Here's the blog. Mostly about the music. Comment! Enjoy!

CD - Now There's No Room - Released Today  

This is a limited run of the CD version, so if you want a copy, get your order in!  Pre-orders have been posted, thank you to everyone who ordered.  If you'd like a copy, click here

Of course, if you can't be bothered with all that mucking about with physical things, you can grab a download of most of the music on the same page.  The CD album includes an extra track and a number of interludes that tie the songs together.

The Sibylline Books  Joni Mitchell sang, 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.' Never a truer word... 

Now There's No Room  How long until all the figures of speech we have that allude to animals are made permanently obsolete? 

Misunderstood  How to avoid worrying about anything. 

Trope - interlude 

Suit Some of the villains of the piece. 

Salt - interlude 

The Barefoot Chocolate Maker  By way of contrast, a true story about a good man who really made a difference. 

Theme  (extra track) 

Marionettes  'The puppets refuse to return to the box'. 

Glass Bubble - interlude 

Panopticon / Rome Burns  How much do we really know, and how should we respond? 

Greetings from Earth - interlude 

The Last Song  We certainly won't be around in a million years. Will there be anything at all to hint that we were ever here?

CD - Now There's No Room - 8th September Release 

Super excited about the official release of the CD album 'Now There's No Room' less than a week away - on the 8th September. This is a limited run, so if you want a copy, you should get your order in! You can pre-order right now, and it's at the perfectly reasonable price of £6.93 + £2.00 postage and packing.                               

The CD album includes an extra track and number of interludes that tie the songs together. These are only available on the CD version. 

1 The Sibylline Books

2 Now There's No Room

3 Misunderstood

* Trope - interlude 

4 Suit 

* Salt - interlude 

5 The Barefoot Chocolate Maker

6 Theme  (extra track)

7 Marionettes 

* Glass Bubble - interlude 

8 Panopticon / Rome Burns 

* Greetings from Earth - interlude 

9 The Last Song

Now There's No Room - CD album release  

Lathe of Heaven is proud to announce the CD album 'Now There's No Room' will be released on Saturday 8th September. 

You can click to buy on pre-order now, and we'll send you your copy in the following week.  In addition to the songs listed in the download section of the music page, there is free bonus material on the CD album version only.  This extra music was created to connect the songs together in a way that makes a complete, immersive experience for the listener.  Hey.... it's a prog rock concept album - how could we do it any other way?

Click here  for the music page.

Can we have an original hit? 

The Ed Sheeran / Marvin Gaye lawsuit going on currently points to a sickness in popular music at the moment. 

Over the last couple of decades, money has become increasingly tight in the music business.  It's more and more expensive for a label to get a top 5 hit, so even the profits on a successful song aren't a patch on what they were. 

Labels becoming more litigious is more likely as profits decrease. You've got to get your money somewhere, and you have to protect your brand.  What's more, whereas a suit used to be about a stolen melody, more and more, we're seeing claims about chord sequences.  Part of the Sheeran/Gaye lawsuit is the claim that the chord sequence is the same.  It'll be interesting when someone tries to claim ownership of the I IV VI V sequence, which has been used in scores, if not hundreds of hits. 

Which brings us to playing safe with song writing.  Again, because so much is at stake to produce a hit, nobody who seriously tries to make a living from their writing is going to try to be original. It's too much of a gamble.  While for the most part, nobody sitting down to write a hit says, "I'll start by stealing part of this other song," they may well start jamming on that trusty I IV VI V sequence. 

So we hear chart songs becoming increasingly similar because taking a musical chance is dangerous, and we see more lawsuits as songs rely more and more on their similarity to each other in order to be hits. 

Another consequence is that over the course of a generation the average chart listener has heard less and less variety in harmony, and like a child who has only eaten burgers and fries, any new taste / harmony they're subsequently introduced to is treated with deep suspicion. 

That's no way to have a hit. 

For music that ignores all considerations of chart success, but still wants to be loved, click here.

How do you listen to music? 

As I was growing up, I heard music pretty much in album format only.  My folks didn't often have music radio on, so I didn't hear individual songs very much.  When they listened to music they'd switch on the radiogram (!) and put on the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof, or High Society with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Or they'd put on a symphony by Mendelssohn or Beethoven.  They didn't have any singles. 

This was just background to me, as I didn't really get into any of it, but I realise that it shaped the way I listen to music to this day.  I play albums.  I rarely use shuffle on my MP3 player, always preferring to select an album.  Even now, if I come across a new band, I'll buy a CD and listen to it as a whole. 

How about you? 

The other thing I do is hardly ever put on music as background while I do something else.  I much prefer to settle down and give the music my undivided attention.  I immerse myself in it. I have a decent hifi, and some great headphones, and unless I'm in the car, that's how I'll listen. I guess I'm in a small minority in this. 

What do you do?

My first dozen music purchases. Quite a few classics in there!

 

MP3s and WAVs For You 

Uploaded to the music page are all the tracks for 'Now There's No Room' in full resolution wavs.  And now you can have them in high resolution MP3 format too. 

