PLANET AND SKY — a myth in music
Planet and Sky, a Love Story
This all started on one of my morning hikes to Peak Mtn. last winter. I got to pondering mortality, creativity, and how dissatisfied I would be on my deathbed with never having produced anything that I could really feel proud of. Half joking with myself, I thought. You should write an opera. Then I thought... why not? That day the subconscious began composing and within a few weeks I was jotting down lyrics and trying out bass lines.
The concept came out fully formed in a song I called “Something is Dreaming.” The original idea was for it to be set on the planet Mars in the near future- later I generalized it as a smallish planet somewhere in time in space. A team of scientists (originally from Earth) is investigating a newly discovered life form; something akin to a mold or fungus inhabiting the subsurface of the planet. To their surprise, they are able to detect brainwaves emanating from the entity. Upon further investigation they realize it is telling a story in epic form. It is a love story, a creation myth. The story is about the meeting of the planet and its atmosphere.
Round was the obvious followup; the commencement of the myth. Thus begins the romance. Sky seduces planet. Planet falls hard for his Sky. Early on I decided to switch the traditional gender assignments. Planet is male and Sky female. I took these two songs up to Sacramento where I jused to play in a band called Jupiter Sheep what feels like a half a lifetime ago. One very talented member of that ensemble, Melissa Olsen (aka Missy Io), with awesome voice and keyboard chops, was the perfect Sky. The lead singer Byron Callisto had a nice little studio I could play in, and his workmate Brian Levine was a talented and versatile musician who was willing to play drums. With my workmate in SF Reed Sandberg on guitar we recorded passable versions of these first two songs (except for my vocals which was clearly the weak link).
I was high as the sky (no pun intended) after those Sacto sessions, and the creative juices started flowing even stronger. Ideas for three more songs appeared. First was Travelers, based on the idea of Panspermia I'd heard about back in my Mars Society days. Then came Such is Love, a song for Planet to sing to Sky representing an encapsulation of much of what I personally have learned though the years regarding this murky subject (love). The big one to follow would be Sky's showpiece aria back at Planet, the one heavily laden with tragic pathos as she understands the two of them are ultimately doomed. The problem is Planet is just too small to hold onto an atmosphere over the long haul. Bad news for Sky and the biosphere she'd created with Planet. For some reason unknown, Planet My Love was the easiest song to write and thus far the strongest in the set.
Unfortunately, the project hit the doldrums soon after, and I have yet to realize the dream of recording the two love songs, even in rough form. The big issue was musician availability, particularly the Sacto contingent. After a period of significant frustration I finally turned my attention more locally, enlisting the assistance of my multi-talented bass teacher John Engle. The three locals, John, Reed and myself, have now been jamming weekly on the four songs in most mature form. The plan is to record demos of these as early as next week (7/14/09). Then I hope we can get moving on Eons of Fun, Travelers, Empty World and Wake Up! Ideas are gestating madly for these as I write.
For any newcomer to this project- or for old hands interested in coming up to speed, the links on the left and at top of page for each section will guide you to where you need to go. I'll provide a few notes on the ideas behind each song, the music and lyrics (if ready), and current status including any recordings available for download.
Click the links above for more on the overall project.
- Scientists from an advanced world are studying a small planet, presumed to be barren and lifeless. They discover a primitive life form beneath the surface which emanates brain waves, something akin to a dream. The Chief Scientist describes the situation and directs his staff in their investigation. Upon further analysis they observe that the dream appears to be a coherent narrative, some sort of creation myth. Hints of the nature of the myth are observed, the voice of a planet, isolated, and a newly born entity of surprising precocity floating above.
- Scene 1
- Planet awakes and ponders his solitary existence in the universe. He appears contented and proud of his position. Sky intrudes upon his reverie, introduces herself as a companion entity. Planet is confused and annoyed. He sees no need for this distracting presence and reacts dismissively toward Sky's entreaties. She is insistent that he is lacking something that she can provide. Sky demands time to think.
(a million years passes)
Planet decides to accept Sky as a lifelong compainion. He is in love. Sky celebrates the victory of her seduction. Planet and Sky unite in happiness.
