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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

I Could Write a Song a Hundred Miles Long by Sam M. '07

I only sing Coldplay because it will help me get girls.

DID YOU KNOW? In his second autobiography, published in 1991, Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have slept with almost 20,000 women. Since he was 56 at the time of that statement, this would correspond to Wilt having slept with approximately 1.3 new women every day of his life since age 14.

So, although he may not have actually scored 20,000 women, Wilt did score 100 points in a single basketball game. He did so in Hersheypark Arena, a twenty-minute drive from my house.

The only thing I scored this semester was the music for “All In Green Went My Love Riding,” my final project for 21M.303: Writing in Tonal Forms 1. The class is traditionally taught around two major projects: a minuet in the Baroque style and an art song in the traditional style of lieder. This semester Dr. Elena Ruehr, who has the greatest Michigan accent of all time, chose to teach the class such that every Wednesday, we’d bring in our compositions and get to work on them in small groups. It was really helpful and made me feel like she was really hearing and caring about my music as I was writing it.

After my baroque string quartet ended up sounding a little bit like a cross between Schubert and Debussy, I was really excited when Dr. Ruehr, who composes contemporary music herself, said, “Okay, so, for the songs, you can do anything you want. Make it atonal, modern, spoken word, whatever.” I think she didn’t really know what she was getting into when she said that. Since the other three people in my small group were all composing basically normal art songs, I thought that mine would be the weirdest one in the class. I was in for quite a surprise when I showed up on performance day and heard a slow transcendental meditation in 5/4 about a dead starfish on a beach and a septuplet-filled “paranoid” take on Robert Frost’s House-Fear that switched into falsetto every three notes or so.

But mine was still pretty weird. Look and listen for yourself (that way I can claim to have an audience of tens of people).

the score

the music

Perform it at your own senior recital! But tell me first so that I can rewrite the piano part, for I fear there are a few sections that are impossible, or at least needlessly complicated. I got a lot of praise from the singer for writing a reasonable vocal part, which makes sense since I’m a singer myself. However, I’m an atrocious pianist, so I just assume that anything I can play on piano at half-tempo will be no problem for an accomplished pianist. I think my rule faltered in at least a few places writing this part.

Seriously though, just having the opportunity to write something like that and get individual feedback from a real live composer was amazing. While some students were less than thrilled about the more free-form, less theory-based nature of the class…

DR. RUEHR: “I wonder why none of the other professors who have taught this class have allowed you to write atonal music?”
DISGRUNTLED STUDENT: “You know that it’s called writing in TONAL forms, right?”

…faculty-student interaction is so great at MIT that you can be this sassy with all of your professors!

I think that’s it for today, Parappa.

22 responses to “I Could Write a Song a Hundred Miles Long”

  1. Xan says:

    Ooh. I like your composition. A lot. Weird, but upbeat, and with a real sort of narrative quality behind it. :D

  2. sarah says:

    yes coldplay will definitely get u girls

  3. Ruth '07 says:

    And James Blunt. Probably Oasis, too.

  4. milena says:

    iih I love Swallowed in the Sea!!! that song is awesome.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I meant to say “ooh” not “iih”. “iih” sounds just weird.

  6. nghi says:

    thanks for the answer and the post, sam. =)

    i didn’t read this poem by e e cummings, yet.

  7. cynthia says:

    Hey Sam-

    Just checking out the MIT website. Neat music. Sounded confusedly optimistic. Have you considered putting a clarinet in there too?

    Got a question for you…my son (now in 6th grade) is a total gear head and has stated that he wants to attend MIT when he graduates High School. We live in California but visited Boston a few years back…the memory of our trip & tour of the MIT campus stuck in his mind!!

    The question: How can we best prepare him for not only the admissions process, but also the rigor of the coursework? My husband and I are also techies (Electrical engineering and Computer Science graduates at other schools) but from a different era…before 5-point GPA’s and the now-ubiquitous IB and ALL-AP programs, etc etc.

