Brian Cox to go into song at the Royal Opera House in campaign for the IOP

24 September 2014

Prof. Brian Cox will be asking “What makes the perfect song?” at an event resulting from a collaborative project between the Royal Opera House (ROH) and the IOP.

Brian Cox

The evening, billed as “a conversation between physics and music”, will include a panel discussion with experts in both disciplines, as well as live performance, and is part of the IOP’s Opportunity Physics campaign. The IOP is currently celebrating the first anniversary of the fundraising campaign, which Prof. Cox helped to launch in September 2013.

For the IOP, the all-ticket evening on 24 November is part of its wider initiative to raise the profile of physics and to demonstrate its relevance in a wide range of fields. For the ROH, it is also part of its effort to engage with a broader audience.

Tom Nelson, creative producer working in the ROH’s Learning and Participation Department, said: “The IOP approached us through our associate director of opera, John Fulljames, who is also a physicist. We started to talk about what collaborative projects we could foster to bring physics and opera together.”

They decided to produce something that could appeal to people who were interested in both science and music, as well as to those who had some knowledge of one of these fields but knew little about the other. “The fantastic thing about Prof. Brian Cox is that he has a foot in both camps. He’s an established musician as well as a very accomplished scientist. We thought the theme of song and songwriting would sit well with him.

“The best arias in opera have some of the simplest tunes, yet some of those arias will last for centuries while other tunes being produced now may be forgotten in a year or two, and we want to ask why. You could never forget Luciano Pavarotti’s performance of Nessun Dorma being used at the 1990 World Cup, but are there examples of contemporary songs that we will still be using as the theme tune for the 2116 World Cup? I think it’s a fascinating question.

“We will also look at the structure and lyrics of songs and ask at a scientific level whether there is something in a tune that provokes an emotional response, or just produces something catchy.”

The panel is planned to include two physicists and two people from the world of music, who will explore these themes.

The collaboration was an exciting project for the ROH, Nelson said. “We want opera to feel more relevant to more people and that opera can be as contemporary as the society around it. Many think of it as a dying art form that only looks backward but we want to demonstrate that opera can also look forward.”

The IOP’s Opportunity Physics campaign is aimed at showcasing physics in order to raise funds for the work of the Institute. Recent initiatives have included a series of lectures by women physicists who are expert in their fields, occasions for invited guests and dinners for people who are interested in leaving a legacy to the IOP. Since the campaign started it has begun to attract numerous donations including some six-figure gifts for specific activities.

Find out more about the IOP’s Opportunity Physics campaign.

Tickets for the event are limited and will be available exclusively by email invitation from the IOP. Please do not contact the ROH box office since they will be unable arrange tickets for you.