The Stars and Beyond: New Album About Space Pirates, Starfights and Parallel Universes Out Now

Oh boy, this is pretty exciting.

The new Songsworth album, The Stars and Beyond, was published last Friday. It’s now available on Spotify and iTunes and will soon be available on various other webstores and streaming services.

I’ve worked on the album for the last two years, on and off, and it’s taken quite a lot of thought to shape it up into its final form. This is the first Songsworth album out since 2013.

Music and stories work well together. Previous Songsworth albums have linked with science fiction stories – books, movies, TV shows – that I’ve found inspiring through the years.

This one, though is based on something else.

I’ve always dreamed about writing a novel one day – who wouldn’t? In 2017 as I travelled a lot around the world for work, I lugged this delightful device called Freewrite around with me. I’d take it out when sitting down on an airplane and write stories whenever the plane got off the ground.

I ended up with manuscript drafts for two novels. One of them is a kind of a quantum physics mystery. The other is the story about this post-human space pirate queen called Lyra, who terrorizes this Asimov’s Foundation -style galactic society through millennia, kept alive by a sort of nanotech, until she starts finding hints about her past that will change everything she thinks about herself. And then just as she’s about to realize something kind of weird, she gets thrown into a parallel universe through this weird “junction city” called Pan Caravel.

The story, called The Stars and Beyond, runs some 350 pages. It has a beginning, a middle and an end – but it’s not finished yet. The reason being that while I did work ten years as a professional musician and have published seven non-fiction books, I don’t yet have the skills to finalize a work of fiction. Both of the manuscripts I mentioned still need more editing and a deeper understanding of literary nuances I don’t yet possess. As time goes by, I’m working on developing the competences that I’d need to actually publish some of this stuff. Who knows, maybe one day.

Writing these stories feels like peeking through a portal to another universe. And while the text is not yet good enough, it worked as a source of inspiration for this music. On this album, every song somehow links to one of the novel’s characters, except the one about Pan Caravel, which is a place and Curiosity, which is the cutest little space rover if there ever was one.

The music is now out there. I’d really appreciate if you gave it a spin.

It’s instrumental 1980’s inspired synthesizer pop, so maybe not for everybody. But if you like artists like Jean-Michel Jarre or Vangelis, or listening to movie soundtracks, you might enjoy these tracks too.

I certainly had the time of my life writing them.

You can listen to the album here:

 

Why It’s Great to Be a Nerd

If you have spent any time with this blog, you can probably pick it up pretty quickly that I am a nerd. I love science fiction, comic books, mathematics, board games, computers, electronics and synthesizer music. But I did not always feel good about it.

In fact, when I was younger, I found it so difficult to enjoy what I truly loved due to the usual social constraints that I tried hard to learn to be less of a nerd. I hid my Jarre albums and stopped talking about Star Trek. Instead, I started working on listening to cool indie bands and watching sitcoms.

As a consequence, I spent a great while of my life with things that I did not truly love, but that I thought would earn me street credibility or the respect of my peers. In other words, I spent a tremendous amount of effort to be cool. I learned to talk cool. I learned to wear cool clothes. I taught myself to listen to cool music and to watch cool movies.

But cool, unless it’s Fonzie-cool, is not necessarily good for you. Cool can be numbing. It can be indifferent and disconnected. Sometimes cool is what people have to go back to because they don’t have a clue what they really want from their lives.

To this end it is so bizarre that those of us who have had the gift to know what we loved early on – the nerds – have so often such a hard time in the early years in our society. Just because we don’t always know the right jokes or watch the right TV shows.

But if you are a nerd, trust yourself: you are are truly privileged. It is still a tremendously rare thing to see a human being who truly loves what he does, and who truly knows who he is.

And nerds often do.

Because if you dare to love science fiction or computer code in a world packed full of Big Brother and tabloids, it can hurt to love. But sometimes hurt is good. It shows you what’s worth fighting for.

When I was fourteen, people would tell me that I thought too much; that listening to Jarre and Vangelis was just wrong; that Star Trek and Babylon 5 were ridiculous; that maths was not cool to like; that reading lots of books was scary.

But it’s not.

It may not be what the other guys are doing. But if you love what you do, keep at it. No matter what the others think.

The nerd can be the ultimate outsider, because being a nerd you have something new going for yourself. And being social is, after all, often not about new things. It’s about nodding at what the other guy says. It’s about laughing at jokes even if they are bad. It’s about going to a party because everybody else is going. And ultimately, it’s about doing whatever everybody else is doing because that’s what you are supposed to do.

But the nerd won’t do it.

If the other guy says something stupid, the nerd will argue back. If the joke is bad, the nerd will analyze it and point out where it could work better. If the party is not really interesting, the nerd will not go, but rather solders a circuit board. And if everybody else is doing something that is not interesting, the nerd will do something that is.

The problem is that if you live like this, you will also sometimes snort at jokes, you will make arguments in a language like Klingon that nobody else can understand (the question is: taH pagh taH be), you will miss chances to interact with people, and some of the things many people do might never make any sense to you.

But that’s okay.

Because as a nerd, you can change the world. You cannot change the world by getting in line. But you can do so by figuring out what you really love to do, and by throwing yourself all in. As a nerd, you have nothing to lose. And that is what makes you the most powerful creature on Earth.

Being a nerd is amazing because being a nerd you can really tap into what you love to do, whether it is fixing old radios, tending to horses, playing larp, reading comics, writing computer code or making music with synthesizers. (And yes, you can be a nerd by playing ice hockey or driving race cars too, but it’s even tougher because people think it’s cool.)

Being a nerd is amazing because you can really be somebody who loves what they do and make the world a better place by doing it.

It’s not necessarily easy. But it *is* great.

So here’s to all the nerds out there – all of you amazing people who have made this world a better place –, people like Steve Wozniak, Nikola Tesla, Evangelos Papathanassiou, Christopher Franke, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Arthur C. Clarke, Orson Scott Card, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. And Sheldon Cooper. They might have a funny laugh, or snort at jokes. But they make waves.

Being a nerd takes courage. But trust me, if you’ve got it, it’s worth it.

Be proud of what you really are.

It’s great to be a nerd.

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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In a Time When Speed is Essential, Lightspeed is Quintessential

By morning we are each spectators in our own cinemas.

The reality we wake up to is gradually mixed up with chrome-tinted virtual reality, augmented reality, alternative reality, enhanced reality, unreal reality. Worlds of light where light is more real than the real. Life, game, fiction, film all merge together into a texture of purposes and ideas and hopes and wishes. Enmeshed in the net is the Man as the node in a cyberpunk fantasy become reality. The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet.

This is not rock music.

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It Is Not Enough to Stare Up the Steps, You Also Have to Step Up the Stairs

So many ways to go and look at the stars.

A space elevator is a proposed structure designed to transport material from a celestial body’s surface into space. Many variants have been proposed, all of which involve traveling along a fixed structure instead of using rocket powered space launch. The concept most often refers to a structure that reaches from the surface of the Earth on or near the Equator to geostationary orbit (GSO) and a counter-mass beyond.

This is not rock music.

Listen here. Download here. Contact here.