"Antarctica" (mp3) is what happened when I got Toto's "Africa" and Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" in my head at the same time. I'm a little surprised by how much of the original song I was able to keep. I also have dim, far-off plans to write "Antarctica" ttto "America" by Paul Simon and possibly "Antarctica" ttto "America" from West Side Story.
"When Windmills Return" (mp3) features a bygone hero awakened from long slumber to once again fight for justice against impossible odds. And since his foe is global warming, what more natural allies for him to summon to his aid than... windmills! Ah, windmills, whose prowess he knows all too well, for our hero is none other than— but I'll let you discover that for yourselves.
"The Highlands of Fra Mauro" (mp3) are where Apollo 13 was supposed to land, but they never got there, just like the captain of the Nightingale never got to Bermuda in Stan Rogers' "The Flowers of Bermuda". And, likewise, they had just one craft available as a lifeboat, but the number of crewmen to be saved exceeded (by one) the designed capacity of said lifeboat. Only, in the case of Apollo 13, NASA engineers and a roll of duct tape were on hand to make sure everyone made it safely home.
The "Goldilocks Zone" (mp3) is not too cold, and not too hot, but just right — you want your porridge to be in the Goldilocks zone, and you want your planets to be there too, if you want your terraforming to be a success.
What's "Brighter than the Sun" (mp3)? A supernova! I got that popular earworm in my head and this was the only way to get it out.
"B-Tree Nodes" (mp3) is about one of the essential elements of database architecture, the B-tree, a kind of index that allows fast access to rows of a table as long as they can be sorted into a definite order.
"The Wonderful Thing About Triggers" (mp3) is not about the things you pull on to fire a gun, nor about the things that remind you of past trauma, but (again!) about a piece of database architecture. In databases and other systems, "triggers" are subroutines that will run whenever a certain thing occurs. And that's a wonderful thing — unless you're stuck debugging them.
"Little 3D-Printed Boxes" (mp3) is about 3D printing! The wonderful thing about 3D printers is that you can print a hundred little twisty things, all alike, and then turn around and print a hundred little twisty things, all different. This makes an interesting contrast with Malvina Reynolds' "little boxes" and universities from which people come out "all the same". The specific reference to twisty puzzles is inspired by YouTuber OskarPuzzle.
"David of the FTC" (mp3) was written in honor of my father's retirement. He worked for the Federal Trade Commission on antitrust and consumer protection for nearly his entire professional career, and his stories were an inspiration to me even when I was too young to understand the legal details. Nicely done, Dad. And yes, there was a case involving caffeinated leggings.
"Philosophiae Doctores" (mp3) imagines the scholars of the Renaissance restoring the foundations of what would become modern academia. This song was written a long time ago, but I felt at the time that I should hold it in reserve until I earned my own PhD, which at the time seemed likely to happen eventually. Since I'm no longer working towards a PhD myself, I offer this song in tribute to all of my friends who embody the best of the academic spirit.
Video game songs
The "Materia Girl" (mp3) is Final Fantasy VII's Yuffie. Materia are mysterious orbs that are FF7's magic source, and Yuffie wants to steal them all.
"Cid's Song (The Magitek Factory)" (mp3) is another Final Fantasy song, this time from FF6. I wrote this song a long time ago and thought it was finished, but there were some plot gaps, a too-abrupt tone shift, and an instrumental bridge I could never get to work, so I rewrote the end and I think it's much better now. The Magitek facility, of which Cid is the chief engineer, is devoted to the scientific study of magical beasts. Unfortunately, its chief discovery so is that energy drained from said magical beasts (ultimately at the cost of their lives) can be used to power the Empire's deadly war machines... The tune here comes from the background music heard inside the facility.
"Chicken to Ride" (mp3) was written yesterday, after hearing "Ticket to Ride" on the radio — Sarah started singing "she's got a chicken to ride," and reminded me of a long-ago conversation about a possible Baba Yaga parody, but all I could think of was the scene early in Final Fantasy VI when Terra and her companions escape from Kefka's troops on chocobos (basically, giant chickens that you can ride on).
"Triforce Invocation" (mp3) is an incantation invoking the power of the Triforce, the relic holding the powers (wisdom, power, and courage) of the three goddesses of the world of The Legend of Zelda. Such an incantation might be used by the sort of eclectic pagan who would be so silly as to build a ritual around a theosophical system that was invented solely to sound cool in a video game. Know anyone like that? The melody here comes from the intro of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
"Every Inch of This Thread" (mp3) is another invocation, this time of the Spinner of Fate. In a number of mythologies, Fate is spun as thread by one or three women, who are usually regarded with an awe tending towards dread — the idea that our end is fated is an uncomfortable one. But thinking of this myth, and of that parable about the footprints in the sand, and of having seen for myself the tender care with which a spinner must handle every inch of thread, put me in mind of looking to Her with an awe tending more towards gratitude.
"Paradise Revisited" (mp3) is a journey through "paradise", which means literally "orchard" but also refers to the world of mystical experience. It can be confusing up there — as you stroll through the orchard, depending on how you turn your head, you may see one tree, or many, or none. And you may notice, or the snake may remind you, that the tree has two sides. Just be sure to remember the way home.
"Thirteenth Birthday" (mp3) is a filk of Vixy & Tony's Thirteen — a mystical number, a number of thresholds, such as (in the Jewish tradition) the threshold of being recognized as a fully responsible member of the religious community, a bar mitzvah. But what does that mean when you're not sure what your religion means to you? When you're pulled between a commitment to reason on the one hand and, on the other, a budding half-formed mystical sensibility, and your teachers aren't (yet!) giving you the tools to reconcile them?
"David, Beloved" (mp3) is an invocation (lots of those today) of the archetypal figure of the Biblical King David (lots of Davids today, too). David is a fascinating character, both in the Biblical narrative and in later more symbolic, archetypal, and mystical traditions. Warrior, peacemaker, songwriter, doing good and yet still making mistakes, and intriguingly, although male, closely associated with the divine feminine. Definitely someone I'd like to get to know.
"Vatikach Miryam" (mp3) is a setting of a verse (and a half) from Exodus (15:20-21), which may be more familiar as the source for Debbie Friedman's Miriam's Song. After the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, "Miriam the prophet took her drum in her hand and all the women went out after her with drums and with dancing."