2016 Giants of Science


Directed by Laura Backley


Giants of Science is a collection of 17 entertaining and inspiring songs highlighting the lives and work of great scientists and mathematicians throughout history who have shaped our understanding of the world. Written by ten contemporary composers, including David Bass, Michael Ching, Andrea Gaudette, David Haines, Ruth Hertzman-Miller, Daniel Kallman, Dan Kohane, Bruce Lazarus, Tim Maurice, and Lauren Mayer, Giants of Science was performed by the NCFO Science Festival Chorus as part of the tenth annual Cambridge Science Festival, April 16-24, 2016.

The Science Festival Chorus comprised more than 50 adults and children (ages 6 and up) from Cambridge and surrounding communities, as well as about a dozen guest artists from Haggerty School in Cambridge. The three free performances during the week of the Cambridge Science Festival included:

A complete set of lyrics from Giants of Science can be found here.

See below for demos of the music from Giants of Science and information about the composers and lyricists who wrote it. The performance audio and video (well, more of a slide show, really) is included for some of the songs and will be for all of them soon.

 David Bass David Bass is a composer who feels he needs no
introduction. Many who have been introduced to
him feel the same way.

Giants of Science features one song by David Bass:

  • It Would Have Been Enough (world premiere) - This klezmer paean to German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) is based obliquely on the Passover song Dayenu, which appears now and then in the piano accompaniment.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
 Michael Ching Michael Ching is a composer and conductor, who is best known nationally
for his innovative operas. His most recent opera, Speed Dating Tonight! has
already been performed over 25 times. His a cappella opera adaptation of
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2011) was released on Albany
Records. His newest project, Alice Ryley, A Savannah Ghost Story, had its
premiere in October 2015. He is music director of Nickel City Opera in
Buffalo, NY. Michael lives in Iowa and would enjoy hearing from you about
his pieces at MrBillow@juno.com.
 Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox’s fourth book of poems, Days of Shame and Failure, was
published in 2015. The New York Times Book Review said, “it hits, with
deceptive ease, all the poetic marks a reader could want: intellectual
curiosity, emotional impact, beautiful language, surprising revelation
and arresting imagery.” Her poems have appeared four times in the Best
American Poetry
series (1997, 2003, 2006, and 2011) as well as in such
publications as The New York Times and The New Yorker. She currently
teaches at Iowa State University.

Giants of Science features one song by Michael Ching and Jennifer L. Knox:

  • Ada Lovelace (world premiere) - The only legitimate child of poet George Lord Byron, English mathematician and writer Ada Countess of Lovelace (1815 - 1852) is regarded as having written the first ever computer program.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]

 Andrea Gaudette

Andrea Gaudette has been playing music professionally since age 14 when
her first job carried the title "substitute organist" for her parish church.
During high school, she spent two summers studying theory and composition
at Tanglewood. In 1990, she received her Bachelor's Degree in Music with
Academic Honors in Composition from New England Conservatory of Music.
She has been teaching piano, theory, composition, voice, choir, instrumental
ensembles and creative arts to children in a variety of settings since 1988.
She currently teaches music in the Cambridge Public Schools, including the
Haggerty School and the Cambridgeport School. Ms. Gaudette lives in
Cambridge with her husband and 18-year-old daughter. All three have been
active in NCFO since 2006.

Giants of Science features one song by Andrea Gaudette, plus a song written by Andrea in collaboration with her third-grade students:

  • Madame Marie Curie (world premiere) - Polish-born physicist and chemist Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two. Element 96, Curium, is named in honor of her and her husband, Pierre (1859 - 1906).
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Galileo (world premiere) - Andrea Gaudette guided her third grade students at the Haggerty School in Cambridge as they wrote this song honoring Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642). Galileo's public embrace of Copernicus's heliocentric model of the the solar system was judged to be heresy by the Roman Inquisition, and he spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
 David Haines

Trained at Bristol University, London's Guildhall School, and Banff School
of Fine Arts, David Haines has written fifteen music theater works,
including The Puzzle Jigs, which was performed by NCFO in 2003 and
2008. He has worked with many thousands of schoolchildren and has a
special interest in using song to enhance the science curriculum. The
NCFO Science Festival Chorus performed David's science oratorios
Lifetime: Songs of Life and Evolution in 2007 and 2012 and Powers of
Ten in 2008 and 2014. The latter was the official opening event of the
first USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC. David has
been the Cambridge Science Festival's Songwriter-in-Residence from 2011
to 2016. He lives and teaches in Teignmouth, Devon in southwestern England.

