SONG: The Ring I Made For You (A Time-Crystal Canon)


The Ring I Made For You (A Time-Crystal Canon) [Download]

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:The quest to crystallize time,” Nature, 8 Mar 2017, as used in the post “
‘It’s still fricking weird’: Physicist on the creation of time crystals.

First, any story that has writers unabashedly citing Doctor Who and physicists using the phrase “fricking weird” on the record – that’s a story worth a song. And then, you know, a quantum-sized perpetual-motion machine that’s made of dirty diamonds that are made into rings… I mean, there’s like five poems in there.

And this is the one I came up with.

I thought about canons because my friend Jack (who’s a better singer and arranger than me) came up with a couple days ago using an old Eurythmics song as a foundation.

Canons seemed to go with the whole time crystal thing – making a repeating, self-sustaining structure by injecting disorder into a connected system. You’re basically taking a song (like “Frere Jacques” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) that’s build in two-bar chunks… the melody changes every two lines, basically… and then cycling it so the chunks overlap: one voice does the first line, then while it does the second line, another voice starts at the first line, and then a third, and a fourth, and however many. If you’re very clever, you can get all the voices to come together at the end and not dissolve in a heap.

This song isn’t exactly doing the proper canon thing… I had more fun making it slightly more random than that, and was kind of discovering the whole melody as I went along.

And this was built using an additive structure, at least at first – each line was supposed to be longer than the last, building on the previous one, then building on what was built on it. A real canon don’t do that – it’s OK just simply layering things of the same size but different shapes over each other.

To be honest, I wrote a proper canon entirely with a (fake) mellotron – three tracks of it, originally – over the drums and cello, and then tried to write words that kinda sorta fit those phrases. They didn’t really ever fit, and figuring out the meter of some lines (should I go slow or double-time in the chorus section?) led to some interesting patterns.

So you’ve got this. An improper canon. More of a flawed diamond to blast with your microwaves before using it to declare an undying love.

(Another thing I liked about trying a canon for this was its “medieval-ness” – it sounds old, doesn’t it? – as well as the thought that it could be church music or a romantic duet.)

Sorry for the sitar, by the way. That’s actually a SoundFont called “Star of Siam.” I couldn’t resist the way it kind of pads out after each note. There’s that, one surviving mellotron, and a drum and cello. And I think six tracks of vocals, two of them just repeating the title over and over. I think it’s fun. Sing along – you can kind of join in whenever!

(OK, sorry for that too.)


The ring I made for you
The spin inside the ring I made
I made the spin a twin inside the ring I made for you

Broken symmetry’s the thing
Inside the twin, the spinning ring
The ring I made for you.

The diamond is riddled with flaws
The flaws have each hidden a spin
The microwave flips and the system flips back
Without end.
Without end.

And random disorder makes regular patterns
emerge, if we watch over time.
And ions align
Without end.
Without end.