Friday, September 11, 2015

Songs of mathematics . . .

     Larry Lesser is a songwriter who uses lyrics for teaching as well as entertainment.  A varied sample of his creations for doing this are presented in his article "Mathematical lyrics;  noteworthy endeavours in education" found in the "Poetry and Mathematics / Special Issue" of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, March-June 2014).
     One of the article's enchanting items is a song for children -- "Circle Song" -- which Lesser has written to the familiar tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"; this lyric offers a way to remember critical formulas for a circle.

Circle Song     by Lawrence Mark Lesser

Take your finger 'round the jar:
Circumf'rence equals 2πr!  
For area, you multiply
r squared by that number π.
Twinkle, twinkle, you're a star:
Knowing math will take you far!

Lesser has a video performance of "Circle Song" available during the first 40 seconds at this YouTube link
     Another of Lesser's teaching-lyrics (excerpted in the afore-mentioned JMA article and available in its entirety here) is "Hotel Infinity" --  written to the tune of "Hotel California," a 1970's hit song by the Eagles.  These lines introduce the counter-intuitive aspects of infinity by retelling and setting to music a paradoxical tale by mathematician David Hilbert.   (And, if we can sing it perhaps we can understand it! )

from  Hotel Infinity     by Lawrence Mark Lesser

On a dark desert highway -- not much scenery
Except this long hotel stretchin’ far as I could see.
Neon sign in front read “No Vacancy",
But it was late and I was tired, so I went inside to plea.

The clerk said, “No problem.  Here’s what can be done--
We’ll move those in a room to the next higher one.
That will free up the first room and that’s where you can stay.”
I tried understanding that as I heard him say:

CHORUS:  “Welcome to the hotel called Infinity  --
      Where every room is full (every room is full)
      Yet there’s room for more.
      Yeah, plenty of room at the hotel called Infinity -
      Move ‘em down the floor (move em’ down the floor)
      To make room for more.” 

     An abecedarian poem (on statistics) coauthored by Lesser has been previously posted in this blog and is available hereThis link leads to lyrics (including his) that won the “Pi Day of the Century” song contest announced 3/14/15 by the National Museum of Mathematics.  And his national statistics song contest winning entries (including this year’s) are posted here.

     Parodies of familiar songs are not uncommon in mathematics and a search within this blog using the terms "parody" and "lyrics" will help an interested reader to find a variety of these.

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