Sie the Mystery Girl

“Hey Brenton,” Sie shouted as she walked into the hangar. Brenton was standing on a scaffolding and using a complex looking tool to fix something inside a small compartment he’d opened on the outer hull of his skeetship. The ship was a dirty, brownish gold disc that could fit maybe four, five people. In front, it had a shielded screen through which Sie could barely make out a very small cockpit for two pilots.
Brenton turned around, his face and hands sooty from all the tinkering, his black and greasy hair grown a little too long.
“Sie. Long time no see.”
“Long time indeed. What you up to, old dog?”
“Fixing the boat. I got into a nasty fieldstorm flying in. It fried a lot of comms circuits. Mostly fixed now, but I still get some damn static on long distance comms. I think this relay here is the one that’s bust.”
“That boat still fly?”
“What do you think? This beauty will stay in the air or the space or the phase space for at least another two thousand years.”
Sie whistled.
“Two thousand? Well it’s been around.”
“Yeah. Done my fair share of subluminal legs with it too back in the day. You know how it is with phase jumping without starjocks.”
“Yep. But your math’s still good?”
“As good as the next guy’s. You want to go somewhere long-distance, I can crack the figures a-ok. May just take a while. Sometimes a longer while.”
“Good. Good. Look, Brenton, it ain’t a courtesy call.”
“Didn’t think so. When would my sorry old ass be interesting enough for the wonderful Sie to just come say hi to?”
“Seriously. I need a favor.”
“Ok. Not big on favors, but shoot.”
“I need to get to Pan Caravel.”
“Pan Cara-what?” Brenton said and broke down laughing. “Pan Caravel? You lost your marbles?”
“No. I need to get there.”
“Pan Caravel? A junction city? You want some fairy dust and a pair of fire breathing dragons with that while you’re at it?”
“Brenton, I’m serious. I need to get to Pan Caravel. Discreetly.”
“Come on, Sie. It’s fiction. Pan Caravel is a fairy tale some dewy eyed optimists tell their kids to put them to sleep when the neighbours dog’s gone through a nanite meltdown. Through all the millennia of navigating the phase space, nobody’s come out anywhere else but this side of things. Everybody phases back. You know it.”
“It’s not fiction,” Sie said. “I know where it is.”
“Really? Oh really?” Brenton said and walked down the ladder from the scaffolding. “Look, Sie, if it was anybody else but you, I’d just laugh it off. But seriously, you think you know where Pan Caravel is? You think it’s real?”
“I think so, yeah,” Sie said.
“Well wouldn’t that be something,” Brenton said then. “Ok. Show me.”
Brenton accessed his ship on his AR layer and a small doorway opened on the side, extending a brownish gold ladder that whirred until it touched the floor. “Come on,” Brenton said, wiping hid hands on a grey towel. He climbed the ladder into the skeetship. Sie followed.

Pan Caravel the No-Place

Pan Caravel was located in the outermost corner of the Laniakea cluster, on an intergalactic backwater piece of rock. If a starjock happened to chance by the exact coordinates, she would simply see a bunch of rocks. But if you knew where to look, Pan Caravel was one of the most powerful places in the universe, smack in the middle of cosmic faultlines that could allegedly lead to an adjacent bubble universe.

For most people of Intergalactica, the asteroid city was a legend. And why wouldn’t it be? While phase jumping was pretty much everyday in Intergalactica, junctions – connections between bubble universes in the cosmic multiversal froth – were thought of as purely fictitious. Everybody phases back. All higher dimensions connected eventually back to the three macroscopic dimensions of the known universe.

Brenton landed the skeetship. He stayed behind while Sie got out to get the lay of the land. She’d sent the message to the people The Librarian had introduced to her to meet her. They’d just told her to find the local bar. Given how small the little habitat was, she suspected that wouldn’t be much of a problem. The whole thing could have only a handful of inhabitants, a few thousand at most.

