By Anissa Alifandi,  Festival Communications Intern at the British Science Association


Science and music; two things you wouldn’t necessarily put in the same box. It seems the closest relationship we have seen in recent times is Professor Brian Cox’s stint in D Ream (cue the infamous clip of him playing keyboard on Top of the Pops), Dr Brian May in Queen, and possibly listening to The Chemical Brothers.

A couple of years ago however, the forward-thinking, trend-setting pack at Vice brought to light a new wave of dance music based on algorithms and the beats you can create by writing code. Dubbed ‘algorave’ the article features one of the forefathers of this movement, Alex McLean, who has been playing gigs and festivals throughout the UK and Europe performing his unique show. Despite the connotation of the name, the attendees are slightly less hardcore than the hipster boys and girls hitting Warehouse Projects or summer festival dance tents.

Although the genre conjures images (or rather sounds) of chest thumping bass, heavy drops and dreamy vocals, the description as given by the coders themselves as “sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive conditionals”, does not do much to assure potential ravers of a typical night/early morning in Brixton surrounded by sweaty people and psychedelic lighting.

After posting a clip of Alex McLean’s algorave in Antwerp on social media, I received some really interesting feedback. One friend commented on the lack of structure; the composition doesn’t exactly walk you through a story as a classical piece may do, but they were happy to have it playing in the background whilst doing work.

Whether you do have impending deadlines or just fancy chilling to something new, McLean and other big names on the algorave scene will be live coding at the British Science Festival. And if you’re interested in the coding process itself, book a place at his talk, ‘Live coding: creating language for making music’, during the day where he’ll be discussing the processes and software behind his sets.

Algoraving not your thing? Explore the evolution of hip hop with DJ Semtex.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find the biology and linguistics of hip hop are crucial to its cultural influence. One of the UK’s most prominent personalities in the industry, DJ Semtex, describes hip hop as a “lifestyle”, with the “lyrics, the style and the experience” being essential cogs in this machine.

DJ Semtex will be joined by a panel of experts including Rowan Oliver, music professor from University of Hull, Louise Middleton, linguistics researcher from University of Manchester and Carolyn McGettigan, neuroscientist working the mechanics of the voice and how sounds are physically produced. Semtex himself will provide an industry perspective and how this is having a positive impact on scores of young people trying to make it big in the music industry.

If you share Semtex’s passion and want to hear more about the academics behind the acoustics, drop into The evolution of hip hop for a schooling in Spotify and Soundcloud before heading to the algorave.

All three events are guaranteed to change the way you think about music.


Take a look at our programme, bursting with events from all over the science spectrum!

Book your FREE tickets on the British Science Festival website.