Category Archives: Music

Merel and Tony Live at Discovery Green

merel_and_tony

Merel (standing, far left) and Tony (sitting, far right)

On Saturday, Cathy and I took Eliot to Discovery Green in downtown, Houston, where we saw the musical duo Merel and Tony perform live (with their band “The Woe Woe Woes”). They have a fresh, unique sound, and I highly recommend checking them out:

Merel and Tony’s Facebook Page

A Song by Merel and Tony

I met Tony about a year ago through a mutual friend who kept telling me random facts about him. “Did you know that Tony writes music for This American Life?” he asked me. And on another occasion, “Tony writes books, binds them himself, and sells them at private readings.” It didn’t take long for me to start calling Tony “the most interesting man in the world.” And so it was a treat to finally get to hear him in concert.

The weather was beautiful, and we thoroughly enjoyed relaxing in the park over a cup of lemonade, listening to the music, and watching as the sun set behind the band. After a few songs, Eliot said to us as he looked longingly at the stage, “I want to sing.”

“What do you want to sing?” we asked.

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” he replied.

While the musicians were taking a break, he approached the stage to ask them if they would let him sing, but he turned shy at the last second and posed for a photograph instead:

eliot-with-m-and-t

Join me on Twitter: @OlenRambow

Your Dream Lives On

I’m proud to share “Your Dream Lives On,” a new song that I recently completed. You can watch the music video on YouTube (below) or buy the mp3 here.

If you like it, please support my creative endeavors by purchasing the mp3 (It’s only one dollar!):

olenrambow.bandcamp.com

If you want the sheet music, click here to download it.

And here are the lyrics:

She was just a little girl,
Dreamin’ bigger than she knew she should.
She’d seen how cold the world could be
And had in mind to change it if she could.

She said, “I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world.
I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls.
I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness.
I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”

Well, life made her a widow
With a baby boy to bring up on her own.
And she spent all of her energy
Providing for that boy till he left home.

And all too soon, the years had slipped away,
And she lay dying in her bed.
As the tears were streaming down her cheeks,
She looked me in the eye, and then she said:

“I searched so hard but never found
Those healing words. I never sang that song.
I never lit that fire, never led the march,
And now my dream is gone.”

And I told her, “Mama, your dream will never die.
I watched you live your life. You made me who I am.
I heard you sing your song and saw you lead the march.
You lit the fire inside of me, and so your dream lives on.”

“And now I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world.
I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls.
I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness.
I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”

Well, that was forty years ago,
And now it’s time for me to go as well.
As the tears come streaming down my cheeks,
I take my daughter’s hand, and then I say:

“I searched so hard but never found
Those healing words. I never sang that song.
I never lit that fire, never led the march,
And now the dream is gone.”

And she says, “Daddy, your dream will never die.
I watched you live your life. You made me who I am.
I heard you sing your song and saw you lead the march.
You lit the fire inside of me, and so your dream lives on.”

“And now, I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world.
I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls.
I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness.
I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”

“I’m gonna sing the song that will save the world.
I’m gonna speak the words that will heal our souls.
I’m gonna light the fire that will burn away the darkness.
I’m gonna lead the march that will make us whole.”

‘Cause she was just a little girl,
Dreaming bigger than she knew she should.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

matrix

(Click here for the PDF version of this presentation.)

Math is everywhere, hidden in places where we don’t even expect to see it. For example, take a look at the following image:

Slide2

What do you see?

Most people say “music.” People who have studied the piano might recognize this as a piano score. And a true enthusiast might recognize it as the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

What you’ve probably never thought of before, though, is that a musical score is actually a form of graph. It tells the performer what combination of notes to play at a given moment in time. In other words, it shows sound as a function of time.

In the image below, I’ve added labeled axes to draw attention to this:moonlight_sonata_graph

Now consider a photograph. Below is one of the most spectacular images I found when Googling “photograph.” (Thanks to whoever posted it!) I love how it shows the strings of mucus frozen in time.

tiger_photo

Anyway, a photograph itself is also just a type of graph — and not just metaphorically. In fact, even the way images are produced in our brains is just a way of numerically graphing the intensity and frequency of light that falls on different portions of our retinas. In essence, your retina is the x-y plane and the light is the quantity being graphed.

Below is what the photograph looks like when graphed in three dimensions from different angles, with the colors changed to a different color scale:

tiger_photo_graphs_1

Now here is the same graph when viewed from directly above, so that the tiger is easier to make out:
tiger_photo_graphs_2

Here’s another example of a great photo:
frog_photo

And here it is with the same procedure applied to it. This one works a little better than the tiger because it isn’t filled with little white spots that end up looking like noisy spikes in the graph.frog_photo_graphs_1

Below is the graph when viewed from directly above, just as I did for the tiger. Pretty cool, huh?frog_photo_graphs_2

Now consider something that really seems to have nothing to do with math: a piece of literature. Below is the first paragraph from A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
Tale_of_2_cities

It, too, can be considered as a type of graph. It’s a graph that tells the reader what words to speak or think as a function of time:Tale_of_2_cities_graphThere are, of course, many other examples of graphs:

footballstragety

What I’m saying is that anything can be thought of as a kind of graph. Really, though, it’s not just graphs that are so powerful, but numbers themselves. This is because numbers encode information. For example, an entire song can be encoded in a single number. So can a photograph, or even a movie.

