Skip to content

By Tom O'Leary on

Flashmob celebrates the power of music to unite art and science

We recently surprised our visitors with an impromptu performance of parts of Holst’s Planets by a 90-piece orchestra.

We recently surprised and delighted our visitors with an impromptu performance of parts of Holst’s Planets by a 90-piece orchestra made up of Royal College of Music students.

The flashmob was the latest event in a long museum tradition of exploring music and sound. Who could be better as a partner than the Royal College of Music, where Holst studied in his day, to deliver a performance specially arranged and conducted by Ben Palmer.

Where better to stage it than in the gallery that tells the story of human endeavour and ingenuity from Stephenson’s Rocket to Crick and Watson’s DNA model and the Apollo 10 command module.

Within our vast collection are many items directly or indirectly connected to music and sound, which have featured in a range of exhibitions over the years. This includes the intriguing Noise Abatement Exhibition opened by HG Wells in 1935, a response to noise in the aftermath of the First World War, and an exhibition on television which opened in 1937.

More recently we held exhibitions on the exponential horn and the birth of electronic music, we have hosted concerts by Public Service Broadcasting and Icebreaker,  and our latest citizen science project Hooked on Music is part of a wider project to study dementia.

As a cultural institution the Science Museum lies at the nexus between arts and science. Our current exhibition on Leonardo de Vinci illustrates this vividly. He was an incredible artist AND a brilliant, insatiably curious engineer who ‘never allowed his knowledge to get in the way of his imagination’.

Perhaps less well known is that he was an excellent musician and one of the designs in his Codex Atlanticus was of a ‘viola organista’,  which was built and played by Polish pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki in 2013.

More evidence, as if we need it, that science is very much part of our culture.