Can you explain the “We Are All Connected” music video?



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    Carl Sagan

    Explaining “We Are All Connected”

    If you’re a regular purveyor of YouTube’s video offerings, you may have stumbled across “We Are All Connected”; in fact, as of March 29th, 2010, the video had received over 1.5 million views. Now, I’ll explain “We Are All Connected” and the story behind it.

    The Setup

    “We Are All Connected” takes its cue from the “Autotune the News” phenomenon that came about in 2009. At that time, “AutoTune” – the digital manipulation of singers’ voices to make them precisely match a certain pitch, resulting in a distinct “processing” effect – was all the rage in pop music, championed by R&B singers like T-Pain and derided by hip-hop godfather Jay-Z. With Autotune the News, YouTube authors took that pitch manipulation effect and applied it to speaking voices – in particular, to the voices of broadcasting and news personalities. Throwing poppy backdrops under the autotuned vocals, the Autotune the News smiths turn news into humorous music, creating a product that they describe thusly: “Interviewers, sportscasters, and vice presidents alike break into song to report important news.”

    “We Are All Connected” applies this theory – speaking voices, given a pitch and thrown over a musical landscape – to scientific personalities. In particular, the song targets four scientists – Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye – who are known to work with astronomy and astrophysics.

    The Genesis

    “We Are All Connected” was produced by the “Symphony of Science”, a group led by musician and producer John Boswell. In high school and science, Boswell developed skills in audio production and “a love for science and philosophy”.

    After listening to YouTube sensations the Gregory Brothers (who produced Autotune the News) and DJ Steve Porter, Boswell believed he could take his own musical ability and produce a similar product. He began in fall 2009 with a Carl Sagan interpretation entitled “A Glorious Dawn”; as Boswell puts it, “[t]his first video’s highly positive reception provided motivation to elaborate on the theme of remixing scientists”. “We Are All Connected” followed in October 2009.

    The Song

    I believe that “We Are All Connected” is a secular version of a religious hymn or anthem; its target is science, and the inestimable powers of Nature.

    The intro, which gives the song its title, comes from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “cosmic sermon”, which he delivered in 2006. Tyson, an astrophysicist and currently the director of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, spoke about the inspiring potential of the cosmos:

    We are all connected;

    To each other, biologically

    To the earth, chemically

    To the rest of the universe, atomically


    And the chorus, or “hook”, is delivered by an AutoTuned Carl Sagan in a segment of the History Channel’s Universe series. Sagan, who died in 1996, was an extremely popular astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist. He was extraordinarily prolific, producing over 600 papers and articles and over 20 books throughout his life.

    The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
    But the way those atoms are put together
    The cosmos is also within us
    We’re made of star stuff
    We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

    The other two verses come from Richard Feynman and Bill Nye. Feynman, who died in 1988, was an extremely well-known American physicist who made significant contributions to the fields of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Nye – popularly known as “Bill Nye, the Science Guy” is a mechanical engineer best known for his self-titled science-themed TV show.

    In his selection of specific words from these four men, Boswell really harps on nature’s power and scale, which is truly “so much greater than man’s.” It is almost a paean to nature itself, treating the universe and laws as godly. I believe it is inspiring stuff.

    Of “We Are All Connected”, Boswell claims:

    “Although the methods of remixing and tuning spoken word, combined with original electronic music and similarly themed footage, are unorthodox in the context of other science-themed music, the results have often been inspiring, humbling, and of course humorous.”

    I would have to agree.

    Feynman Verse 1:

    I think nature’s imagination
    Is so much greater than man’s
    She’s never going to let us


    Feynman Verse 2:

    There’s this tremendous mess
    Of waves all over in space
    Which is the light bouncing around the room
    And going from one thing to the other

    And it’s all really there
    But you gotta stop and think about it
    About the complexity to really get the pleasure
    And it’s all really there
    The inconceivable nature of nature

    Nye Verse:

    I’m this guy standing on a planet
    Really I’m just a speck
    Compared with a star

    The planet is just another speck
    To think about all of this
    To think about the vast

    Emptiness of space
    There’s billions and billions of stars
    Billions and billions of specks



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