SONG: Fast Blue Optical Transients


“Fast Blue Optical Transients” [Download]

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Science News 13 Dec 2021, “The cosmic ‘Cow’ may have produced a new neutron star or black hole,” as used in the post ‘Bright and really heavy: What “The Cow” caused in deep space.

ABSTRACT: I don’t know if this is an experimental song or a pop song. I mean, for me they’re all experiments, but I usually think of those as separate modes. I tried stealing the John Roderick “Cinnamon” trick again – playing a 3/4 song with a drummer doing 4/4 drums. And I kind of treated each track as its own thing. The “guitar” that’s all tinny and electric is a ukulele all mixed and remixed, and that feedback-like hum under the choruses is a 440 Hz sine wave, because that’s the frequency of the X-ray oscillations inside The Cow – I had to work it in here somehow.

The words were put together to fit the melody in a kind of click-together tinker-toy way, not through my more usual way of humming and humming until a vocal melody emerged. I’m not sure they flow properly, except the chorus… a chorus which won’t make a lick of sense to anybody not familiar with The Cow being a super-bright object that caught our attention and then faded away over a matter of days.

I wasn’t really sure what to start writing about this month – The Cow seemed like the most poetic of the science stories, but it’s not nearly as evocative as, like, cannibal butterflies eating their babies or a mummy with a golden tongue. Still, it is sort of wonderful. The jargon – fast blue optical transients – is doing some of the heavy lifting for the lyric overall. It’s a fun phrase, even if “fast” and “transient” seems a little redundant.

The music actually started out at a plodding 100 bpm, but after doing a little cutting and figuring, OK, here’s room for two stanzas, and this is how long a chorus should be, it started to seem really slow, so I sped it up to 140 bpm before recording vocals. I like the way the riffs fit together much more this way.

fast blue optical transients
Lens flares flashing in the dusk
We look away because we must

fast blue optical transients
X-rays spinning like a sound
Something is solid in that cloud

CH: We call it the cow – We call it the cow

fast blue optical transients
Hours spent burning like a coal
Until the fire left a hole

fast blue optical transients
The oscillations follow
They’re periodic, almost

CH: We call it the cow – We call it the cow

fast blue optical transients
Spin a billion cycles
In a 60 day recital.

fast blue optical transients
A compact object in the dust
Smaller than eight-fifty suns.

CH: We call it the cow – We call it the cow