Several years ago, FP asked me to write a song for a show she was putting together. She’s the Managing Director of the Stockyards Theatre Project. The show was a pastiche of scenes and songs titled Busting Out: Toying with the Tyranny of Time. The parameters she gave me for the song were as follows: It needed to be about the history of time, and it needed to be written as a patter song to go with a particular rhythm and a particular bluesy chord progression.
The prospect of writing such a song hooked me in big-time. As a life-long writer of smart-ass lyrics, as well as a life-long devotee of science, this was a commission made in heaven for me! I will offer this one caveat for the reader – it’s really meant to be performed rather than read, so it may seem a little odd rhythmically without the syncopated beat and riff behind it as intended. Here we go:
Time in Four-Four Time
Oh let me tell you people ’bout this thing called time.
No I’m not going to play it out in pantomime.
Set you back and listen for a while ’cause I’m
Gonna lay it out for you in simple rhyme.
Early people saw the sun up in the air
Rising over here and setting over there.
That risin’ and a-settin’ made a tidy pair.
As a way of keeping time it was pretty fair.
Then they threw some gears in a box,
Shook it all around and started making clocks,
Infected everybody just like chicken pox
With a universal rhythm: tick-tock, tick-tock.
Then came Mr. Einstein. He had deemed
That time was not at all as it seemed.
He gave us his grand mathematical scheme
Written down on ream upon ream upon ream.
It boiled down to this – that energy, E
Is equal to mass times the square of C.
Now if C’s the speed of light, I think you’ll agree
That E becomes enormous exponentially.
Now C denotes a constant, the speed of light,
That never ever varies, not at any height
From the head of Ursa Major to the Isle of Wight.
Whew! That Mr. Einstein was pretty bright!
Now how does time relate to E, M, or C?
It slows as you increase velocity
But speeds up for the observer to a large degree,
And that is why we call it relativity.
Now that’s good news, it means that time
Is free for the taking, and that’s no crime.
On the journey of humanity, its noble climb
To the heighten of enlighten from primordial slime.
Quantum physics showed up and oh, it was dense.
A bit hard to understand unless you’re in Mensa.
Still a theory lacking crucial evidence,
And time no longer making any sense.
Don’t ask about the next one – the theory of strings.
They fly around the universe on tiny wings.
They vibrate and they quiver just like tiny springs
In the tiny little watches that run everything.
So tell me in the end, what have we learned?
And all the physicists, what have they earned?
I’ll tell you what this ordinary brain has discerned –
I’d like them to invent some time to burn.
So I could keep on singing this funky song
And you could learn the words and sing along.
Now I’m gonna tell you why Einstein was wrong —
But I see I’m out of time so, so long!
(© Charles Greenia)