Album review: Terra Lumina

For years, Symphony of Science has been one of the coolest projects on the web.  Artist John Boswell takes clips of famous scientists and uses Auto-Tune to massage them into original songs.  Combined with beautiful visuals, the likes of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson come alive with messages about the important science issues of our time.  Although they started with a theme of space, the songs now cover the full gamut of modern science.

Now Boswell has teamed up with vocalist William Crowley to bring us an entirely original set of science-themed tracks.  The result is Terra Lumina, released in December 2012.  The album alternates between folk and soft-rock melodies, with each track addressing a particular principle.  Light, atoms, planets, and evolution are just some of the ideas considered.

In terms of content, the science is solid and definitely at a higher level than the Symphony of Science videos.  Each song is more developed, with less repetition than in the web mash-ups.  I particularly liked track three, If I Were a Lonely Photon.  It flowed in a way that some of the other tracks did not, and told the complete story of the life of a light particle.  Its whimsical nature made for easy, enjoyable listening.

Unfortunately, not all the tracks were quite as good.  The higher production values of Terra Lumina made occasionally campy writing stand out a bit more than it should.  The writing is never bad, however, just sometimes a bit less polished than everything else.

I think this could make a great album for kids.  The lyrics are simple and cleanly delivered.  The message is direct and at an elementary-school level.  Best of all, this is the sort of music that everyone can listen to and come away with something learned.

I'm excited that this album exists.  There is a definite place for educational music in a world increasingly dominated by media influences.  If we have to be subjected to relentless media messages, I'd love for them to be as well articulated and produced as Terra Lumina.