Sie stopped a heavily augmented person to ask the way. He or she, as it was hard to tell which, raised their drawn bioluminsescent pink eyebrows and pointed the way. Sie nodded a curt thanks and followed the directions. She came by a dirty saloon not unlike those on the lower levels of the Souk she’d seen pirates and smugglers frequent when they were off duty. She’d been to the Souk only once, but somehow this place reminded her of it. It smelled the same.

Lyra the Cosmic Space Pirate Queen

The silver pirate flagship rushed through space to intercept the hapless prey that had sailed through the stars for ten thousand years. A cloud of ice blew away, like ocean foam, in front of the massive pirate spaceship as it cut through spacetime.

The pirate flagship’s silver hull rippled and foamed and coursed like a living thing or perhaps like a living ocean made of quicksilver, constantly adjusting to the variables in local spacetime geometry, blocking off debris and other collision threats, quickly heating back to the ambient outer space temperature of 2.7K after being cooled down to almost absolute zero to perform the phase space jumps that had got it here.

The prey was an ancient ramjet launched from a Lost World ten thousand years ago. It was massive, spanning two miles from bow to aft. Yet the pirate flagship Night Wing dwarfed it, making the ramjet look tiny compared to the flagship’s majestic thirty miles of quicksilver hull.

On the command deck of Night Wing stood its captain, the commander in chief of a vast pirate crew, one of the most feared pirates in the galaxies, the terror of known space and beyond. The pirate captain stood on the bridge, legs wide, arms folded, watching at the massive display screen as the little ship, marked by a red dotted circle on her Augmented Reality layer, grew larger on the display as the flagship approached it.

She wore a crimson knee length flowing jacket that moved in the still air of the command deck like it was blowing in the wind. Attached to her shoulders was a long, smooth, gold-embroidered red cape that also flowed, probably powered by some microscopic robots, if not even nanites. Her large eyes glittered in otherworldly hues of gold and the deepest of blue due to the visual augmentations she had had installed over the millennia.

In her eyes there was a twinkle of pure joy. The joy of expectation, of the hunt. A wide grin grew on her face as the pirates approached their hapless prey, now almost within boarding distance.

By now the target ship was aware of the presence of the hulking pirate vessel, the ancient ramjet’s crew engaged in speculation of whether the newcomer was friend or foe. In forty five minutes all speculation would have come to a conclusion. In three hours, the last remnants of an entire civilization that had lasted for more than ten thousand years would be eradicated.

For now, however, the pirates had work to do.

“Good job, boys,” Lyra, the Cosmic Space Pirate Queen, said to her crew, smiling widely. “Let’s go get ’em.”

New Album on the Way: The Stars and Beyond

Album cover art by the wonderful Paavo Järvilehto

I have been working on new Songsworth tracks since 2017. The tracks are now finished and mastered, and the new album is on the way, due to be released later in 2019 on major streaming services.

I’m really excited to have completed this music – it’s the first Songsworth album in six years. It has taken a lot of new design challenges, handcrafting new types of sounds (especially going back to my FM roots with some really fun stuff using Native Instruments’ FM8 and playing with some stuff I made on my Yamaha SY99 all the way back in the 1990s) and learning new ways of working, most interestingly drafting tracks using NI’s Maschine Mk3, which has quickly grown to be a big part of my workflow.

Also I’ve been really excited about working in a strange kind of a crossroads in music technology. On one hand, I recreated much of what I used to run as a hardware studio in early 2000s through using services like Roland Cloud and their amazing System 8 workstation which makes analog sound design feel like a dream, as well as Arturia’s wonderful V-Collection. On the other hand, starting to work with 21st century digital-first staples, like the wonderful Fabfilter plugins, it has finally started to dawn on me how to mix with a mouse. Feels a lot like the future now.

One more thing is, there is a tremendous amount of backstory that goes into these tracks. I don’t think I’ve ever written music that has this much of (hidden) context to it, I hope some of it shines through on the recordings themselves too.

