1. 2021
    Apr
    02

    Happy arXiv Fool's Day!

    When scientists the world over turn their attention to the floofy objects on their keyboards and Taylor Swift’s emotional state, that means only one thing: time to make an update to the list of arXiv joke papers! That’s right, it’s April Fool’s Day 2021, academia style. Here’s my wrapup.

    This time, with some help from Twitter, I found eleven submissions covering a wide range of fields. Representing the stalwart astro-ph, we have the aforementioned floofy object rotation paper and an infectious model of dark matter. From high energy theory, we have a prediction of when publication of conjectures is going to bring on the heat death of the universe. In the category of popular physics, there’s an investigation of curious behavior involving a laster pointer — with one of the best paper titles of all time — and a very practical study of how certain tasks always take longer than we think (and why I never finish writing blog posts). There are also two excellent artificial intelligence studies that definitively settle whether Jaffa cakes are cakes and tell you which Taylor Swift song you should be listening to. Taking an interesting “meta” perspective on arXiv Fool …

  2. 2020
    Dec
    25

    Hope Is Born Again by Jim Brickman and Point Of Grace

    For the coveted final spot on my list, I’ve made a choice that surprised even me when I first considered it. Hope Is Born Again combines the exquisite piano ornamentation of Jim Brickman with an uplifiting melody sung by Point Of Grace. And to top it off, the string and percussion accompaniment beautifully complement the piano and vocals, all parts blending together without overwhelming each other. No other piece of music better captures the idealism of the holiday, making this the perfect song for Christmas Day itself.

    May you all find something that brings you hope this holiday season. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  3. 2020
    Dec
    24

    Hallelujah by Mannheim Steamroller

    Today’s post is a bit sentimental because Hallelujah From “The Messiah” is perhaps the song that was most instrumental (haha) in making Mannheim Steamroller my favorite band.

    When I was a kid, my favorite radio station played Christmas songs nonstop from the day after Thanksgiving until December 26. I liked Christmas music well enough, but most of it was kind of forgettable. Every once in a while, though, I’d hear a song that stood out from the pack, something that captured my interest so much that I’d stay up late every day listening for that song in the hope that the DJ would announce its name. Several of those childhood favorites are on my list; even among them, though, Hallelujah was special. It was the first Mannheim Steamroller song I’d ever heard; it was so different from all the traditional carols I’d heard before, so much more exciting and vibrant and full of holiday energy, that I just had to know what it was and who performed it. For years it was my white Christmas whale. And when I finally found out the name and the artist, I knew I’d be a fan for …

  4. 2020
    Dec
    23

    Sleigh Ride by the Boston Pops

    Today’s Christmas song is an all-time classic. The Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler were the first to perform Sleigh Ride, back in 1949, and since then it’s become one of the most frequently performed holiday songs ever. This particular recording is from ten years later, but it’s probably as close as you’ll get in digital form to the original.

    As much as I love the modern pop version of Sleigh Ride, the Boston Pops’ orchestral version is unmatched in its elegance. Between the ever-present sleigh bells and the consistent beat, it really captures the feel of adventuring through a wintery landscape. And to top it off it includes the distinguishing feature of Sleigh Ride, the trumpet horse whinny at the end. This song definitely deserves a spot in any holiday music collection.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  5. 2020
    Dec
    22

    Frosty The Snowman by Mannheim Steamroller

    Frosty’s gettin’ down in Mannheim Steamroller’s arrangement of Frosty The Snowman. I have no idea how they came up with this one, but it’s bold, kind of trippy, and a ton of fun. Very much unlike any Christmas song you’d hear from anyone other than Mannheim Steamroller.

    In fact, this song bears only a passing resemblance to the classic tune. It does include the original melody in some parts, but there’s only just enough of that to remind you that it is Frosty The Snowman they’re playing. Most of the music is a techno beat with different riffs played over it. The liner notes hinted at a video of Frosty doing a techno dance to this song, but I don’t think that ever materialized, which is a shame because it would have to be amazing.

    Have a listen and add some funk to your Christmas playlists!

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  6. 2020
    Dec
    21

    Winter Wonderland by Eurythmics

    Eurythmics’ version of Winter Wonderland, today’s Christmas song, might be a bit more of a niche taste than most other songs on this list. It doesn’t do anything fancy, in fact it sticks pretty close to the classic melody and lyrics, but the instrumentation has a distinctly 80’s style. I grew up on 80’s music, so I’m all for that, but unlike most of the other songs I’ve posted, it doesn’t do anything really special that makes me want to evangelize it.

    Still, it’s my list. I’ve been enjoying this song ever since I was a little kid, so it would feel wrong to leave it out. And I do legitimately think it fits well into a mix with a lot of my other favorites. See what you think!

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  7. 2020
    Dec
    20

    Carol Of The Bells by Mannheim Steamroller

    Today’s Christmas song is a bit of a wild one, but it’s an absolutely brilliant piece of writing. Mannheim Steamroller’s arrangement of Carol Of The Bells starts out with the classic melody but quickly jumps through so many different orchestrations, variations, and entirely new themes that you could almost call it an original piece inspired by Carol Of The Bells. It’s got bells of all kinds, a rockin’ drum beat, intense bass, and little brass fanfares sprinkled in throughout. Nearly half the piece is written in a major key, providing a great contrast to the minor key of the original.

    Of course, the original carol is really repetitive, especially without words, so they had to do something to make an instrumental arrangement interesting. But it could have been terrible. It’s a testament to the brilliance of Mannheim Steamroller that all the ornaments they added work together beautifully. Turn your volume up and have a listen.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  8. 2020
    Dec
    19

    Up On The Housetop by Pentatonix

    Normally I’m not a fan of a capella, but Pentatonix is doing something kind of special here. They’re incredibly good at making their voices sound like, well, not voices, and they’re so precise they sync up as well as the best instrumental groups. It’s hard to believe that this is only people singing.

    Their upbeat rendition of Up On The Housetop is one of my favorite arrangements of this tune. When I first heard it, this track almost singlehandedly impressed me so much that I bought three of their albums (which I’m not sure was a worth it in retrospect, but I digress). It’s mostly true to the original melody and lyrics, but they give it an edge with off-key transitions between verses. The whole song comes together really well and I definitely recommend it.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  9. 2020
    Dec
    18

    I Saw Three Ships by Jon Schmidt

    Many of my favorite Christmas songs are pretty intense, driving rock or upbeat pop. Today, I have something very different.

    Jon Schmidt’s arrangement of I Saw Three Ships is a solo piano piece. The whole song is based on the rhythm of the main melody, so it’s “straightforward” in a sense. But I’m amazed at how rich he manages to makes the song while sticking to that simple motif. It builds up from the simple melody at the beginning to add more and more complex variations, harmonies, and countermelodies at every repetition, until he returns to the original melody to conclude the piece.

    Despite only being three minutes long, there’s a lot to keep your ear interested in this one. I actually listed to the song on loop probably 25 times while writing this post, and if anything I like it even more now than when I started.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.

  10. 2020
    Dec
    17

    Little Drummer Boy by Mannheim Steamroller

    Mannheim Steamroller’s rendition of Little Drummer Boy is another one of those songs that I’d put in the running for my all-time favorite. It starts with a simple snare drum and progressively adds on layers of other instruments, first synths and then later transitioning to acoustic instruments, so the tambre evolves to become more “real” over the course of the song. By the time the song’s climax rolls around, there are several interacting layers of rhythm, but they blend together amazingly well. Whenever a composer manages to pull off that kind of complexity, I’m all ears.

    You can now get the entire series of songs as a Spotify playlist.