What’s particularly fascinating is that physicists now believe that physical reality itself is composed of information. In fact, the universe might even be digital. And since numbers encode information, it is possible that the entire universe could be represented by a single number.

Take a minute to meditate on that.

universe

If that’s true, then there’s only one thing we can conclude…

matrix_drop_math_is_everything

* * * * *

This post is based on a PowerPoint presentation I made for my math students in an attempt to inspire them. Here it is in PDF form:

Math Is Everything (PDF version)

A Jazzy Happy Birthday

HappyBirthday1stLine

Click to download the score.

I wrote a jazzy little arrangement of “Happy Birthday” for piano a while back, and my mother recently transcribed it for me. Here’s the score, and here’s a recording of me playing it as a coda after a more traditional rendition. (The jazzy part comes after the “and many more” line, about 20 seconds into the recording.) Note that it’s in 4/4 time.

No Height, No Depth — An Original Praise Song

Emerging from the tomb (inside view).

Click to hear the song on YouTube.

A few years ago, I wrote a very nice praise song (if I do say so myself), titled “No Height, No Depth.” It creates a rather neat bridge between the idea that we cannot escape from God’s penetrating understanding of our hearts (a terrifying prospect), as described in Psalm 139, and the promise that nothing can separate us from God’s love (a comforting thought), as stated in Romans 8:38-39.

I finally got around to creating a lead sheet for the song, and I’d like to share it here. Feel free to use it and distribute it as much as you like. Click on the image below to download it in PDF form:

Click to download the lead sheet for the song.

Click to download the lead sheet for the song.

Click here (or on the picture at the top of this post) to see the music “video.” Just make sure you stick around long enough to hear the chorus! (It starts at about 1:05.) That’s the exciting part. (Actually, the part leading up to the chorus, around 0:55, is pretty cool too.)

I would be just tickled pink of someone else were to actually record this song, because I really think it has a lot of potential. As always, if you do so and post it on YouTube (and send me a link), I promise to send you a lollipop with my initials engraved on it.

Here are the lyrics in full:

No Height, No Depth

by Olen Rambow

You have searched me and you know me—when I sit and when I rise.
You discern my coming and going; you are familiar with my ways.
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You alone truly know my heart.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Wherever I am, Lord, you are there.

No height, no depth, can separate me from your love, O Lord;
And neither life nor death can overcome the work of Christ in me.

Righteous king of all creation—God of glory, Lord on high,
You are blameless, pure, and holy; saints before you prostrate lie.
Who can enter into your presence?
With you, Lord, no wicked man can dwell.
I stand before your throne of judgment,
Deserving your wrath and condemnation.
I’m desperate for hope. Lord, make a way!

Now comes Christ, my intercessor. He has heard my anguished cry.
With full grace, he takes up my burdens, and with the Father’s will complies.
See him bear his cross up to Calvary.
See him beaten, stabbed, and crucified.
Into a tomb they sealed his body,
But on the third day, he rose in glory.
He conquered the grave and set me free.

No height, no depth, can separate me from your love, O Lord;
Neither life nor death can overcome the work of Christ in me.

I proclaim your victory.

Palindrome

Palindrome1

The music video. (Click to see it on YouTube.)

I had the pleasure of attending the final round of the Van Cliburn piano competition this year, and the experience inspired me to sit down and write a little piece for the piano. The result, a fiery little ditty I’ve named “Palindrome” (due to its overall form; it is not a strict palindrome), is quite fun to play. My friend Saqib filmed me performing it, and we put together a pretty cool video. Click here (or on the picture above) to see it on YouTube.

Click to download the score.

Click to download the score.

If you’re interested in playing the piece yourself, click here to download the score in PDF form. If anyone actually does decide to play it, please let me know. It will make me happy. And if you send or post a recording of it, I’ll mail you a lollipop with my initials engraved on it. There could be no better treat than that.

My 2003 Piano Album

Here are some piano recordings I made in the summer of 2003. I spent that summer working for Professor Qimiao Si doing theoretical condensed matter research. I didn’t feel like I was very good at it, but I made some contributions to a paper that can be found here. I just found out that this paper later inspired an atom-cooling experiment that was published in Nature.

Anyway, when I wasn’t running computer simulations, I was practicing the piano. My inspiration at the keys waxes and wanes over a period of about four years. It was at a high point then. There’s nothing like condensed matter physics to bring out your inner musician. Here are links to the recordings on YouTube:

Etude in F Minor (Chopin)

Funeral March (Chopin)

Ballade in G Minor (Chopin)

Fantasie-Impromptu (Chopin)

Surprise

The photographs are all from a March 2010 trip to Brazos Bend State Park, the day after we found out that Cathy had cancer. Each picture has an animal in it, though some of them are hard to find.