Giants of Science features one song by David Haines, plus a collection of songs written by David in collaboration with young children during his songwriting workshops in the Cambridge Public Schools:

  • Mr. Darwin, Mr. Wallace, Mr. Matthew - The journeys of English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882) aboard the Beagle are celebrated, appropriately enough, by this sea shanty. Working with British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist Alfred Russell Wallace (1823 - 1913), Darwin established that all species of life descended from common ancestors, evolving through a process of natural selection.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Songs written with young school children (world premiere) – Every year David Haines works with about 50 classrooms in the Cambridge schools, guiding the students as they write a song about some aspect of their science curriculum. These are some songs about specific scientists throughout history and what it's like to do research:
    • To Be a Scientist - The scientific method, from formulation of a hypothesis to publishing your results
    • Newton's Laws - It was Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) who wrote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
    • Through My Magnifying Glass - Without tools to assist observation, a scientist is limited indeed.
    • Unsung Hero - Without Michael Collins (1930- ) staying in the Lunar Orbiter, Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and Buzz Aldrin (1930- ) never could have been the first men to walk on the moon.
    • Strobe - Legendary engineer Harold "Doc" Edgerton's (1903-1990) exhibits of strobe technology still grace the hallways at MIT.
    • What Happened to the Marigolds? - As we saw with Michelson and Morley, negative results don't necessarily make an experiment a failure.
      [performance audio/performance video/demo]

 Ruth Hertzman-Miller

Ruth Hertzman-Miller is a Boston-area
physician and musician who has studied
composition with John Stewart at Harvard,
John Morrison at Longy, and Stephen Savage
at New England Conservatory. She performs
regularly with NCFO and was last seen as
Deputy Deputy Prime Minister in the 2016
production, The Weaver’s Wedding.

 Meg Muckenhoupt

Meg Muckenhoupt works in Communications at
the Broad Institute. She is widely published, but she
feels her finest work was “Horton Sees a Pluto,”
which appeared in the Annals of Improbable
Research. Remember, a planet’s a planet no
matter how small. She is delighted to hear her
lyrics debut in this year’s Cambridge Science

 Joanna Brown

Joanna Brown is a physician and writer living in
Providence, Rhode Island. Her poetry has appeared or
is forthcoming in the chapbook 2 Horatio, Topography
and Bird’s Thumb. While peanut allergic herself,
she’s delighted to be a part of a science festival that
celebrates the “Peanut Man” and other great scientists.

Giants of Science features one song by Ruth Hertzman-Miller and Meg Muckenhoupt:

  • The Ballad of Michelson and Morley – American physicists Albert Michelson and Edwin Morley set out to detect the substance through which light flows, but their elegant experiments found no evidence of "aether" at all. Negative results can be earthshaking as well, and in 1907 Michelson became the first American scientist to win a Nobel Prize.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]

Giants of Science features one song by Ruth Hertzman-Miller and Joanna Brown:

  • Peanut Man (world premiere) - A bluegrass-folk fusion song paying tribute to American botanist and inventor George Washington Carver (c1861-1943), who researched and promoted alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, helping poor farmers provide their own food and other products to improve their quality of life.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]

 Daniel Kallman Daniel Kallman's compositions for orchestra, winds, and choir
are widely published and performed across North America,
Europe and East Asia. His steady stream of commissions includes
music for worship, theater, dance, and the young musician.
Kallman has composed for the National Symphony Orchestra,
the Air Force Academy Band, the Hong Kong Children's Choir,
the Minnesota Orchestra, A Prairie Home Companion,
and a wide variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles.
The principal publishers of Kallman’s music are Morning Star
Music (church choir), Hal Leonard (choral), Shawnee/Mark
Foster Press (children’s choir), Boosey and Hawkes (winds and
choral), and Lauren Keiser Music (orchestral). All of Kallman’s
works are catalogued on his website.
 Christine Kallman Christine Kallman is a playwright, lyricist, poet and musician.
Her work has been supported and produced by arts
organizations, theaters, schools, colleges and churches. She has
taught music and theater to young people in the classroom,
theater camp, and private studio. Among her works are full-
length plays, one-acts, and musicals, including Donata’s Gift, a
holiday musical based on the Italian legend of Old Befana. Her
most recent play, A Falling Out, is set at the time of the Cuban
Missile Crisis and was presented last spring in a staged reading
supported by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council through a
McKnight Artists Grant. In addition to writing song lyrics, Kallman
has received several commissions to write hymn texts.

Giants of Science features two songs by Daniel and Christine Kallman:

  • In Praise of Emmy Noether (world premiere) - Such a lush anthem as this is a fitting tribute to German-born mathematician Amalie Emmy Noether (1882 – 1935), whose contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics are unparalleled. Accompaniment orchestrated and realized by Tim Maurice.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Schrödinger's Cat (world premiere) - Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger (1887 - 1961) was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist whose wave equation revolutionized quantum mechanics, but it was his silly thought experiment, superimposing quantum uncertainty on a macroscopic feline, that has earned him the widest fame.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]


 Dan Kohane

Dan Kohane's music ranges from serious concert
pieces, to liturgical music for the synagogue, to
rock and popular songs, to not-so-serious concert
pieces. Influences include Stravinsky, classic rock,
klezmer, opera, folk, funk, Brahms, and nature.
He has a particular fondness for singing, and has
written a number of pieces for solo voice and choir.
Dan’s last major collaboration with Colin resulted in
Me and the Devil: A Blues Oratorio, which
premiered at Williams College with Dan conducting.
In his free time he enjoys playing guitar, hiking,
and learning to make funny noises.


