Math 25b Music List

January 27  Start of Mozart’s last piano sonata, K. 576, in honor of Mozart’s birthday [BTW 576 = 242 = 4!2]

January 29  Closing theme from Mozart’s violin concerto #5, first-movement orchestral exposition [the tempo marking is “Allegro Aperto”, with the rare modifier “aperto” meaning “open” — the topic for the day was open sets]

February 3  Start of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue [the clarinet glissando at the start, as opposed to the approximation that the piano’s discrete chromatic scale provides, illustrates the notion of continuous function, which was the day’s main topic; also gave an occasion to talk up the first of Herbie Hancock’s Norton Lectures.]

February 5  “King of Kings” sequence from the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah [the topic of the day was sequences, though the musical sense of “sequence” is much more restricted than the mathematical usage: a musical “sequence” roughly corresponds to what would be called a nonconstant arithmetic progression in mathematics…]

February 7  Intro to Eubie Blake’s Charleston Rag (Blake was born on February 7, 1887, so exactly 127 [the Mersenne prime 27−1] years ago, though many sources give his birth year as 1883. He claimed to have composed the Charleston Rag melody in his teens, though the written score dates back only to 1915.)

February 10  Olympic fanfare (3 . : . 5 . : 5 |1 . 2 . 3 . 1 . |2 etc.), in honor of the Winter Olympics which started this weekend

February 12  Hail to the Chief, in honor of Lincoln’s actual birthday (though this year Presidents’ Day will be celebrated on February 17; as of early May, Harvard’s own academic calendar still misplaces the apostrophe!)

February 14  John Williams’ Olympic fanfare (5 3 3 5 5 3 654 |5 3 3 5 5 3 _ 5 |6 4 654 8   .   |.   .   4   .   |8 ) [the Olympics are still in progress, and I couldn’t think of a  forte snippet appropriate to Valentine’s Day).]

February 17  Presidents’ Day — no class, and thus no music

February 19  Chariots of Fire theme [Papathanassiou, a.k.a. Vangelis — I couldn’t come up with any winter-Olympics-specific tune]

February 21  Generic 8-10-1 finishing gesture [to mark the end of the Topology section of the class]

February 24  Opening fanfare of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, one of the first operas ever written, and the earliest one still regularly performed today (and also the first topic of Prof. Thomas Kelly’s “First Nights”); premiered 24 February 1607, i.e. exactly 407 years ago. Monteverdi reused this fanfare in the opening movement of his Vespers of 1610, which has been performed several times by our Collegium Musicum during my 25+ years here.

February 26  Trill in parallel 3-6 chords (from the end of the usual cadenza for Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto), suggested by Giuseppe Tartini who died on this day in 1770 and is known today — and even gets his name inscribed in the illustrious company of Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, et al. in our own Paine Hall — largely on the strength of his “Devil’s Trill Sonata”.

February 28  Opening of Largo al Factotum, the famous aria from The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Rossini, like the unlucky (but fictional) Frederic of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, was born on February 29, and thus celebrated only nineteen birthdays though he lived more than twice as long as Mozart. Since 2014 is not a leap year, we may mark the 222nd anniversary of Rossini’s birth on February 28.

March 3  Main theme of the Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op.53, by Chopin. Chopin was born March 1; the only musical connection I could find for 3/3 was the death of Johann Pachelbel, and I figured that Pachelbel’s one famous composition might be unwelcome despite the better fit with the date.

March 5  End of the first movement of the First Piano Concerto by Sergei Prokofiev, who died March 5 of 1953, ironically the same day as Stalin. [This music, which also ushers in the pianist’s entrance at the beginning of the movement, was heard in the ads for the 1980 film The Competition.]

March 7  Opening (and ending) two bars of the Rigaudon from the suite Le Tombeau de Couperin [“Memorial to Couperin” — Couperin’s name happens to be next to Tartini’s in Paine Hall], by Maurice Ravel, who was born March 7 in 1875.

March 10  Second Midterm exam: no music

March 12  Harry Potter theme (since March 13 will be Housing Day, which is as close as Harvard comes to a Sorting Hat)

March 14  no class (I was in New York City, and thus missed both Math 25b and HUMA’s Pi Day celebration)

March 17,19,21 Spring Break

March 24  Opening of Vivaldi’s “Spring” concerto from The Four Seasons (this is our first day of class during Spring, though it might still feel like Febrrruary 52 here in Cambrrridge…)

March 26  Beginning of the overture to Délibes’ opera Lakmé, which opened that evening in the Lowell House Opera.

March 28  Beginning of the Promenade (in the unusual 11/4 time signature) from Pictures at an Exhibition by Moussorgsky, who died March 28 in 1881 (a hard choice between him and Rachmaninoff, who died March 28 in 1943, even though he’s not usually thought of as a 20th-century composer; but it turns out Rachmaninoff appeared a couple of weeks later).

March 31  Start of the Toccata from the Toccata and Fugue in D minor by J.S.Bach, who was born 31 March 1685 (unfortunately losing Haydn, who was born exactly 47 years later)

April 2  The “You won’t have any problem with that” tag from the patter-song “Rigid Body Rotation” in Peter J. Dong’s Les Phys, which is being performed this weekend for the first time since its initial run a decade ago.

April 4  Start of the recapitulation of the first movement of Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto (a rather tenuous connection — a piece numbered 4 in 4/4 time for April 4, but it is glorious music…)

April 7  The waltz by Anton(io) Diabelli (died 7 April 1858) on which Beethoven based his Diabelli Variations Op. 120.

April 9  Start of the 18th of Rachmaninoff’s 24 Paganini Variations, which is a musical inversion of Paganini’s theme (though alas not in the sense of the Inverse Function Theorem: the graph of a function of one variable and its inverse function are related by reflection about the diagonal y=x, while musical inversion corresponds to reflection about the x-axis; the other kind of inversion is used in some of the more esoteric examples of musical Serialism, but is not musically comprehensible).

April 11  Start of Beethoven’s sonata #5 for violin and piano, Op. 24, a.k.a. the “Spring” Sonata (now that it actually feels like Springtime weather). [No, I’m not about to try to play Boulez’s Intégrales for our introduction to integration, any more than I’d attempt his …explosante-fixe… for our discussion of fixed points…]

April 14  Echad Mi Yodea (“Who Knows One?”, a counting song usually sung towards the end of the Passover Seder, which this year falls the evenings of April 14 and 15.) Another iterative Seder Song, Chad Gadya, is said to be the source of This Is the House That Jack Built; it also has just the right number of iterations to make this parody possible (Here’s another version).

April 16  Adir Bi-Mlukha, a.k.a. Ki Lo Na’eh, another Seder song, this one an alphabetical acrostic (apparently also called an Abecedarius).

April 18  Second Midterm exam: no music (in any case I’m told that music is traditionally muted at Good Friday observances, the better to celebrate Easter two days later).

April 21  Vangelis: Chariots of Fire (in honor of today’s Boston Marathon, but forgetting that I already used this two months ago for the Winter Olympics…).

April 23  Start of the Dies Irae from Verdi’s Requiem, to be performed Saturday in Sanders Theatre by hundreds of Harvard students with professional soloists.

April 25  Start of the Marseillaise, written exactly 222 years ago, and also prominently quoted in the Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture which will have its traditional Lowell House performance 9 days hence.

April 28  “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” — I found no good musical connection for April 28, but apparently it is the 145-year anniversary of the all-time track-laying record). At end of class: recap with transition to 1E4 Men Of Harvard for the Visitas prefrosh.

April 30  Start of the coda for the 1812 Overture (now only four days away; finish the class by playing the ending).