Classical music composition and a keen interest in chemistry – are there links?

What correlation, if any, is there between the study of chemistry and talents for classical music composition?

Answers are unclear, but the late emeritus professor of chemistry at the Catholic University of America, Leopold May, provided an excellent resource for those wishing to investigate further. ‘The lesser known chemist-composers, past and present’ was published in the Bulletin of Historical Chemistry, Vol. 33, Number 1.

His essay listed the interests and achievements of no less than nine composer-chemists (or chemist-composers). Noting, for example, that Sir Edward (Pomp and Circumstance) Elgar (1857-1934), managed to blow up his garden water butt in an unfortunate incident involving an experiment with phosphorus.

And that Emil (The May Fairy Tale) Votoček [pictured], working from his laboratory at the Czech Technical University in Prague (known colloquially as “Devil’s Island”), developed the use of sodium nitroprusside (Na2[Fe(CN)5NO]·2H2O) as an indicator in mercurimetric titrations.

Unfortunately, the question of (possible) link(s) between classical music composition and an interest in chemistry still requires further study to come to any firm conclusions. As professor May pointed out :

“It may be that the sample of nine chemist-composers is too small to derive any correlation between the area of chemistry pursued by the chemist-composers and their music.”