Math, A Cappella

I came across this video the other day, and even though I suspect it will not appeal to most of my readers, I could not resist posting it. This is the Klein Four performing their original composition, “Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)”.

I’m already a big fan of a cappella music; that is, people singing unaccompanied by musical instruments. It’s a great form of music for several reasons. And the math humor was just too good to pass up, even if my math training is not sufficient for me to understand many of the references. It makes me smile nonetheless.

This song was recorded back in December, 2004; the group is no longer together as members have graduated (the group was based at Northwestern University). Still, you can watch or download videos of other songs (or this one) at their web site, or even purchase their CD if you like.

re: your brains (by Jonathan Coulton)

I was introduced to this song when my friend zld included it on a CD he gave me. And last week my good buddy Alithair found this video which was made for the song.

Singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton (wp) is the genius behind this one; he wrote the song as part of his ambitious “Thing a Week” project. Mr. Coulton makes his songs available under a Creative Commons license enabling others to make legal derivations of his work. The video shown here was made by Mike “Spiff” Booth using images from World of Warcraft.

Mr. Coulton says, “I write about a lot of geeky stuff because I am a geek”—this is one of the reason his music appeals to me. But this song is just ridiculous.

[Update: clarified wording]

Hip Hop Violin

As I’ve previously posted, I am very impressed with the musical skills some people possess. My friend Jux2p0ze introduced me to a very unique video today that combining remarkable violin skills with a hip hop beat. I’m amazed by this!

By the way, the URL listed at the beginning of the video is unrelated, not in English, and not safe for work, so don’t bother.

I love to see people developing their talent in this way and doing something constructive. And it’s great they’re sharing it with the world.

The violinist is Paul Dateh and inka.one is on the turntables. If you like, you may download an MP3 version of the song from Mr. Dateh’s MySpace page.

CNN Unveils New Documentary Planet in Peril, Featuring New R.E.M. Song “Until the Day Is Done”

CNN has been featuring environmental news under a “Planet in Peril” section on its web site for a while. Now they’ve announced a four-hour documentary by the same name (wp) to premiere on 23 October, 2007. Featuring Anderson Cooper, Jeff Corwin, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the documentary features global warming, species loss, deforestation/habitat loss, and overpopulation. While I don’t think the planet is literally in peril, the pattern of life on it, including human civilization, certainly is—so sure, Earth does face peril.

They released the following trailer, which looks interesting. I do like that they are focusing on broad environmental problems, not just on global warming.

As an added bonus, the trailer features the debut of a new R.E.M. song, “Until the Day Is Done”! Planet in Peril will feature this song similar to the way An Inconvenient Truth featured Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” (see my prior post on this). I really like this song already, and it seems to fit the feature so well.

Try This at Home: Variations on Rihanna’s “Umbrella”

I love live music, and I also like listening to or watching recordings of people performing. It’s nice to hear them play either original compositions or popular music, and sometimes the alternate, simplified versions can be quite good! In fact there are times I prefer listening to a simple piano rendition of a song over the full recording. I’m also impressed by the skill and creativity amateur musicians may possess, and now, with the Internet, they can make their performances available for all. It’s interesting to see in how many different styles a song can be played.

To demonstrate this, I’d like to showcase a song and then show a number of performances of a “cover” of the song. The song I’ve selected is “Umbrella” by the artist Rihanna. There are actually a number of major artists covering the song; I’ve omitted any well-known performers.

To begin with, here is the original song:

This young woman, Marie Digby, plays in a sweeter, less intense style.

Next is a young man named Ben Deignan who has performed at a coffee shop my friend frequents. It’s jazzier version, not so much like the other renditions. (thanks Jux2p0ze!)

These two harmonize quite well. An electric keyboard provides the percussion.

The next artist doesn’t allow her videos to be embedded in other sites, so I can’t show it here. She uses a ukelele instead of a guitar—it’s a refreshing bit of variation—so you can see the video at YouTube.

And finally, probably my favorite: though having hair that long would certainly annoy me, it’s a good cover and I was especially amused by the cardboard box percussion.

Please feel free to share any finds of your own!

This post is dedicated to Skim.

I Need to Wake Up

“I Need to Wake Up” is the beautiful song Melissa Etheridge wrote for An Inconvenient Truth. It is the only time a song from a documentary has won the Academy Award for Best Song.

It is a wonderful song, catchy and meaningful. The lyrics are beautifully apropos, expressing horror and shock transforming into determination.

I remember the first time I watched An Inconvenient Truth. I knew about global warming before that. We’d learned about it in high school, and in recent years there were increasing reports in the scientific literature of its effects on weather systems and ecosystems. But yet, very few people appreciated the magnitude or urgency of this problem. There can be little doubt that An Inconvenient Truth brought global warming to the public’s attention and has played a significant role in the current environmental movement.

Al Gore asked Melissa Etheridge to write a song for the film, and she agreed. After watching the film, she immediately felt moved to write the song, but wasn’t sure where to start. Her partner suggested she write about how the film made her feel. Etheridge asked herself, “What do I want to hear? I want to hear somebody else who feels the way I feel, which is ‘My God, have I been sleeping?’ ”

I think a lot of us had been sleeping.