Team | alfa
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
21.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences