• From Pagan Angel to Anathema: STARMUS 2016 Featured Performers

    Reading the history of the band Anathema is a course in music history in and of itself. Started in 1990 under the name Pagan Angel, it was a death-doom band whose core was the Cavanagh siblings—Vincent, Daniel, and Jamie. The continual evolution morphed the name from Pagan Angel to Anathema, and the sound from death-doom to alternative. 

    I first listened to the band when they showed up on the program for STARMUS 2016. Two of the Cavanaghs—Vincent and Daniel—are still with the band. They are joined by John and Lee Douglas and Daniel Cardosa. Anathema band at a concert in Mega Club in Katowice, Poland 2004. From left: Les Smith; Daniel, Vincent & Jamie Cavanagh. (Image under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Courtesy of Krzysztof Raś.)

    Ariel, from the album Distant Satellites, and Thin Air, from A Sort of Homecoming, convinced me that the music at STARMUS will be stellar!  Check them out on iTunes.


    I found you in the dark
    Don't leave me here
    Don't leave me staring at the sun
    Love is so strong, that it hurts
    I dreamed of you in the dark
    You spoke to me from afar
    What you mean to me is clear
    And I'll always be near
    I found you in the dark
    Don't leave me here
    Don't leave me staring at the sun
    Love is so strong, that it hurts
    Look into your eyes
    See my life's defined
    Look into your eyes
    See a heart of mine


  • Music for Spaceports: Brian Eno to Keynote STARMUS 2016

    By the time the 21st Century arrived, I had thought that Brian Eno would have written Music for Spaceports, and that I would be listening to it while waiting for a shuttle to Mars. While the Earth has muddled along—progressing in some sectors and not so much in others—Brian Eno has been evolving his art. I’m thrilled to see that he is a keynote presenter at STARMUS 2016

    When it was first released, Brian Eno’s Music for Airports was one of the most talked about albums in my music circles. Classical musicians didn’t want to recognize that album as music, while others thought it was brilliant. I enjoyed the debate about the music-worthiness of the album as much as the album itself. Good art stretches the boundaries of definition. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.)

    Now that I am researching Mr. Eno’s music in preparation for my trip to STARMUS in the Canary Islands, I realize how much I’ve missed his and other experimental music. It’s a treat to be reunited once again and to listen to his more recent work, like The Ship. This, in turn, inspired me to see what’s up with people like Ellen Furman, Pauline Oliveros, and Alvin Lucier, all of whom I’ve heard perform in person, and who, along with Brian Eno, taught me to listen deeply and appreciate the nuance of tones and textures. 

    Why did I fall of out touch with experimental music? I moved to Silicon Valley in the late 1990’s where the culture is fast paced and high-tech with a bias towards pop. Ambient and slow change music could not exist here, where the space between words and the pause at the end of a sentence are opportunities for someone to interject more words. The start-up culture doesn’t have the word sustain in its vocabulary, much less patience for any tone that would last more than 250 milliseconds or a song longer than 4 minutes. Yet albums like The Ship are just what we in high tech need as an antidote to our hyperdrive living. 

    Explore These

    The Ship, Brian Eno

    The Difference Between Hearing and Listening, Pauline Oliveros

    Long Strings Performance, Ellen Furman

    I Am Sitting in a Room, Alvin Lucier

  • Children Sing for Water

    Richard Stilgoe, is a British composer and lyricist. If you saw the musical Starlight Express or The Phantom of the Opera, you've heard his lyrics. A few years ago, he wrote set of songs for children about water and the problems children in developing countries face getting clean water. The songs are a great way to give grade schoolers a bigger perspective on the world. And the songs are fun to sing.

    You can get the sheet music and download recordings from Water Aid.

    Listen to Richard's Water song, sung by British children.

  • Running 10 Miles Alone

    On a typical Saturday morning, the parking lot at the local high school is almost full. It's the starting point for running groups, high school track meets, and tennis lessons. This week I had to run on Sunday morning. When I arrive, not one car is in the parking lot. I planned on running alone, but I didn't figure I'd be all alone. Usually there are a few other runners starting out or coming back or running the track. This is the longest run for me in a very long time. It won't be easy to run this distance alone.

    Past coaches trained me not to run with headphones when running with others because it's not sociable. "Even if you're too winded to talk" one coach told me "you should use your mind to appreciate your surroundings." Today was different. I did not have any companions. So I popped the ear buds in my ears, activated Nike+, and chose my running playlist.

