Sunday, March 1, 2009

Concertos and Chemistry

Like any specialized field, chemistry has its share of technical jargon, but often technical terms have their roots in more ordinary language.  I like to emphasize the connection between "normal" usage and the more technical use to help my students remember them better.

One example is the "concerted reaction."  In many chemical reactions, more than one thing happens as reactants are transformed into products.  One possibility is these events happen in a set order: step-wise.  Another possibility is that they occur simultaneously and the reaction is said to be concerted.  

The word "concerted"  isn't exactly an everyday word, but it isn't especially unusual.  Wiktionary gives the following definition for concerted:
Performed through a concert of effort; done by agreement or in combination.
Since my students may not be familiar with this usage, I usually make reference to a musical concert, or the concerto form - musicians playing all together.  Certainly "done by agreement," and "in combination." 

The Concerto of Baroque and Classical music typically has a soloist playing with a group of musicians.  Here are two Concertos from different eras.

Antonio Vivaldi is probably best known now for his concertos, in particular The Four Seasons which consist of four of the twelve movements in his opus #8, which in English is entitled: "The Contest between Harmony and Invention."  

The clip below is from a different work than The Four Seasons and features the lute as the solo instrument: Concerto in D Major for Lute.

My second featured concerto is Concerto for Cootie, composed by Duke Ellington.   It was originally composed as an instrumental piece for trumpeter Cootie Williams. Later words were added, the tune may be more familiar as "Do Nothing til You Hear from Me."  This is the instrumental version.

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