- Scene 2
- In the far reaches of a star system distant from that of Planet and Sky an ice world is inhabited by bacterial organisms ejected by meteoric impact from their former home. The voices of three variants of these organisms discuss their situation. One assures the others that there is no need for concern. Just as they were ejected from their former home so shall they eventually return to a new one where they might thrive again and prosper. Another is certain that only doom and destruction await them. All options appear very grim. A third is indifferent. It takes a wait and see approach and can't be bothered with predictions of their fate.
A new star approaches and the ice world is drawn into this new gravity well. It descends rapidly toward the star, gaining velocity and as vapors tail outward it becomes a comet. The first variant is thrilled. The second is highly agitated. The third just enjoys the ride.
An impact with a potentially fertile world appears imminent.
- Scene 3
- Planet and Sky romp lustfully in the joy of their new-found blissful union. Planet builds volcanoes, moves crust to build mountains and valleys. Sky whirls and dances in delight. She produces storms with winds and rain to sculpt Planet into miraculous new forms. Her waters fill his valleys and basins and produce fertile oceans. She allows further intrusions of comets and meteors to bring new life-giving substance and to generally rock Planet's world.
- Scene 4
- Planet has matured from his youthful exuberance of adolescent joy of love and has a newer, more profound perspective. He serenades Sky with his philosophy of love; how it combines the thrill of combination with a creative impulse, fostering filial affection, while leading to a deep sense of responsibility for his mate and all within their fold.
Sky sounds a note of caution and entreats Planet to never fail his hold upon her.
Planet is carefree and happy. He ignores any doubts or concerns and resumes his joyful song.
- Scene 5
- Sky is now aware of a tragic reality. Planet is dying. The world is too small to stay vibrant and produce sufficient heat to make their biosphere viable. She informs Planet that she will happily die with him, but is angry that the universe is so unjust. She accepts their fate in the understanding that the love they shared is eternal and will live beyond them. Together they embrace and slowly fade away.
- Scene 6
- The world is now empty, desolate and cold. The life forms have retreated beneath the surface to enter a dormant state. Ghostly memories of Planet and Sky call out across the frozen landscape. A long good-bye to the life they shared.
- The travelers are awakening beneath the surface. With astonishing rapidity the planet begins a transformation to a new and rich biosphere. The Chief Scientist reappears and directs a project of macro-engineering to bring the planet back to life. The travelers evolve to higher life forms and a new Planet and Sky appear. They are the distant descendants of that legendary couple that once lived and loved long ago. Their love remains and the new Planet and Sky welcome its embrace. All is well.
8/7/09: The project has reached a precariously poignant moment and the pace is picking up. A promising audition for female vocalist has left our candidate considering joining us. A couple of drummers are also in the mix, with an audition scheduled for next Thursday. A few options for keyboardist to consider. Best of all, I'm seeing a strong possibility of completing the libretto (in draft form) by this coming weekend and possibly the music as well very soon after. Then it's just a matter of filling out the personnel, finding time to practice, pushing ancillary art and design elements through, finding a venue, and performing. Sounds simple enough.
7/12/09: I've made a decision to "localize" the project a bit. One of the biggest stumbling blocks over the past few months has been the difficulty coordinating schedules with far-flung collaborators; i.e the Sacto gang. Missy and Brian did awesome work on the first two tunes and I hope to continue to work with them on final tracks, whenver it gets closer to that point. For now, it's essential to work frequently with collaborators on the development of the material. The recent weekly practice sessions with John Engel on drums, Reed on guitar, me n bass & vocals is bearing fruit. I intend to introduce new local musicians to the ensemble as soon as I can locate good available and interested talent. This website is a part of that push, as I need to be able to direct interested parties to a site where they can get some background, download recordings, etc.
Next step on the agenda is a first recording session with the three of us at John's place next Tuesday night. Focus will be on Such is Love and Planet My Love, as both of these are yet to be recorded in listenable format. Then we'll try to get new versions of Something and Round with the core ensemble and start auditioning new players as I can come up with them.
