A few months back, a friend of mine said he wanted to commission a science-fiction concept album. Many of my albums have a ‘concept feel’ to them, notably Romance of the Spaceways and even moreso, Kid Ghosts. The songs on those albums tell stories on a theme, but this new project is more ambitious in that it’s going to have a real narrative going on in a linear way from start to finish. Since I’m not used to building a story arc or a three-act structure, I called on my friend Jackie to help sketch out characters and plot.
I had a basic idea of how the story begins: It is the year 2098, and a spacecraft from an offworld colony crash lands in the hot ocean next to Reno, Nevada (which due to climate change is now the western seaboard of the United States). The crew of the ship is killed on impact, but under the deck are five babies safe in servo-controlled cribs.
If you’ve been following any of my feeds at all recently, you may have seen some of my work incorporating math from nature into musical form. There I used the Golden Section as the basis for a drum beat, but I’ve also been busy constructing rhythms from the 5 Platonic Solids. Plato associated each solid with a different element (fire, air, water, earth, universe), and the ancient Greeks believed each shape represented a different level of consciousness. I decided that each of the five babies from the offworld would be closely associated with one of the polyhedra.
So, Jackie and I went to work brainstorming names and traits of the 5 baby characters, inspired by each shape’s corresponding element, as well as the cardinal direction associated with each element. I have it in the back of my head that each kid will grow up, face their trials and tribulations, and eventually bring a particular gift to invigorate the tumultuous planet.
This kind of brainstorming is a new process for me. I’m used to writing lyrics and stories, and it’s a bit challenging for me to take a step back and let myself just freestyle and think of ideas that very well may not end up being used. It’s a totally different approach but I appreciate the color and foundation it lends to the story.
We’re meeting again this week to work on the main Earthling character: the man who discovers the crashed ship, and the relationship he has to the offworld babies throughout their lives. I’m looking forward to posting more about our process, as well as how the mathematics from nature will be interweaved into the songs. More to come, so stay tuned, people!