    The first song suited my mood --- Hier Kommt Alex. A brief bit of Beethoven fades into a scream. Then the music starts. I match my pace to it:

    In einer Welt, in der man nur noch lebt
    Damit man tglich robotten geht
    Ist die grte Aufregung, die es noch gibt,
    Das allabendliche Fernsehbild

    I have no idea what they're singing. I know the song, but it's too early to comprehend German. Sounds like gibberish. But I run on, up the overpass, over the wooden bridge, across a street. No need to stop for cars; still no one in sight. Not even the bikers are out.

    Alex becomes Through Fire and Flames. I love this song because it is long; it takes me past the first mile and into the second.

    On a cold winter morning in a time before the light
    In flames of death's eternal reign we ride towards the fight
    When the darkness has fallen down and the times are tough alright
    The sound of evil laughter falls around the world tonight

    And it is cold out -- for California. It was 37 degrees when I woke up and about 48 degrees when I started the run. I'm still wearing my coat. The scenery is fabulous despite the chill; lots of birds.

    Nobody said it was easy,
    Nobody said it was easy,
    Nobody said it was easy,
    Oh take me back to the start.

    Maybe this running 10 miles wasn't such a great idea. It isn't easy getting up this early and pounding the trail. Coldplay's The Scientist keeps suggesting to go back to the start. Maybe I should.

    Runnin' in circles, Chasin' tails
    Nobody said it was easy,
    Oh take me back to the start.

    I plod on. Maybe it's that hill up the small dam that's discouraging me. It's not really that big, but it seems so. In fact, everything seems uphill. I look at the stream next to me. It's flowing downhill. But I swear, I haven't had one downhill stretch yet. How can that be?

    Viva La Vida, another Coldplay song, brings a smile to my face. I pick up the pace. My nieces and nephew loved singing this last year. I made them "sing for their supper." They always let loose on the middle section with all the "Ooo ooo oh ooos." It was quite amusing.

    I'm getting out of breath. Mimbali brings me back to marathon pace. Shorten your stride, shorten your stride, shorten your stride. I'm not even to the turnaround point. The persistent drums and vocal whoops put me right back in Africa. If only I could run like a Kenyan. It's a great song that keeps my spirits uplifted. Now I start to notice other runners. One even waves at me. It's comforting. I see the same people a lot, but don't know who they are. Runners are great group. They'll act as if they know you as they speed by.

    The next set of songs help me pick it up again.

    I gotta feeling
    Let's paint the town
    Tonight's the night,
    Let's live it up,
    I got my money,
    Let's spend it up
    What do Code Monkey think?
    Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write god damned login page himself
    Code Monkey not say it out loud
    Code Monkey not crazy, just proud
    Everybody's gonna dance tonight
    Everybody's gonna feel alright
    Everybody's gonna dance around tonight

    How much farther? I've trained myself to think segments, not miles. This run has only two segments. One is out and the other is back. It seems shorter that way. I still can't help thinking how far it is to the start of the back segment. Running 10 miles. Not a good idea. And whose idea was it to train for a marathon anyway? If this is difficult, how am I going to tackle the Chicago marathon?

    Then I remember it was my idea. Jerree Small drags me through Minnesota. Then David Walburn's cowboy rhythm gets me to trot onwards.

    When your life gets too crazy
    All your troubles have tried to bring you down
    Just leave your troubles behind and go on Montana Time

    I'm getting tired. What was it the coach said about the secret to finishing a marathon? RFM, RFM, RFM. Repetitive Forward Motion. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. Don't stop. James Blunt matches my dark mood.

    How I wish I'd chosen darkness from cold.
    How I wish I had screamed out loud,
    Instead I've found no meaning.
    I guess it's time I run far, far away; find comfort in pain,
    All pleasure's the same: it just keeps me from trouble.

    The turnaround point is not far now. I hear The Low Spark of High-heeled Boys.

    If I gave you everything that I owned and asked for nothing in return
    Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
    Or take me for a ride, and strip me of everything including my pride
    But spirit is something that no one destroys
    Spirit … something … no one … destroys

    I see the turnaround point, and it really is downhill. I reach it and realize in horror that I immediately have to turn around and run uphill. How can that be? I'm certain now that I'm stuck in an Escher drawing. At least I'm on the way back to the parking lot. The bikers are out. I must look crazed now, because one of them actually let's me go first when I get to an underpass. Why am I so tired?