So if you have a slowish connection and wavs are just too cumbersome to download, you can choose the MP3s.  If you are a stickler for quality though, you can take the time to have the music at full hifi resolution.  It's up to you, and for the moment, everything is still free. 

What more could you ask for?

The Last Song 

Children being born today will inherit a very different planet from the one we have known throughout history.  The way things are going, the change they will see in their lifetimes won't be intelligently managed or even curtailed.  It will be catastrophic.  Catastrophic to people, but also to most other living things.  Which means catastrophic to people.

We don't seem to be capable of averting this, and I started wondering what evidence would be left of us in say, 20 million years?  What would be left to show of our self-important species?  No wood that we've used, no concrete. Even plastics wouldn't last nearly that long.  Cut diamonds would still be around, but they would be hard to find.  Some radioactive elements where power stations and missile silos once were might still be detectable, but again only in specific locations. 

The asteroid that killed all the non-avian dinosaurs left a telltale trace of iridium in a specific geological layer around the entire planet. Is there an equivalent that would be a ubiquitous telltale of human civilisation? 

One thing that will survive us will be those little space probes launched in the 1970s - Voyagers 1 and 2.  They will continue on their outward flights indefinitely, with nothing to destroy or even weather them very much.  What if some space-faring aliens stumble across one of these probes one day?  That's where The Last Song begins. 

Listen here.

Panopticon / Rome Burns 

A while back, I read about something called a panopticon. It's a kind of building that could be used as a prison or other institution. 

Imagine rooms - cells - arranged to create the outside wall of a circular building, with one-way mirrors making up the inner walls.  An observer could sit at the centre of the building and see any occupant at a glance, but none of the inmates would be able to see if they were being watched at any time - they'd just know it was possible. 

It struck me (as it has many people in recent years) that this is a good analogy for our society.  With CCTV, the CIA and MI6 watching us electronically, with Facebook and associated organisations data mining - we're all being observed at some point in some way.  We don't necessarily know when, or how much; we just know we might be, and at some point certainly are. 

It's also become clear that the internet's own algorithms filter what we find in searches. Rather than being a window onto the entire world, it's more like a mirror reflecting ourselves back to us.  Ironic and sinister, don't you think?  We live in a panopticon, but we are not the observers, we're the observed.

I thought about how helpless we all are in the face of this.  And a similar sense of helplessness often creeps over me when I think about the enormous problems we face as the human race, and that the Earth faces because of us.  I retreat into my personal world, attending to those things I do have control over, and shutting out the bigger picture.  I think most of us do. 

Fiddling while Rome burns.

Listen here.


Those who cannot, will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven 

Lathe of Heaven sounds religious doesn't it?  And it is, sort of.  Vaguely.  Well, almost entirely unlike religion as it turns out.  To explain... 

A favourite novel of mine is The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula Le Guin.  While writing the book, she was apparently very taken by some Taoist verses by Chuang Tse XXIII, which she used here and there in the story.  The book title is from one in particular: 

' To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment.  Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.' 

Years after the book was published, Le Guin discovered that this is a terrible translation of the original writing, but it was way too late to do anything about it.  She still liked the sentiment though, and so do I.  I take it to mean something like, 'To know that something is unknowable, but still struggle to understand it, is a path to madness.' 

So why did I call this project Lathe of Heaven?  I'm not letting on, but if you think about it hard enough, perhaps one day you will understand.

By the way, here's my music.

 

The Barefoot Chocolate Maker 

Now for one of the good guys. 

A while back, I stumbled on an extraordinary story on the BBC's 'Food Program'.  It told of an engineer, a New Yorker called Mott Green, who moved to the Caribbean island of Grenada.  He fell in love with the island and the culture. He also found that although they grew cocoa beans there, for some reason they didn't make chocolate. 

In fact all the cocoa they grew was sold to the commodities market.  The growers made very little money, as all the value is in the final product - the chocolate on our confectionery shelves.  The program also mentioned another cocoa bean growing region - Africa's Ivory Coast. There, children are sold to the plantations, to work for years.  It's not a stretch to call it modern-day slavery. 

In Grenada, Mott wondered why they couldn't make the chocolate themselves, cut out the middle men and sell chocolate direct to the retailers.  He figured that if everyone was part of a collective, all that added value would benefit the locals. 

He put his engineering skills to work and built a solar-powered chocolate factory in Grenada, keeping it going with constant maintenance, and mastering the art of turning cocoa beans into chocolate.  In partnership with locals Doug and Edmond Browne, he set up the Grenada Chocolate Company, making fine chocolate to sell around the world. 

True to his environmental aspirations, the first batch of chocolate bars to be delivered made its journey from Grenada to the UK on a brigantine sailing ship - powered by the wind! 

But there's a tragic twist to this tale.  One night, while doing emergency maintenance, Mott was accidentally electrocuted.  Despite his tragic, untimely death, he has left an amazing legacy.  The Grenada Chocolate Company lives on, and more and more local growers are joining the collective as the customer base grows. 

Oh, and I can personally affirm - the chocolate is really good!

Listen here.

Find out more about the Grenada Chocolate Company