    Who at the university would you recommend we speak with? Any advice you can give would be much appreciated.
    Cynthia K
    [email protected]

  8. lindsay says:

    Interesting. Yay for rests in odd places! But I like it. Good luck with that Coldplay.

  9. Molly says:

    Wow, this is excellent. Great use of meter and tonal changes. I am applying for a double major in music…if this is some of the stuff MIT is helping turn out, WOW, I am IMPRESSED!!! smile

  10. James K-C says:

    Wow, cool tune man. Seriously. Even with the gross midi sounds. I’ll admit, based on the “math geek” MIT student steriotype, I wasn’t expecting it to be good, but I’m impressed. You’ve got some really cool ideas. At times it seemed kind of random and disjointed, but other parts flowed nicely, and my overall impression is positive. The theme/refrain (I think) thing that was first happened near the beginning shortly after the voice part came in and then got repeated a couple times at the end was really cool (If you can figure out what I’m talking about). Definitely keep writing music!

  11. James K-C says:

    Oh, I just noticed the score, the theme I was talking about was the thing that happens during “four lean hounds crouched low and smiling.” That’s definitely my favorite part.

  12. Q says:


    This blog is freaking hilarious.

  13. Q says:

    Um. I was referring to the quote about him sleeping with 1.3 women everyday since he was 14. Dang HTML for screwing up my awesome French quotations!

  14. lily says:

    It’s wonderful,even more interesting.I like your writing style. by the way, which major are you studying now?

  15. kanika says:

    hey sam …ur blogs are really interestin ..although im nt a part of MIT as yet but i hope(wish,crave,long n all other adjectives dat u can think of dat express an intense longing fer sumthn)…i will soon be at MIT n its gr8 to knw that there are coldplay fans at MIT too,,,i was of the view that its all bou science n nobel laureates..coldplay are like the gawds of absolutely in luv wid chris martin n his husky voice…well i was jus wonderin whether u cud talk to ne of the admissions officers n lure them into leetin miss kanika singh from india into MIT i cud share all my coldplay muzik wid u..parachutes, x n y , rush of blood ..all of it….lolllllzzzzzzzz
    happy new year to all
    applicant from india

  16. Sam says:

    Cynthia — Honestly, if your son’s in sixth grade, I wouldn’t even worry about it right now, especially about speaking to anyone at any universities, probably for at least three or four more years. When I think of myself in sixth grade… I didn’t win any award in any science fair, even at the school level (and they gave out like twenty per year), I never had the highest GPA in my class, and I didn’t even like my science classes that much. I did do fairly well in MathCounts, but that’s about it. Heck, if your son is passionate about MIT, he’s already far ahead of me. I think I wanted to be a psychology major and go to Penn State at that stage of my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with Penn State, but I’m glad I ended up applying to MIT.

    Molly — A double major in music is definitely possible no matter what your first major is. I found out this term that I am unfortunately about 4 classes away, and now I really regret taking those stupid cell bio and electronic circuits electives when I could have been taking Opera or Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven.

    lily — I’m a chemical engineer by day. Course 10–check it out!

    kanika — Well, if you lived in my dorm I could stream all of your music off of iTunes. Maybe I’ll try to sneak into Ben’s office and use the hypnotic strains of “Amsterdam” to convince him to let you in.

    Thanks to all who mentioned my music too–it was really a blast to work on it in the midst of all my crazy fuell cell calculations.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Nice… ocarina of time meets final fantasy

  18. Mikey says:

    Haha, I never knew about Michigan/Midwest accents til I came to MIT…I need to meet Prof Ruehr sometime to experience this. : P

  19. dksl says:

    i think ur music will not sell

  20. pennutty says:

    Iam a 11th class student from kerala…I would like to join in mit for aerospace engineering on year 2008…But i don’t know what to do…I decided to clear SAT mathe matics level 1 and SAT physics and TOFEL…But i dont know how to prepare for these exams…Can you please send the topics for these exams and what i have to do after clearing exams for the admission..

    and i would like to contact you my email id:[email protected]