    Alex is back screaming at me. My foot falls are much faster than the music. I must have slowly sped up during the first segmen. I'm glad I can pull it back. The German doesn't sound as foreign to me now. Could it be in English? Or am I just more awake? Or am I hallucinating from all this running?

    In a world in which you live only to work,
    Your only excitements are your daily TV shows.
    Everyone is like a clockwork;
    Programed like a computer.
    And nobody is willing to stand up against it

    That's depressing! No matter, my mood has picked up. I crack open a pack of vanilla-flavored Gu.

    "A shot of fast-acting natural fructose (fruit sugar) goes straight to work building your energy levels back up while the maltodextrin is quickly absorbed and sent to your muscles. Vital electrolytes keep your blood chemistry in line and hydration levels stable. Calcium keeps your muscles humming and caffeine adds an extra kick to your power."

    The Gu will get me back to the car. It's a good thing, too. I left my cell in the car. Without it, I can't be tempted to beg someone to drive me back.

    The playlist might be the same on the way back, but I'm noticing a lot of things on the trail that I didn't notice on the way out. Like the fact the Robert's Road bridge was dismantled. How could I have run under what's left of it and not noticed? Is it a good sign I'm noticing more things?

    I continue to run. I know this segment has got to be uphill because I'm running against the water flow and towards the Lexington dam. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. RFM, RFM, RFM. Finally I see the parking lot. I'm glad that next week I'll be able to run with my team. Misery loves company.

    Now that I'm stopped I feel great. What an accomplishment! I need only to add another 16.2 miles to that distance by October. I have hope.

    Find out more about my marathon training. Help me raise money for cancer research.

    My Running Playlist

    Hier Kommt Alex , Die Toten Hosen
    Through Fire and Flames, Dragonforce
    The Scientist, Coldplay
    Viva la Vida, Coldplay
    Mimbali, The Beating Heart of Africa
    I Gotta Feeling, Black Eyed Peas
    Code Monkey, Jonathan Coulton
    Dance Tonight, Paul McCartney
    Reference Point, Acoustic Alchemy
    Minnesota, Jerree Small
    Montana Time, David Walburn
    Blue Montana Moon, Joni Harms
    Tears and Rain, James Blunt
    The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Traffic

  • Who’s Got the Most Talent—CERN or Berkeley Physicists?

    The European Organization for Nuclear Research (aka CERN) made news after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Rap hit YouTube. I was impressed that physicists could be smart and entertaining. Who would have thought? After a few listenings, uniqueness wore off and I began to question whether they really had talent. Now that I've seen what Berkeley physicists can do, I think it's time for CERN to update their video.

    I'll let you judge which one is more talented.

    The Nano Song

    Large Hadron Collider Rap

  • Tick, Tock Tristan Time

    Lorien talking to Sheridan in an episode of Babylon 5.

    There are only two possibilities. If you hit bottom then you are dead. If you did not hit bottom you are still falling and all this is a dream unless you are in-between moments.

    Tick tock, tick tock. Always running out of time

    Yours is almost used up. You are in between seconds, lost in the infinite possibilities between tick and tock.

    Tick you're alive.
    Tock . . . well, it was a good life but a short one.

    Tick, tock, tick tock.

    Seattle Opera's recent production of Tristan und Isolde reminded me of this scene from Babylon 5. A man caught in the moment between life and death. The in-between worlds of Sheridan and Tristan warps time to suit their circumstances. Sheridan allows his love for Delenn to pull him from the in-between world to that of the living even though his feat costs him years off his life. Tristan takes another path. His in-between world allows him to consummate his love for Isolde before he dies.

    Tristan und Isolde is a favorite of mine. Its only flaw is the love potion. From my first encounter with love potions—The Searchers' hit Love Potion No. 9—I've been a skeptic. Really! A liquid that's going to make two people fall passionately in love? Lust maybe, but not the sort of love Tristan und Isolde have for each other.

    Under the direction of Peter Kazaras, Tristan und Isolde became believable for me. The love potion is really a death potion—there isn't any swapping by Brangane. The opera becomes the tale of Tristan's in-between world. His passage from tick to tock. This concept, combined with the extraordinary singing by Annalena Persson and Clifton Forbis, and the rest of this high-caliber, cast created a moving and memorable performance.