 Colin Killick

Colin Killick (b. 1990) is a lyricist and playwright
from Somerville, MA. This is his third piece with
Dan for NCFO, after Looking at the Past in 2015
and River Rock in 2013. He is also the author of
the poetry chapbook Attack of the 50 Ft. Poet and
the plays Villagers and Brundibar: Hear My Voice.
His major musical and lyrical influences include
Stephen Sondheim, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson,
and Donald Hall. In his other life, he is chair of the
Somerville Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
He graduated from Williams College, and enjoys
loud concerts, British comedy, and shouting at his
laptop about politics.


Giants of Science features one song by Dan Kohane and Colin Killick:

  • Sparks Fly (world premiere) - In the late 19th century, American inventor Thomas Edison (1847 - 1931) advocated direct current electrical power distribution, while Serbian American inventor, engineer, physicist, and futurist Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943) lobbied for alternating current. Tesla's approach, backed by Westinghouse prevailed, while Edison's company, General Electric, was hardly heard from again.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
 Bruce Lazarus

Composer Bruce Lazarus's music includes pieces for piano, solo voice,
chorus, chamber ensembles, as well as several songs commissioned by
NCFO. His works range from the 45-minute “celestial” piano cycle, Musical
Explorations of the Messier Catalogue of Star Clusters and Nebulae, to his
entertaining Carrolling: The Lewis Carroll Project. He studied composition
at Juilliard, where he earned his B.M. and M.M. in music composition and
theory, and later earned his PhD in music theory at Rutgers University.
May 2016 is Lazarus’s first month as Music Director for the Joffrey
Ballet School.

Giants of Science features two songs by Bruce Lazarus:

  • Jane with the Chimps (world premiere) - British primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist Jane Morris Goodall (1934 - ) is considered to be the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees. One of cartoonist Gary Larson's more famous Far Side cartoons shows two chimpanzees grooming. One finds a blonde human hair on the other and inquires, "Conducting a little more 'research' with that Jane Goodall tramp?" Goodall liked the cartoon, and all profits from sales of a shirt featuring this cartoon go to the Jane Goodall Institute.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Annie Jump Cannon: Celestial Pioneer (world premiere) - American astronomer Annie Jump Cannon's (1863 - 1941) cataloging work was instrumental in the development of contemporary stellar classification. With Edward C. Pickering, she is credited with the creation of the Harvard Classification Scheme, which was the first serious attempt to organize and classify stars based on their temperatures. She was nearly deaf throughout her career.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]

 Tim Maurice

Tim Maurice is a classically trained musician working
as an arranger, music director, and pianist. He has
written and recorded music for several independent
film projects, ranging from short films to web series.
His latest, “Searchdog,” screened at the 2016 Palm
Springs International Film Festival and was an
audience-voted “Best in the Fest” selection. Born in
Maine, Tim attended Bates College, where he studied
piano, and Berklee College of Music, where he earned
a B.M. in Film Scoring. Tim has done orchestration and
arranging work for NCFO in the past, and this is his
second original composition for the group.

Giants of Science features one song by Tim Maurice:

  • Down to Earth (world premiere) - Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958 - ) is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. As the foremost science communicator of our day, he stands on the shoulders of Carl Sagan, who invited Tyson to visit Cornell when he was applying to be an undergraduate there. Tyson recalls, "I already knew I wanted to become a scientist. But that afternoon, I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become."
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]

 Lauren Mayer

Lauren Mayer is a California-based, award-winning writer and
entertainer, who has performed hundreds of custom-written
programs. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University,
the founder of Curriculum Rocks (producing award-winning
children's educational music), the writer of several published
musicals, and a five-time recipient of the San Francisco Cabaret
Gold Award. She has recorded five albums of comedy songs and
writes weekly topical comedy songs for her YouTube channel with
over 1,300 subscribers (thus disproving her teenage son’s claim
that she’d never get a channel going because ‘over 100 views is
viral for old people’).

Giants of Science features three songs by Lauren Mayer:

  • Beauty and a Brain - This 1940s torch song is an homage to Austrian-American actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr (1914 - 2000). Her frequency-hopping system is an important element in today's wireless communication systems, and in 2014 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Eureka! (world premiere) - A commemoration, in the style of a Greek folk song, of the accomplishments of Archimedes (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC), the great Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Copernicus & Kepler (world premiere) - A 1950s rock number acclaiming the work of two giants of astronomy: Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543), who first proposed that the planets orbited the sun; and German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630), who derived the laws of planetary motion.
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]