May. 3rd, 2009

bnewman: (firefly)

As you may have noticed, my spiritual life is an eclectic patchwork — there's a solid core to it (although even that is a patchwork), but in general, when I see something I like, if I can find a way to make it fit, I will.

Through my relationship with [livejournal.com profile] fiddledragon, one of the religions I have collected parts of is that of Bryn Mawr College, a Wisdom cult which I've mentioned before. One of the major festivals of this cult is May Day, which is observed on the Sunday closest to May 1st (i.e. today — happy May Day!).

May Day celebrates the completion of the school year and honors the graduating seniors. One of the traditions assocated with May Day is that of "May Day gifts", which are legacies which must remain at the college and are thus passed from a senior to the underclasswoman of her choice. While I'm not a Bryn Mawr alumna (obviously), my experience of those Bryn Mawr traditions which I have attended has been an inspiration to me, and I want to give something back. Or maybe I'm just feeling creative and enjoying my own cleverness. Anyway, here's the first of two "open source" May Day gifts:

The BMC school song is "Σοφιας" (Sophias), a hymn to Wisdom, and it had occurred to me that, hey, we have that idea in Judaism, too, and maybe I could translate "Σοφιας" into Hebrew. However, [livejournal.com profile] fiddledragon forbade me to do so, and since it is her tradition and not mine, I have abided by her decision.

On the other hand, we have that idea in Judaism, too... maybe I don't have to translate this one from Greek? Where have I seen... right, pretty much the whole Book of Proverbs! scans to "Greensleeves", after the cut )

bnewman: (firefly)
(See my previous entry for some background context which I won't repeat here.)

Another major Bryn Mawr tradition is the lantern — each student has a lantern, which is bestowed upon her during her first year at Lantern Night, a solemn occasion which serves as the sisterhood's initiation. (The Bryn Mawr traditions essentially constitute a single large sorority consisting of the entire student body.)

There are several occasions when these lanterns are traditionally lit, including step-sings, the night-time gatherings of song which close each of the major festivals. Guests are welcome at most of these events, and it's nice to bring a lantern, but of course it won't be a Bryn Mawr lantern. The last time I was at May Day, I made an impromptu origami lantern. (Why doesn't it burn? You'll see!) This year, I'm finally posting the instructions.

instructions for making the firefly lantern after the cut )

Firefly lantern
bnewman: (explorer)
Lately I've recorded a number of my songs that have been "published" for a while, but for which I have not previously posted a recording. There are also several songs that have been finished for a while, but which I hadn't posted because I thought I would set up a new version of my website first — and I still think I wil soon, but I've realized we'll all have more fun if I continue to post songs here meanwhile. On top of that, there are some actually new songs (besides the ones just posted). Here goes:

MP3s have been posted of the following previously-published songs: "The Galaxy is Silent", "Clockwork", "The Highwayman", and "Stars on Our Heads".

I've written two additional songs in the "Walk in the Day" song-cycle: "Long, Bright Day" (mp3) and "Dark Moon Daughter" (mp3). I've also posted a new MP3 of "Walk in the Day" featuring the new and better revised lyrics.

The Storytellers' World is my catch-all setting for high-fantasy ideas. Once, it was only that, without any other unifying theme, which means it tended to indiscriminately accumulate retreads of familiar high-fantasy tropes.

Since deciding to unify it with the idea that it is a world created by storytelling, I've tried to account for as many of those tropes as possible in ways that tie them in to the nature of the world. This isn't strictly essential, since of course any high-fantasy trope can be incorporated into the world as part of the content of a story, but it's more elegant to explain a trope in terms of the structure of the story if I can.

One of the tropes that got in there was the idea of elves, particularly the noble but inscrutable high elves, whom you can fall in among and then go home to realize later that time has done something wacky while you were away — a bit of a mix of the Tolkien sort and the Thomas the Rhymer sort. The song "Two Streams of Time" (mp3) explains what these beings are doing in the Storytellers' World, and what can happen to people who accept their hospitality unawares.

"Honeybird" is about sex the birds and the bees. Which, you know, is a really strange euphemism for what people need to know about sex, because pollination is very different from what people do. There are all kinds of biological implausibilities in this song, starting with the very premise of a sentient pollinatee who is discriminating in her choice of mate, but if there were such creatures, they would totally enjoy National Geographic articles about hummingbirds, and sing lusty ballads about the birds and the bees sex. Sorry, no MP3 yet, but the tune is another variation of the same one I've used for "Circle Story" and "Love Letter" — which fits, somehow.

Two more video game songs (to video game tunes):

For the adorable action/physics/puzzle game World of Goo (highly recommended), "Ode to the Bridge Builder" (mp3), based on the track of the same name (which is in turn a variation of "Amazing Grace") from the game's soundtrack, the music for the level of the same name, which is near the end of world 1 and thus included in the free demo. You can watch a (very skilled) play-through of this level here, which will illustrate a lot of the gameplay references in the song. Like "Many Pikmin", this is an anthem in praise of teamwork.

For the NES adventure game Blaster Master, "FROG!" tells the strange story of this strange but wonderful game — Jason's pet frog Fred has escaped, and... then he randomly gets thrown into a video game, basically. The tune (no MP3 yet) is from level 4 of the game, which does indeed involve "fighting through and endless maze of twisty little slimy tunnels searching for [your character's] giant, mutant frog".

Two songs about A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, (possibly the best gee-whiz epic space opera adventure thriller ever written):

"Transcendence", the Fire Upon the Deep filk of Dar Williams's "The Ocean" which I said I wasn't going to write, so you should just listen to "The Ocean" and pretend I had filked it, has been written (⇐ spoiler warning). It's still very similar to Dar's original (moreso than any of my filks besides "The Vorlon Connection", which is identical to the original), so I feel ambivalent enough about posting a recording that I'm at least not going to do so right now.

Speaking of A Fire Upon the Deep, I've also finally (er, back in September) written a song for my favorite character in that book, the alien pack entity known as Peregrine. Like "So High, So Low", which is my song for the alien protagonist of A Deepness in the Sky, "Wandering Pilgrim Soul" (mp3) is mainly a character study but tied to a particular moment in the story, in this case near the beginning.

Jewish songs:

Two new Jewish songs were just posted, but you saw those already.

Even before those, I've had enough Jewish songs to make up an album for some time. I've known what the title of the album was going to be for some time, because I had come up with a great title for a Jewish filk album. I didn't know if there was going to be a title track, though...

And then, back in September, it all came together, as it seems to with me, with the insight that two stories are the same: the evil empire, the call, the quest in service of that redeeming power which binds the universe together — and not only those things, but also, and foremost, the desert (and it is the same desert!) — and so, out of that insight, I'm pleased to present "Yehudi Mind Tricks" (mp3 — note the musical reference in the chorus). Enjoy, and may the Force be with you!

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