Something is Dreaming: Overview
There's a soft spot in my heart for this one, possibly because it's the first complete song I wrote in fifteen years or so, but I really do like the structure of it. Not everyone agrees with me on this. Some find the lyrics too geeky and don't like the way I've been initially singing it. I'm working on the latter (the words will remain geeky as hell...he's a scientist!)
This song is the exposition of the premise. The Chief Scientist sets the stage in the first verse and chorus, then issues instructions to his staff in the second verse. Following each of these verses is an instrumental bridge section. I intend to add lyrics to this section to be sung by Planet and Sky- foreshadowing their subsequent appearance in Round. I should note that the Chief Scientist should really be a different voice from Planet.
Something is Dreaming: Music
||: Bm D G Bm :||
||: Bm D G Bm :|| 4x
Em / Bm /
Em / Bm F#7
Em / Bm /
Em G / DABm
||: Bm A Bm F#7
Bm A Em Bm :||
Semi-chorus (no F#7)
Em / Bm /
Em / Bm /
Em / Bm /
Em G / D A Bm
||: D A Bm / / :|| 12x
bridge2-lead(over verse and chorus form)-verse3-semichorus-outro
Something is Dreaming: Lyrics
Cross the glistening sands
eon-etched ocean of time
’neath guardian rock and regolith
Something is dreaming
It knows the depths and darkness
And it knows what lies above
The winds that whirl the dust of ages
it ponders life and love
Of what does it dream
In its cold and empty world?
Where does it find its wonders
Its visions to behold?
Will it find the answers
Its plots and fantasies?
Of what does it dream?
It dreams of thou and thee.
Prepare the instruments
To probe this entity
Heed the directed protocols
Observe with dignity
Care not to impose bias
Our wishes and our fears
Something dreams a message
Let us strive to hear
Yet what does it dream
what fate does it portend?
What meaning and what motive
To embrace or to defend?
Could it be a danger
Red menace come at last?
Or is it just a dreamer
Evoking a golden past?
Detecting shapes and shadows
Outlines form beginnings
Thoughts upon the skies
Standing waves arising
A narrative is forming
The story has begun
Something is dreaming...
Something is Dreaming: Status
Adding lyrics for bridges and in outro. The trio is working on the groove and starting to get it down pretty well. Not quite recording-ready, but making progress.
Something is Dreaming: RecordingsLive rough mix, Callisto Studio, 3/31/09
(Reed, Missy, Brian, Joel)
My first duet, and a smash success if I dare say. Funky and fun, Planet appears first and demonstrates his ignorance of the existence of any other entity, particularly Sky. The latter appears next and begins to tease him seductively. "Why're you always looking at me?" She gets under his skin and he has to think about it for a little while. This is the "million years" instrumental break. Upon conclusion of his meditation he is deeply in love. Sky and Planet sing the final chorus with a "we" intead of Planet's "I". They're now united in eternal bliss, or as long as they survive at any rate.
||: G#m F# :||
||: G# F# :|| 8x
||: G#m F# :|| 16x
Million years instrumental
F# ^F# G# Bb D# C# ^G# Bb D# C# F#
bass riff alone
||: G# B F# :|| 4x
repeat 4 bar pattern riff w/out staggered intros
turnaround, then full stop
intro - verse1-4 - (stop)
million years -(stop) -verse5-8 - chorus(2x)
Solid round I’m round
I am all there is or needs to be.
My entire being surrounds me.
A world of sand and dust, built on solid rock.
I am a planet- look at me.
Do you hear, lost and lonely child?
Another spirit whispers in the sky
You’re not alone, you’re not the only thing
I am with you flying high
Trying to get my head around this now
there’s something else- duality?
Why would I need this, some kind of parasite
Messin’ with my geometry?
I complete you- add a touch of class
even if my charms you cannot see
But something tells me you want someone
Why’re you always looking at me?
flying so high
high above the ground
Now let me think.
Here’s what I think.
This is something good I know that it’s to be
I can envision harmony
You bring me air and rain and manna from the stars
I’ll provide the gravity
I knew you’d come around, my silly ball of stone
Though it took a million years to see
I’ll bring you special gifts that you will adore and
shelter you from cosmic debris
I can be a little dense... for that you must forgive
and you’re a flighty tart- agree?
