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Geek Pop: December 2011

Wakeboarder with magnesium flares!


Look at that! It’s a man wakeboarding with magnesium flares! What a dude!

For more stuff about magnesium, boron and indeed a number of other elements, dive into our Christmas “chemistry” themed podcast, which despite our best efforts actually turned out to be more about the things we hated at school (ahem, the nitrogen cycle), suicide, the water content of pensioners and mince pies. With some chemistry jokes thrown in for good measure. Thanks to Chemistry World and Jim’s podcasting students, Jean and Leo, for their contributions.

December’s Spotify list has a few extra chemically-oriented tracks, including the rather wonderful Oxygen by Willy Mason. This is the bumper Spotify list for the Geek Pop podcast, featuring all the songs (well, all the not-ridiculously-obscure ones) we’ve played. And December’s download links are below. Happy Christmas one and all!

Rapping the Elements – Oort Kuiper (YouTube link)

Carbon Monoxide – Regina Spektor

Water Leaking, Water Moving – Jeffrey Lewis

Nitrogen Cycle – Amy Bronson

FULL PLAY: Chemistry Set – Peter and the Wolf

PRSSubscribe to our podcast feed through iTunes or Google. It’s like, totally free. That’s not all though. You’ll also receive a bunch of free music downloads from our previous festivals. And if you’re looking for the online archive, it’s here.

Intro/outro music by Intercontinental Music Lab.
Sponsor this podcast.

Guest post: Arthouse science gig turns family friendly musical

Professor Karmadillo

Professor Karmadillo is a two-time Geek Pop festival performer and winner of the Graphic Science Most Contrived Rhyme prize in our 2010 songwriting competition

It’s a few months shy of two years since I was motivated by Geek Pop to write and record a sciencey song that I’d had going round in my head. That turned into a dream of doing a live show featuring a whole set of science songs, along with visuals and dancing elephants. The other night, I got to turn that dream, sans elephants, into something as tangible as a live show can be, unveiling a set of specially composed songs at Norwich Arts Centre.

As well as a set consisting largely of never-performed-before material, I also had to contend with not having used visuals before in a music show. I arrived early at the venue to work through any issues with the setup… Fun was had with Quicktime on the provided Mac, which decided not to play the audio in the movie files I had brought with me. There was a hurried download of VLC Media Player, which then came up with an interface in Polish… or maybe Hungarian. It certainly wasn’t English, Elvish or even Greek to me. Luckily the language of play and stop icons translates across user interfaces.

As this was off my home turf we were reliant on what and whom the blurb in the Norwich Arts Centre brochure and on their website would drag in. As it happened, quite a few families turned up – a slight departure from my usual audience of slightly tipsy University students. Now, while Professor Karmadillo is family friendly show – in that as well as being sans elephants, it is also sans swearing – even the simplest material I had written on Brownian motion catered for GCSE-level plus. GCSE being a qualification that some of the kids looked like they might be a few years away from encountering. I was reminded of John Christopher’s comments in the introduction to his Tripods series, in which he describes the challenge of writing for children – and their legendary short attention spans. Needless to say, the presence of so many young’uns gave me The Fear.

Professor KarmadilloThe gig itself was reasonable, with high points and wobbly points – in particular, trying to remember the words towards the end of the set. Definitely could do better. The material’s good, but I need to gain some confidence in delivering it all the way through. And having gone on about how challenging it was doing so much new material, the low point for me was one of the songs I have played the most. It’s comedic and not too high level, but when the audience sits in silence at the lines that usually have them rolling, a bit of a “Gosh, this is a tough crowd” mentality creeps in. Having said that, the GCSE-level-plus ‘Brownian Motion’ was an unexpected high point.

So, some things to chew over, from my own experience and from the reading reviews. The main one being the difference between what I am trying to create and what the audience wants or expects. It was a conscious decision on my part to do an arthouse-pop-meets-high-level-science project, and I deliberately set out not to fit into the teaching science to kids model. The visual developers were given their artistic freedom, leaving me leeway in song and lyric writing to be more indulgent. However, there seems to be a demand for a show aiming at a slightly younger audience. Plus, someone had commented that with a name like Professor Karmadillo they were expecting a costumed kids character!

Anyway, I aim to tie up the arthouse side of things with an album launch in 2012, but am keeping ears and eyes open to inspiration for a show aimed more specifically at kids. And with my own first child due next Spring, it’s almost inevitable.

To this end I’m quite keen to work with live collaborators. So far collaborations have been through the music and visuals. But with a musical and/or stage show in mind, I think it will be crucial to have any collaborators or producers on board from the start. So if you think you’d like to be part of a sciencey music show aimed at young’uns, get in touch!

Like the rain soaked journey down the A11 from Cambridge, Professor Karmadillo has been a bit of a slog at times. But along the way, I’m indulging myself musically and motivating myself to learn more about the amazing world science offers, and (hopefully!) passing on my enthusiasm for both. I’m not quite sure what the destination is for Professor Karmadillo but this trip ain’t over yet.


Geek Pop Sessions: The First Time by Lori Campbell

Lori at Bright Club


Onwards with our new two-podcasts-a-month mission. And this month we’re bringing you a song specially commissioned by Geek Pop (yes, by us!) for Bright Club Bristol. Hoorah!

We asked Bristol-based musician Lori Campbell to write us something a bit silly for a sciencey sort of show. And well, she’s done us proud.

Thanks to Lori’s friend John Hendicott for putting all the mics in the right places and to Mr Lori for the inspiration.

THE SONG: The First Time – Lori Campbell

I can’t remember the first time I saw your face, but faces change and so have I
I always knew there was something unique about you and I let my curiosity get the better of me
This is the first time I have loved an intellectual, mathematical, he always corrects my grammaticals
Ever so practical, exceptional, electromagnetical man, who says things like:
“The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, but that’s not only blue and yellow you see floating high
It’s a phenomenological phenomenon, a trick of the light…
The light is first refracted, entering the surface of the raindrop, reflected off the back of the drop and again refracted as it leaves the drop
The overall effect is that the incoming light is reflected back over a wide range of angles, with the most intense light at the angle of 40 to 42 degrees
The angle is independent of the size of the drop but it does depend on the refractive index.”
He’s so romantic like that
He is an intellectual, mathematical, he always corrects my grammaticals, ever so practical, exceptional, electromagnetical man
If science and art could agree to agree that they’re fighting the same battle, kind of like you and me
Freedom from ignorance, striving for excellence
There’s a first time for everything – wouldn’t you agree? Still I don’t know how you ended up with me
Because I am idealistic and slightly autistic, artistic and generally I like to risk it
I’m hardy but tardy, I have a good heart, I erratically cry and compulsively lie and I can’t tell you why I do what I do, I can not find my shoe
And I can’t tell you how I ended up with, probably can’t live without, you

PRSSubscribe to our podcast feed through iTunes or Google. It’s like, totally free. That’s not all though. You’ll also receive a bunch of free music downloads from our previous festivals. And if you’re looking for the archive, it’s here.

Intro/outro music: Intercontinental Music Lab. Image: Julianna Photopoulos. Click here to sponsor this podcast.

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