SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..” ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen. Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and to save time, transposed them into a MIDI thing with an Irish harp soundfont or something like that. The only “live” guitar on here is the little accent tweedles at the end of each verse, laden with all kinds of distortion and delay. Idea-wise, I’m not sure this conveys how weird it is to have something large enough to witness (in some way) that’s in a Schrodinger’s Cat-style superposition. I mean, I’m not sure […]
This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)
They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…
The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.
Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).
SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”
ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.
Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…
ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)
SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.
ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …
I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.
That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?
This far away. …
This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.
He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.
A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …
SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”. ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.) SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins. ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way years ago, in fact. It’s such a peculiar little song – a kind of lament bass behind a meditation on number theory, or a heartbroken projection into mathematics… what *is* he thinking, anyway? The existential grief of binary? Two can be as bad as one. It makes sense, though, doesn’t it? Instinctively? Yes? No? This recording kind of shows off all the weaknesses of my not-really-monitoring setup (a pair of Koss Portapro headphones with no foam covers […]
SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..” ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is). So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a message here. Something like a sailor, a long way from home, or a balloonist who can’t land. Took a while to record this one – don’t know why. Got out my guitar amp, which I haven’t done in ages. Also took the mic outside to record an old washtub, and a plastic barrel being converted into a rain barrel, and an antique copper pitcher sitting on a copper plate. Nothing like using yard stuff for […]
SONG: “Kavachi”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Deep-Sea Cameras Reveal a ‘Sharkcano’”, National Geographic Explorers’ Journal, 9 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Live Sharks Discovered Inside A Live Volcano.” ABSTRACT: There’s nothing I didn’t like about the process of writing this. If I was influenced by anyone in the making of this song, I guess it was The Residents, although the basic structure of it was unabashedly ripped off… myself. For about, oh, 15 years or so, I’ve had this vision of Devo doing a cover of a particular Doors song. It’s never going to happen. So I just stole that cover and rewrote it to have words about a sharkcano. Sharks. In a volcano. Filled with acid. Nearly everything you hear here is synthetic, except the main drum beat, which is me beatboxing into a pair of headphones, and the solo, which is a pair of sound […]
SONG: “Vulnerable Ape Theory (Going to a Blues Show with the Young Earth Creationists)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Vulnerability made us human: how our early ancestors turned disability into advantage”, PhysOrg, 15 June 2015, as used in the post “The Vulnerable Ape theory of human origins.” ABSTRACT: This is the late song. I had the chorus on time, but no verses. Will these do? They have mutations and selection in them. This is a song about tolerating people who are wrong and different, just because the more we do that, the better off our species is. Let selection happen. Maybe someday I’ll get someone with a sweet, fey voice to record this for me… it so wants to be twee. And I’ll actually play a slide guitar in the bridge, where we’re singing about slide guitars. (Because we’re going to a blues show, remember?) The Young Earth Creationists would actually be a pretty good […]
SONG: “I Am Sailing.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “LightSail”, sail.planetary.org, retrieved 13 May 2015, as used in the post “A solar sail unfurling. Not sometime in the unspecified future – *next week*.” ABSTRACT: Is this the song I wanted to write? I’m not sure. The lyrics were not the same as where I was aiming, but I stole a first line from a reflective moment, reminiscing about the hell of junior high school, in this podcast. Thank you, Mister Roderick, for a lyric. The idea here was that chemical rockets (and things that are fueled in general) can only get you so far. But a solar sail, while it starts really slowly, will just keep going and going. There’s a Taoist lesson there, or a Sub-Genius one, about the virtues of slack. And sails! In space! That is a beautiful thing, and now it is a real thing, and that is even more beautiful. […]