But now we’re bound forever mated in the void
One for all eternity
I’ll love you dearly, hold you tenderly
The universe will know our bliss
Children will soon come forth across our sphere
Wonders follow on our kiss
we fly so high
lovers world and sky
Note: Planet in normal text, Sky in italics
I loved the version we did up in Sacto so much I almost didn't want to revisit it with the local trio. I'm glad we did, however, as the most recent session with John showed some real promise. He's introduced a nice idea of playing signature drum riffs behind P & S's verses which I really like.
We'll aim for getting this one recorded soon after the two love songs. It would help also to get that local Sky.
Round: RecordingsPartially tracked rough mix, Callisto Studio, 4/19/09
(Reed, Missy, Brian, Joel)
This one is based on the theory of panspermia, or more precisely, exogenesis. In a nutshell, the idea is that life did not arise on Earth from scratch, but was "seeded" from elsewhere in the universe. The mechanism of this is quite interesting. Early solar system history is characterized by intense meteorite bombardment of the inner, rocky planets. It's quite feasible, if not inevitable, for enough material to be ejected from a planet's crust to send any existing microorganisms within the ejected rock on a potentially long space voyage.
Once it reaches a long distance from the sun, say a few times the distance of Pluto, it settles into a somewhat stable orbit along with many other icy rock worlds. When our sun gets close enough to another star on its travels through the galaxy, the gravitational perturbations cause the ice world bearing the lifeforms to descend toward the other star. When it gets close enough to the star it becomes a comet, and if it's lucky enough to collide with a young, fertile world... wa-la! you have exogenesis. The math is far beyond me, but my brilliant astronautical engineer friend Robert Zubrin says it's far more likely to happen that to not happen.
The "travelers" in this song are three variants of micoorganisms. The lyrics may change because I might want to develop personalities for each voice; a calm ringleader type, a nervous nellie who thinks they're all doomed, and a sleepy stoner dude. Workin' on that.
Variant 1 (ringleader):
Far from the star of our home world we rest in this ice world we wait for new land
Variant 2 (nervous nellie): Blown into space by a terrible blast. A terrible fate awaits us out here in the void
Variant 3 (sleepy stoner):
Deep space is quiet and restful and cold... hardened ’gainst radiation we sleep
Something comes slowly and makes itself known... now we're on track to a new star
This monster is pulling us faster we move- away from our neighbors far far away
A new journey finds us speed fast on our way- the light getting brighter- the cold fades
Here comes a source of new light and warmth- a golden beacon- our deliverance!
We rush to this evil to our doom to be scorched- blackened- cold, and dead!
Maybe a new place to live, eat, and sleep... on a nurturing world?
Only a few must survive...
Bringing the secrets of life...
One world grows larger...
This song has gone pretty much nowhere as of yet. I've got the bass line down which I'm pretty happy with, but I have a very sketchy idea of what the other parts should consist of. This may require some collaborative brainstorming.
Eon of Joy: Overview
This is a late addition. I found the theme going through my head and just had to fit it in somewhere. Maybe I felt that there wasn't quite enough of the fun of Round. On the other hand, there is a certain chapter in any genuine love story that shouldn't be overlooked. This is the time when the lovers are living out their ecstatic phase, the head over heels part. In the case of a planet and a sky, this is when the real excitement takes place.
I have to give Missy some credit for this one, with her classic jest... "Is that a mountain range or are you just happy to see me?".
Musically, the song has to be rippin'. I've got the basic chord progression figured out and some partial lyrics, but there's still a lot of work to be done.
Eon of Joy: Music
Eon of Joy: Lyrics
(Planet normal text, Sky italics, Together bold italics)
I’ve got the heat building up down deep
gonna build a mountain or two
gonna flex my mantle... make the ground shake
gonna get tectonic on you.
I used to think it was oh so simple
perfection was my only aim
But now you got me all torn up inside girl
I don’t even know my name
Yeah I hear you but it works both ways
I was so happy to be free
But here I am now swirling out of control
Can’t tell who’s you and who is me
My air was gentle and my breeze was light
I felt at peace and free from harm
now every time that you let off a little steam
I become a raging storm
Eons of anger
confusion and pain
the fire from below
and the driving rain
the power of creation
the will to destroy
eons of joy
What does it mean to be one with you?
