About the SA Blog Network

History of Geology

History of Geology

What rocks tell and how we came to understand it
History of Geology Home

Geology Will Rock You !

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

The music-video “Mutual Core” (2011) by Björk, starring hot tectonic forces and sensual strata, is by far not the only examples of how geology and paleontology could inspire musicians and songwriters. There is something for everybody, from rap to classic music, from hard rock to blues, from the Archean to the Anthropocene – all the  “Deep Time” you want.

The German music group “The Ocean” released in 2007 a hard rock album entitled “Precambrian“, the four single CDs are named after the four erathems of the Precambrian (Hadean/Archaean/Meso- and Neoproterozoic) and the single songs after the single periods (Tonian, Cryogenian,…).

The Precambrian fossils of the Canadian Burgess Shale are one of the most important examples of early macroscopic life forms and based on the popular book “Wonderful Life” (1989) by paleontologist Stephen J. Gould, Rand Steiger composed in 1994 music for a large orchestra, entitled appropriately “The Burgess Shale” and featuring fossils like Pikaia and Hallucigenia.


Paleoartist Ray Troll is known best for his surreal artwork, but there is a quite good “Devonian Blues” written and performed in 2005. The discovery of Tiktaalik in Devonian sediments was also honoured by a song. The band “Ilium” published an album with the title “Permian dusk“, featuring various chronostratigraphic-related songs, followed in 2009 by the album “Ageless Decay” with the “Eocene Dawning“.

In his animated movie “Allegro non Troppo” (1976), the Italian cartoonist Bruno Bozzetto uses Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” to display a sort of ladder of evolution, punctuated by various geological catastrophes like volcanic eruptions and ice ages.

In the same movie an evolving society of cavemen dances to the “Danza slavica Nr.7” by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904). In “Le carnaval des animaux” (The Carnival of the Animals) by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), also “the Fossils” and extinct animals have their grand debut.

The life of miners and mining disasters play an important role in Irish folk music – “Tunnel Tigers” is dedicated to the miners who emigrated to the U.K. to find work and were involved  in the construction of London´s “tube more than 100 years ago. Various incidents in the mines of the Springhill coalfield of Nova Scotia inspired the song “Springhill Mine Disaster“. More lighthearted are the gigs of musician Emma Sweeney, who released a album of Celtic (or folk inspired) music entitled “Pangea“.

Dr. Richard “Geoman” Alley covers various classics, like “Ring of Fire“, “Rocking Around the Silicates” and “Down Doo Bee Doo“. And Marvin Pontiac (1932-1977) simply states “Bring Me Rocks- to study them“.

Some songs are dedicated in general to geologists – like “The Geologists Are Coming!” by the Amoeba People” (front cover of the respective album at the beginning of the post used with permission), or paleontologists, but sometimes also to specific geologists, like “Continental Drift! Alfred Wegener“.

Volcanoes, Hot Lava, pyroclastic surges (the disaster of “Pompeii” inspired various songs) and earthquakes are also popular topics, especially for Californians with “Earthquake” performed by Cass Elliot -  even specific fault systems, like the “San Andreas Fault” got songs. A cave inspired Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) to compose an ouverture.

And of course other geologists have other playlists, like Andrew Alsen or Erik Klemetti… more suggestions are welcome:

David Bressan About the Author: Freelance geologist dealing with quaternary outcrops interested in the history and the development of geological concepts through time. Follow on Twitter @David_Bressan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Previous: Ka ngaro i te ngaro a te Moa More
History of Geology
Next: Plant Paleoart Through the Ages

Rights & Permissions

Comments 1 Comment

Add Comment
  1. 1. Charles Hollahan 5:48 pm 11/16/2012

    This obviously a hoax, I mean T-Rex and mankind coexisted.

    Why just the other day I was listening to T-Rex and while I don’t normally like glitter rock and roll these guys weren’t nearly as viscous as their name sounds, or that movie “Jurassic Park” made them out to be.

    It’s just so obvious that once the law of superposition and an old record player get compared then it’s obvious that somebody could come along and turn the records over.

    Then there was that dinosaur that I used to see when I was kid outside of the gas stations, Sinclair Oil I think it was, that was big! And where did they find that if it wasn’t alive? Not in some Montana fossil bed I’ll bet!

    It’s just like Climate Change. Another hoax. Well, I gotta go feed my dogs or I would explain more about T-Rex and glitter rock n roll and why I hate disco. When you get to be an old fossil, then’ll you’ll understand too!

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article