SONG: Six Seconds


“Six Seconds” [Download]

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on Science News, 21 Oct 2020, “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx survived its risky mission to grab a piece of an asteroid”, as used in the post “Our spaceship just grabbed a piece of asteroid”.

This song started with four chords on a guitar, but was almost entirely arranged as a spacey keyboard loop. I played the chords lying in my bed, as you do, and then thought, huh, OK, I could do something with that meter, that spacing of the notes. Then I sat on my laptop and recreated it as what I *thought* would be a bass part, but which weirdly took a life of its own. The “Padawan” pad synth by Tweakbench is a versatile little space factory. I made a bass loop with it, and then, with no idea what lyrics or melody I’d be adding, started just chucking stuff into different tracks that seemed to fit. Some thunder. A chorus of ASMR ladies counting and offering encouragement. Random snips of Lord Buckley speaking hip about Jesus in “The Nazz.” Movie trailer booms and crashes.

It made for a nice piece of … would it be called electronica? Somewhere between Primitive Radio Gods and Negativland.

Then, I started taking things away so I could put in some words and, why not, some guitar. The guitar went in first, then some lyrics written more or less with So-era Peter Gabriel in mind (not that I can sing like him, but as if he was going to be covering this, as if I thought in short, semantically heavy phrases).

The pandemic has not been as good for this music project as I would have expected. I sit at home with lots of time, sure. But I’m very rarely *alone* here. Even worse: the usual science feed sources are all full of COVID news and nothing but. I always try to select stories for the feed that seem like they might have some poetry in them – I hope that’s been obvious. But since last February, it’s just been… awfully samey out there.

This was nearly a song about conservatives and liberals reacting differently to the virus, but man, I can’t see myself wanting to listen to that much less wanting to sing it. Instead, it’s about a rendezvous. Sort of bittersweet. Never touching, just hovering nearby. Meeting for only six seconds – that was the thing that stood out to me. So brief, after all that circling and planning for months and months. And yet, that little fragment of time was enough. It was sufficient. It had, in fact, the OSIRIS probe overflowing with samples. To me, that seems a lot like memories of relationships, some relationships anyway.

I am old enough now that I understand what it is to look back and think to myself, “Oh, yeah – there was that person. We had a thing once, didn’t we?” Still carrying around that strange fragment of something that could have been, maybe, as we tried (and still try) to figure ourselves out. There’s that song by Darren Hanlon called “The Last Night of Not Knowing You” that, when he introduces it live, he talks about as being a song for those brief friendships you can make on tour, that even though you’re just spending an evening or a day together, it can still be worthwhile and meaningful. Play a game of pool after a show. An hour at a diner. It’s still good and memorable and life-affirming, even though it’s temporary. Isn’t everything, really, when you get right down to it?


We were supposed to be here
Tracing patterns in midair
Barely touching – for six seconds
Six seconds

Pebbles overflowing
Frozen air is snowing
Nitrogen crystals – for six seconds
Six seconds

(F#) Temporary things (G) still matter
(E) Time and discovery and motion
(D) There you are, (A) and here am I
(E) Taking samples, and good bye

Darkness larger than the light
We find each other in this night
Sparks and shadows fall – for six seconds
For six seconds

Blinking our eyes – for six seconds
Our dust flies – for six seconds
Filling our pockets – for six seconds
Six seconds