Till the stock of the Puritans die

My lovely wife picked up a degree from Harvard today—good Lord, I can’t possibly deserve a woman this smart—so we took in the entirety of Harvard commencement, which is kind of like the academic version of a live Ring cycle: long, sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, but worth experiencing at least once in your life. (I mean, one of the comic highlights—no kidding—was an oration in Latin.) Wynton was awarded an honorary doctorate—

—and played a little (you can hear a bit of his “America the Beautiful” here).

The big advantage of attending Harvard commencement as a family member instead of an actual graduate is that you spend hours on end sitting around instead of hours on end standing around. I used my downtime filling the margins of my program with a reharmonization of John Knowles Paine’s “Harvard Hymn” that would probably have gotten me kicked out of Harvard by A.T. Davison back in the day:

(Click to enlarge; MIDI here.) I love doing four-part writing this way: just sort of let the voice-leading wander like a curious dog on a long leash. (This is why it took me multiple tries to pass the chorale section of my doctoral comps. “Resist the temptation to be interesting,” the department chair finally told me.)

I’m a big fan of varied academic regalia, and Harvard’s faculty provides some prime robe-spotting opportunities. The best regalia we saw featured round hats covered in fringe, kind of like this:

According to the Internet, this—the birrete—is a Spanish thing. I think it might be worth my while to get a degree from the Complutense just so I could wear one.


Leave a Reply