Do I lose all I thought I had?
It seems so natural as we melt into each other
this greater being is not so bad
But these convulsions make me wonder
these stones that smash me from above
Is there a downside to this union?
What kind of bargain is this love?
Yes I am thankful for foundation
and feel a bliss to bond with you
but I miss the simple joy of floating
without a care, without a clue
But I must have you know my dear
my love for you exceeds all bounds
the care we feel now for each other
fuels the power that we’ve found
Eons of anger
confusion and pain
the fire from below
and the driving rain
the power of creation
the will to destroy
eons of joy
Eon of Joy: Status
8/7/09: Bass line, format and lyrics complete. Would like to introduce it to John on Tuesday for additional development.
I may change this song's title to something like, "the Artist and the Engineer." A theme emerging in my mind is that Planet, though confident of his strength and power, feels inadequate in his capability to create a world of sufficient beauty for his new love. Sky will assure him that she can take care of this part of the equation. He must provide the canvas, but she will sculpt it and paint their masterpiece upon it. She also feels inadequate, however, as she is incapable of protecting him from the bombardment of meteors and comets (the very cosmic depris she swore she'd shelter him from in Round). Planet implores her to have faith that the universe has a plan and some of these intrusions may bring the seeds of life which could turn out be be a source of great artistry of its own.
Planet's insecurity will eventually prove ironic, as it is his lack of strength and power that will eventually doom Sky and the biosphere. Similarly, Sky's unspoken insecurity is that she is utterly dependent upon Sky. This fear will prove to be ultimately justified.
Such is Love: Overview
After the young love ecstacy nonsense, Planet feels like he's got this love thing all figured out. He's contented, happy, and wants to let Sky know exactly how he feels and what she means to him. Originally I was going to have this one be somewhat soft and soulful, but it just didn't work musically. I finally realized it has to have a touch of Marley to it. It's reggae mon. With John's help, the trio is starting to get just the right feel. I need some vocal help from Sky because the chorus really lends itself to an exhuberant, multi-voiced arrangement.
One note of dark wisdom is sounded by Sky in the minor bridge. She cautions Planet, in his high and happy vibe, to "fail not your precious hold on me." Planet is not ready to hear this, and kind of blows her off with the carefree lead and chorus out to follow. Sky's dark premonition isn't manifested until the following song, when things take a sudden turn for the worst.
Here are some further notes on the genesis of the chorus lyrics (as previously elucidated at New Worlds):
A little over a year ago I discovered a wonderful book entitled “Love and Will” by the existential psychologist Rollo May written back in the sixties. It’s a significant work, in length and in depth, and I read it twice back to back.
Near the beginning he describes four aspects of love; libido (sex), eros (the creative impulse), filia (brotherly love) and agape (God’s love for his children in purest form). The first chorus above attempts to reflect these concepts. Libido- thrill of combination, eros- creating a brand new world, filia- eternal perfect friendship, and agape- a vow to care and shelter all within our fold.
This page might be a little closer to technically correct, but I’ll stick with May’s interpretations, if for no other reason than that it fits my needs better in the song.
Such is Love: Music
D Bm7 AsusA Bm
D EsusE Asus A
DsusD E A7 A
D E Asus A
C#m A D/Bbass E
C#m A C# D/Bbass E
C#m A D/Bbass E
AsusA BsusB ^B
Em Dm Am7 Em
Em Dm G A
bridge-lead(over verse form)-chorus 3x
Such is Love: Lyrics
She flows into my valleys
dances ’cross my plains
climbs my highest mountains
brings me gentle rains
I provide a base for her
enrich her wondrous soul
whatever she may need from me
I will find and bring it whole
such is love
the thrill of combination
such is love
creating a brand new world
such is love
perfect eternal friendship
a vow... to guide and shelter all...
all within our fold
the air above is warm now
on my surface rivers run
time to wake the travelers
to thrive beneath the sun
and yet my peace is broken
no... I dare not dwell upon
I know she’ll never leave me
but what if I can’t hold on?