Here’s the first soundbite from the album, called Jeff the Star Traveler.

 

The Anatomy of an Album

Any music is really a network of ideas. At the heart of Launchland is the deep influence of the music of Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis. Also, many songs have been directly influenced by film music and classical music.

“Row Row Row Your Boat” references a scene from (yes, I know the movie sucked but anyway) Star Trek V where Kirk and Bones are singing the song and Spock is wondering about the ritual. The song itself goes way back to stuff like Brian Eno’s Apollo and Jarre’s Waiting for Cousteau. It’s also a hat tip to Joel Goldsmith’s outstanding Stargate Universe score, which I loved to death. (It’s funny but I just realized that you can hear tones from that score on “Tau Ceti Center” too, which was directly influenced by Goldsmith’s dad Jerry.)

“Aldebaran” began with playing with a Top Gun-ish sound on the Yamaha SY99, which led to this amalgam of the “Top Gun Anthem” by Harold Faltermeyer, “Main Sequence” from Albedo 0.39 by Vangelis and “Chariots of Fire” by the same.

“Quantum Thief” – a nod to my countryman Hannu Rajaniemi’s mind-blowing novel by the same name – steals or borrows (you name it) from the second movement of Beethoven’s seventh symphony and from Clint Mansell’s Moon soundtrack. The flute melody is a nod to Ennio Morricone’s mindblowing and chilling soundtrack for The Secret of Sahara. (Which I last saw as a little kid and loved back then.)

“Stella Maris,” another name for the VIrgin Mary, is of course an obvious nod to Charles Gounod’s “Ave Maria,” which is in turn based on Bach’s “Prelude no. 1” from the Well-tempered Clavier. Another Bach song is also a direct influence, namely the “Air on a G string” (which is actually an adaptation by August Wilhelmj, but anyway). The bassline turnover between verses was actually a carbon copy of the Air at first (going G, A, B, C, D, F, E, D), but then I changed it to a straight G major scale since… I don’t know. To make it slightly different after all. Why do you make these choices in music anyway?

To complete the circle, “Approaching Delta Pavonis” nicks a synth comp from Jarre’s “Magnetic Fields I” (an amazingly majestic song), one that the impOscar’s default preset just cries out to play with a little added portamento. (And yes, while tweaking is amazing, there is nothing wrong with playing with default presets when they fit. Ask Vangelis.)

I know a musician should not write analyses like this about their music. The music should speak for itself. But really: this is almost as much fun as writing the actual music. And anyway, there is so much left to discover in the songs even with this anatomical study that I think I haven’t spoiled all the fun.

To wrap up, Igor Stravinsky once said, talent borrows, genius steals. The rest of us, we just make music we love to listen to.

(And yes, my musician friends always told me I think too much. So there.)

The Farcaster Network is Failing

The reason we could not find the AI’s was that the AI’s were not somewhere. They were everywhere.

Like River Tethys, the Grand Concourse flowed between military sized farcaster portals two hundred meters high. With wraparound, the effect was of an infinite main street, a hundred-kilometer torus of material delights. One could stand, as I did that morning, under the brilliant sun of Tau Ceti and look down the Concourse to the nighttime midway of Deneb Drei, alive with neon and holos, and catch a glimpse of the hundred-tiered Main Mall of Lusus, while knowing that beyond it lay the shadow-dappled boutiques of God’s Grove with its brick concourse and elevators to Treetops, the most expensive eatery in the Web. (Dan Simmons 1990.)

Songsworth: Tau Ceti Center

Infinity Begins Everywhere and Ends Nowhere

You are at the very center of the Universe. And you. And you. And you. And…

“Turtles all the way down,” or “The Infinite Turtle Theory,” refers to the infinite regression problem in cosmology. This problem originates with the unmoved mover paradox. The turtle in the anecdote refers to the notion common in primitive cosmological mythology, that is to say, that the flat Earth was supported on the back of a giant World Turtle.

This is not rock music.

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