21cm - A Background

A few people now have asked me what exactly this track with the title 21cm means, so I decided to write my own personal description of it, so here it is.

My views of the world, through music, are large vistas, covering more than the usual small story-scapes that proliferate the musical landscape.  21cm is different in this regard.

The track title ‘21cm’  - please bear with me - refers to the radio frequency wavelength of the ‘ionised’ Hydrogen line, used in radio-astronomy…the way we ‘see’ the Universe using the Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum, invisible to the naked eye.

The track, compromising of synthesisers and a classical-feel piano,  starts out with the sound of sea waves, crashing on a pebble beach. This is a sound that needs to be heard and appreciated by humans.  If you are ever in a situation where you can stand on a beach and listen to this simple, natural sound, close your eyes and block out all other sounds if you can and focus in on this sound only.  It’s a beautiful noise to behold, the crashing water (of life) moving solid rocks or sand (once rocks, but pulverised over time, by the water).

I then introduce what are supposed to be the noise of electrons orbiting their nuclei (Hydrogen again - another water connection and hydorgen being the first atoms to be created as well as the most plentiful).  When creating these elements of the track after multiple listens, I started to imaging them as Dolphins…perhaps an interpretation of early ancient forms of sea life. The scene - in my mind at least - is then set for the start of the world as we know it and have to come understand it, through it’s fossil records and history.

From this point, the repeating piano motif fades in - a complex, 7/8 time signature, with seemingly two sides, left and right hands fighting, wresting each other for dominance.  This piece represents the start of life and over millions of years, it’s evolution, including that of humans which eventually take over and dominate all over living creatures and their surroundings.

Interspersed with 4/4 phrases that mimic ‘rests’ in progress, the track builds as a parallel to human growth and knowledge, sometimes hurried through warfare, sometimes hindered by various understandable but unreasonable belief systems.  We reach a point where we are able to use our knowledge and experience, our growing scientific understanding, to search for other intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe.  We initially unknowingly and later knowingly send signals out into free space to communicate with any intelligent life form out there.  Are we really asking for help?  Are we wanting an answer to understand and justify our existence? To create meaning for ourselves?

Human existence continues unabated with all the good and bad that goes along with it.  Continually affecting our surroundings and other life forms on our planet, under the seas, on land and in the air, we continue on blindly, yet knowing the consequences of our behaviour but, generation after generation,  still choosing to ignore them.  This, ultimately, culminates in our own destruction.

For me personally, the track carries me along to this point and then drops me back down to earth with a thud - I feel like I’ve been on a ride and feel a little breathless.  I feel like I been picked up and have rode the track to this point and have now been pushed off as it is [almost] all over.  I almost feel a sense of relief.  The overriding image in my mind, is that of a huge mushroon cloud, building and building.

We are now returned to the same opening scene of waves crashing on a beach, accompanied by a mournful piano.  Towards the very end of the track, at last, our signals sent out years before into space, were received by beings we wanted to reach out to.  A beeping overhead signal, signifies that they have finally arrived to meet us and help us out of our self-inflicted predicament but alas…we as a species, peaked too early and they…arrived too late to help.  All that is left is the sound of waves, crashing upon a beach...with no human around to hear it.

My hope is that we can learn more, learn faster, in order to stabilise our planet, stop creating the emissions that will destroy us, stop creating the waste that will destroy those beings around us and return our planet to the paradise it actually is.

Are you with me?

Fourth Album Update 2

Fourth album update: I have another track down! Although done in a weekend, its taken another 5 nights to tweak and make (hopefully) perfect. It will however change no doubt over the coming months...you need to step back from them so you can listen with a fresh mind. Pretty confident now so I'm actually designing album covers...three of them...so I'll have to choose one, which, I'll put off until the album is complete!  

Fourth Album ‘Music for Film' 2

A slow start to the fourth album.  Fully expected really as Empire took a little longer than expected...trying to achieve perfection tends to do this.   The album has the working title ‘Music for Film’ though I won’t be expecting any of this music to be picked up for film. The title is more about music being a part of your own film of life…living your own movie.

Two tracks in at the moment with a third I keep playing around with.  A strange concept for a track called ‘The Conversation’ and I’m not sure if it’s working….the idea is pretty good though.  Ordinarily, if you have doubts about a track, it’s probably best to put it to one side…but there is something about this one I can’t let go.

I seem to have less time these days for my music as the day job…the one that puts food on the table…has taken over somewhat.  There is still a life to be lived so I’ll get there in the end.

Album Progress

My third electronic, solo and instrumental album now has a name…’Empire’.  

Predominantly about the greedy and the good, where banking / financial systems use (and abuse) the rest of us.  I read a book recently - Flash Boys by Michael Lewis {The Big Short, Moneyball}).  The book tells the true story of market traders trying to find out why the stock market did not appear to be as their screens before them, suggested it was.  Before them led and investigation to figure out what was happening, who was responsible and their fight to correct the situation in order to restore faith…trust back into the markets.  There should be a film that counters ‘Wall Street’ i.e. denounce Gecko’s statement that “greed...is good”.   No it isn’t Gordon…it isn’t at all.

Album release date  24/04/17.

Track  Title

  1.  The Random Nature of Life
  2.  06:44
  3.  Rise of the Quants
  4.  Algorithm
  5.  Nell
  6.  Moon Madness
  7.  Dark Pools
  8.  What Just Changed?
  9.  Within the Beast
  10.  Age of Decline
  11.  A Champion Among Thieves
  12.  Worlds Without Greed

Third Album Started

New, third album started.  Not even a working title as yet but I know the underlying theme.  I thought it would take some time before things would start to come together for this one but, before I knew it, I had three tracks down!  Not sure if these three tracks should be an Single/EP or not - it all depends on whether their individual themes fit into the theme of the album.

