New Music – Apollo 21

Hi, everyone. The Prof is back to pull back the curtain on genius once again. Here he is on the soundtrack for Illicit Ink‘s Apollo 21 at the Edinburgh International Science Festival – but being too modest to mention his star turn as Ground Control….

A sensory massage for your brain
Listen-along-a-Prof

Hey Friends,

New music news! We have a chunk of somewhat more modern stuff from Nerd Bait!

NerdBait’s world premiere debut – The Treacherous Brain – happened 13 months ago at Illicit Ink Underground, a spoken word Edinburgh show series (Illicit Ink also runs a Skyground night – find out more here). April 15th of this year, the fine folks who run Illicit Ink (Hi Babs!) invited several folks – including Ricky – to participate in a science-based show where individual writers wrote short segments to a central story arc, which were then performed by the writers themselves or other Edinburgh-based performers.

The cast of Apollo 21 (Ground Control and Tara [Ethereal Version] not pictured)
The show was to be about space, and was to be performed at the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.Well, that sounded right up NerdBait’s (and Ricky’s) alley, so we joined in, and by all accounts the show came out great – it’s being performed as I type this. Here’s the show description:

It’s 1975 and the Apollo programme – the golden age of space travel – is coming to an end. Tara Beckett is boarding Apollo 21, a dream come true. But soon after reaching orbit, the mission is thrown into jeopardy. Lost, alone, and running out of air, will she make it back to Earth or is she destined to wander between worlds forever? Performed by an ensemble cast, Illicit Ink Skyground explores the beauty, hostility and wonder of the cosmos through touching, funny and scientific storytelling.

We picked a late second act scene where a person on earth who loves the astronaut talks to her, unsuccessfully, from mission control. We planned it as a long bit of prose by Ricky, with “some sort of music”.

We also volunteered to do an opening and closing song, and also provide original music for the inter-act moments.

So OK, 1975. Science. Space. There’s a set of themes which work well for us. I turned to three inspirations to start banging out some sounds to see if they tickled Steph and Ricky’s fancy: Wendy Carlos’ amazing work with the Moog, Terry Riley’s In C (which I know, is the 60s), and the way Wings sounded when they sounded good. To be clear, nothing we wrote is as good as any of that, of course! (He did say “Wings when they sounded good – Ed.

Margaret Hamilton and her hand-typed Apollo code

For those readers who think the best artist of the 70’s was Brahms, work with me here. Youtube has good examples of those influences (including – yowza – a Carlos/Penderecki thing which only I will like, but hey).

So what did we come up with?

First, the opening and closing song:

Opening Song
Closing Song

These were based on a 3 stanza poem Ricky wrote and when you listen to them back to back, you can see how they are different windows on the same tune. I think the opening song is my favorite pure-play pop/rock song we’ve written to date. As Mentortothebandlouis knows, that major chord over the second (here the D over E which resolves to A at the end of the pattern) is just my favorite sound.

Next, the actual performance bit. Ricky wrote a lovely text about what it would be like to try to talk to your lost, beloved, female scientist in space in 1975. We decided to set it to a sort of growing ambient piece with bits of Stephanie singing themes, sampled in. This is a really lovely 10 minute performance by Ricky which meshes with the music in a way we all like. Plus a big quote from Yes Ricky, which I couldn’t resist. This is a long bit, but if you can spare 10 minutes, is worth a listen, we think.

Hey, that’s Wurdz Boi’s imaginary girlfriend!

Performance from Apollo 21

And finally the interludes and a fake 1970s news theme. Sharing them here as a playlist. A bit more formal, but fun. And about 30 seconds each. I originally wrote the interludes thinking they would fade to NASA patter (and Interlude No.1 has a version with that patter in); the talented Illicit Ink people mixed in their own patter, so the interludes have a theme then a repetitive piano for the sound folk to fade.

Interludes and so on

Anyway, hope you enjoy these. As always, we’re glad to hear feedback on email, twitter, or at nerdbaitband.com. Share with anyone you want!

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