SONG: “How the Moon Began.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “Puzzle of Moon’s origin resolved”, Nature, 8 April 2015, as used in the post “Scientists: The moon was formed when Earth smacked her twin sister.” ABSTRACT: Once again, Allison said this was the story that needed a song, and she was right. At around the same time, I was listening to “Cruel Sister” and thinking about murder ballads, but somehow, this didn’t come out folksy at all. I mean, except that it’s about ancient sisters getting into some kind of deadly fight. And has finger picking in it. I also kind of set out to write a *gushi* again, but that didn’t happen either – it kept wanting to rhyme, and then slant or else kind of extend past the rhyme (what’s the name for when that happens? Cole Porter does it all the time…). The thing that sounds like an accordion, isn’t. It’s a […]
SONG: “The Waves Around the Women.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Scientists have discovered nature’s newest strongest material“, Washington Post, 18 February 2015,as used in the post “Stronger than spider silk”. ABSTRACT: Two things happened that went into this. First, Allison said, “Can we have one about limpet teeth?” I don’t know just how far her tongue was in her cheek about that, but who cares? Limpet teeth are great! They’re as strong as growing things get! The other thing that happened was I threw my hat into the ring for a Game of Bands thing as a lyricist for what was supposed to be an Asian song. I decided to write a lyric for that in the form of an old Chinese poem called a gushi… a set number of syllables per line (seven), five lines per verse, and each verse subtly changing the semantics of a couple of lines… so that things […]
SONG: “White Coffee and Omelets.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Cut Sugary Drinks; Add Coffee, Eggs“, Laboratory Equipment, 20 February 2015,as used in the post “Breakfast is championed (at last)”. ABSTRACT: Yeah, this is a song about high-cholesterol food as deus ex machina. The first thing that came to me was the chorus about General La Salle (while I was doing yard work, naturally). I’d been reading “The Pit and the Pendulum” to my son as a bedtime story (for peaceful sleep, of course) and we were both disconcerted by the ending. And the way nutritional guidelines keep veering off the expected route… similarly disconcerting. The percussion was inspired by a recent (or at least recent to me) Song Exploder on The Books. I couldn’t get my turntable to do the cool analog loopy thing with the runoff groove (the arm always wants to return home), but did get some interesting sounds using PVC […]
SONG: “Sleeping.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Naps Help Infants Form Memories“, Laboratory Equipment, 14 January 2015, as used in the post “Naps make memories (in infants).” ABSTRACT: I’m so tired. This is so late at night that I’m putting it in the queue. Lots of delay (in both the musical sense and the getting-it-done sense). Tried to get a vocoder to work, but it refused. My life would be so much better if I actually had a room somewhere I could, like, sing in. Rather than whispering in the living room in the middle of the night. Anyway, it’s about babies, about remembering that thing that is always just out of reach of your conscious mind, that feeling of comfort and satisfaction that goes beyond words, that you can really only remember when you’re sleeping. Because sleep makes memories. It made the memories when you were very young, before there were words to […]
SONG: “Particles of Attraction” (penitential cover) [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: This is a cover making up for a late song in December. (And I’m still one in the hole – sorry.) This song was written by AJ Allulli, who fortuitously entered it into the Cover Swap project initiated on reddit’s We Are The Music Makers sub-board. ABSTRACT: Yes, so this is both a penitential cover and a cover swap cover. Hopefully, someone will do something interesting to this old Guild song, which I always thought needed something more. AJ Allulli’s original had a great beat and some lovely robotic vocoder stuff, so I decided to go 180 degrees opposite and do a cover that’s 100% acoustic. Well, it’s an electric bass, but I mic’ed the amp. I still can’t really play the erhu, but it doubles well enough for a Camper Van Beethoven-style fiddle. And the vocals did […]
University of Cambridge researchers have gotten to the root of the chord. (See, that’s a music theory joke.) No, really, they’ve found was seems to be the oldest written music with more than one note playing at the same time: The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered. Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims. … The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John’s College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an […]
SONG: “Not Even Dancing Works.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Zoologger: Dancing in time makes crabs sexual failures“, New Scientist, 4 December 2014, as used in the post “Dancing to the beat makes fiddler crab sexual… failures.” ABSTRACT: Are songs about dancing dumb? I dunno. Hard to resist those plucky little fiddler crabs. I grew up watching them climbing out of their holes in the banks of the Intracoastal and lifting their claws and waving. Hi. Hi. Hi. Here I am. The bridge is based on my memories of their rhythm. The rest of it is a waltz, which is where I go when I go “dance,” for whatever reason. Poor guys. I’m not sure the strings really carry the mood here, but I dunno. Why not the drama? This is, after all, life and death of the species. LYRICS: The moon shines on this beach bar The second Friday every month And the […]