Takes some doing really as the day job has to come first…it puts the food on the table.  Time and opportunity allowing, I hope to complete the album within a year from now.

‘Of Stars' Released - Marketing Time

It was great to get the second album finished before my own set due date.  There was a danger for some time, that I would continue to tweak a little too far, then spend more time back-tracking (no pun intended).  In the end, I think it wads the right decision to just leave well alone!

Once uploaded to my digital distribution company CD Baby, that dreaded time for all muso’s (I think), to start to think about marketing, selling yourself.  I don’t think this ever really comes easy to anyone except born sales-people - I do not count myself among you.

As an independent, getting people to listen to your music, never mind buy it, is difficult to say the least.  One must try…otherwise what’s the point?Twitter World etc. awaits.

Any responses most welcome…  :-)

Releasing ‘Of Stars'

All work completed.  Second album all wrapped up, uploaded to CD Baby ready for digital distribution.

I decided to update the website with some imagery and an audio player for ‘Of Stars’…a little ahead of time but would that matter?

New Album ‘Of Stars'

UpdateOctober 2015: Second album ‘Of Stars’ due for release Nov’2015. Working title of ‘M-Theory’.

Working on new album ‘M-Theory’.  Title track proving to be a little tricky due to trying to slot in a ‘five viewing angles of the same thing’ but I’ll work it out.  A definite progression from the first album in respect of thought, experience, place and time in the world etc.

Uploaded an unfinished track progression of ‘Whatever The Future May Hold’ to my YouTube channel after filming the March 2015 partial solar eclipse…somehow seemed appropriate.

Album release date TBC but definitely later in 2015.

Twenty feet from stardom

Just watched an absolute gem of a documentary movie ’Twenty Feet From Stardom’, all  about the backing vocalists that we all don’t really know, but almost all of us have heard over the years and who have absolutely created those sounds for the artists they backed for…again and again.

You really should seek this movie out…by buying, renting or downloading.  It’s a thouroughly enjoyable, enlightning experience and education on your musical legacy/history.

Absolutely beautiful, beautiful women who put their heart and soul into what they do…and they do it magnificently.  As Springsteen says “the walk to the front is…complicated”. With Darleen Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer.  If your’e 35+ remind yourself.  If you’re 35-, do yourself a favour, look at how things once where, and really could be again.  :-)

[Reed] and the coloured girls sing…do.da do..da do…do.do do…do.da do...da da.do da do…etc. [/Reed]

Do people ever listen to an albums anymore?

I’ve been thinking about this one for some time now.  Gone - I think - are the days when you would put on an album as a ‘mini-event’, and listen to side 1, flip it over and then listen to the whole of side 2 (for younger generations, substitute 'side 1', 'flip it over' and 'side 2’ for ’the whole thing' ).

It seems that everyone except for people say, 50+, skip from track to track, artist to artist, band to band.  I’ve watched people do it even to the extent of listening to part of a ‘favourite’ track before skipping onto the next track/band/singer.

There’s nothing quite like getting stuck into an album in my opinion.  Previously, people would ‘work’ through an album - not every track can be  your best one.  You would end up knowing that album through playing it again and again…and you would remember it sometimes word for word, note for note, years later.  Full discussions could be had over the album or the band/artist.  I still listen to full albums to get the max out of them…I just limit myself to amount of ’stuff’ so I can actually take it all in, within the amount of time that I have.

I wonder if today’s stuff is not as good or it’s simply as case of ‘heard it, like it, forget it , next’.  It’s a real shame that the investment we used to make in music, seems to have dissipated.  Or am I mistaken? 

Just cast your mind back to the album sleeves that you remember and the feelings that they evoke…is there anything like that from the last ten to fifteen years?

For free or not for free...

"Hhhmm, another site that wants money”

Have you ever thought about how everyone nowadays seems to want material, whether it be audio (music, podcasts), video, e-books for free?  This is something I have been guilty of too.  If we hit a page where they want you to purchase the item, we move on…expecting it for free.  You can see it now everywhere…especially free music. 

I think that most of us either simply forget or perhaps don’t even realise that behind all the good, free stuff, is a lot hard committed work that goes into producing it (okay, there may be not so good stuff).  Producers, whether they be musicians, authors, directors, probably find themselves competing with themselves whereby the stuff they give away for free in order to get themselves noticed, is actually undermining their attempts to make a living doing the same thing which,  subsidises production (valuable time and effort) of the free stuff.  They end up actually in competition with themselves…as if there wasn’t enough competition out there between them all as it is! Food for thought.

I would encourage anyone to at least make the occasional purchase, use the ‘Donate’ button, check if it’s a little cheaper elsewhere etc.  in support of those that fulfill our voracious internet appetite.  After all, what is the cost of e.g. a digital download, an e-book or a podcast nowadays?  The cost of a beer? A coffee and a Danish?  :-)

Now, having said that...

Album release assault course

The time came for me to actually attempt to 'put this [Probability Wave] out there’.  Although technically adept, I kind of underestimated the amount of work that needs to be done before, during and after (actually that’s incorrect, it should all be done before!) getting the album on line professionally.

'Probability Wave' timeframe

Over the period mid-2011 to November 2014, composed and produced the album ‘Probability Wave’.

© Ray Nelson 2019