such is love
the agony and ecstasy
such is love
to build with spirit bold
such is love
wonder what became of me
a vow... to guide and shelter her...
and all within our fold
Lover draw me close to thee
Against the black and clod of night
We hold the key to life within us
Fail not your precious hold on me
Such is Love: Status
This song has been a genuine struggle. Reed and I have failed repeatedly to find common ground. At first I wanted something soulful but delebratory, almost gospel. Reed kept hearing something toned down- acoustic even. Finally I got the reggae inspiration and tried a couple of times to sell Reed on it and failed. John camae to the rescue, knowing precisely how to do the nuts and bolts of reggaefying it. From that point on it just became a matter of getting comfortable with the form.
We'll see on Tuesday if it's on track as I hope.
Such is Love: RecordingsBass/Vocal Demo, Joel's garage, Montara, ~4/15/09
Planet My Love: Overview
Upon finishing Such is Love I knew that Sky had to answer Planet's love song, but it would have an entirely different tone. I also had "show-stopper aria" in mind. I started to feel a little intimidated by the challenge because I knew the music and lyrics had to stand out.
Sky has to deliver a fairly complex message; she is aware that the planet is cooling rapidly and that the biosphere is ultimately doomed. She truly loves Planet, and so bears no sense of blame toward him even though she will herself be a casualty. She is wise and resigned to their shared fate, but also a little angry that it has to be this way. Finally, she understands that the love they share is something beyond life and death, and needs to express this to Planet so he understands as well and can celebrate their love without self-pity or overwhelming grief and despair.
Somehow I found lyrics to bring all of these ideas together and then had to set them to music; to come up with parts that transition from sorrow to anger to acceptance to celebration of the glory of their eternal love as they pass from the scene.
I think it works. Now I just need to hear somebody sing it.
Planet My Love: Music
||: C#m Dm C#m F :||
||: Bb D Eb F :||
||: G F G ^F :||
(rest two beats after bridge)
lead(over verse/chorus/bridge form)-verse3
Planet My Love: Lyrics
Planet my love
I know that we’re dying
your rivers run empty
my air fades away
our children retreat
into your deepest havens
your surface lies barren
’neath the sun’s deadly rays
the pain fills my heart
this sorrow I feel
the dread separation
this grief is too real
but I can’t regret
the moment I found you
the joy of our union
in eternity bound
fairness, beauty, compassion
province of good mortal beings
the universe cares not for its children
who wait for its pityless sting
but we made a gift unto heaven
our love, precious and free
as we fade to oblivion
love is our victory
Planet my love
I join you in dying
there’s no greater glory
than to share our last day
So let us embrace
as we walk through this door
though our time here is over
our love will yet live... forevermore
Planet My Love: Status
I hope to get rough drums. bass, guitar recordings of this with and without vocal this coming Tuesday (7/14/09).
Planet My Love: RecordingsDemo (w/ reference vocal), Mission Rock Studio, SF, 5/6/09
Instrumental demo, Mission Rock Studio, SF, 5/8/09
Empty World: Overview
This one is pretty murky at this point, but I feel sure that it will be without lyrics- there's nobody around to sing it, Planet and Sky as living entities have left the scene. There may be some ethereal voices of some kind over a somber, melancholy instrumental. I'd like to work free-form to some extent with Reed and John (and whoever) contributing musical ideas on the fly. In other words, once I've really got a band that feels like a band, this will be the band's song.
Empty World: Music
Empty World: Lyrics
Empty World: Status
Wake Up!: Overview
The entire cast returns for a rousing reprise. The song will begin with a chorus groove featuring the voices of the Travelers returning to life. The depths into which they'd burrowed long ago to lie dormant for the ages is gradually warming. Then the Chief Scientist comes back on the scene versifying in rap form to explain what is happening.
The scientists have decoded the myth- what the dream meant- and have undertaken a massive project of macroengineering in response. They have begun to employ a variety of means to restore a viable biosphere. Of course this means that Planet and Sky are effectively brought back from the dead. They are not exactly the same beings- more like distant descendents- but exhibit similar characteristics (same voices for instance- conveniently). Most of all they discover that their love has survived their absence and they slip it back on like a comfortable old pair of shoes.
That's all folks.