Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recalling "Sirius Lullaby": an extraterrestrial suite by a friend in SF back in the 1980s

After reviewing a friend’s new CD album last Thursday, I recalled an episode much earlier in my life, back in 1985, when I visited two lovers in San Francisco and saw the music studio of one of them, a young man named William Bent. He had an Apple computer and a lot of gear that in the 1980s was considered advanced (about the same time I was getting an AT&T 6300 and a HP laser printer at my condo in Dallas).

He composed a 90 minute suite for moog synthesizer instruments, called “Sirius Lullaby”, and sold it as a cassette; at the time, CD’s had just come in to being (I bought my first CD player in 1985, and it broke in three months). The composition seemed to comprise rather disconnected movements, each with a lot of repetition of some particular musical kernel. I think I still have the cassette somewhere, maybe packed up from the move back to VA in 2003. But I never play cassettes or LP’s now (although I hope to get set up to again soon; more about that later).

His partner Mike Merry was a meteorologist. I had met them in New York City in 1978 in my last year there; they moved in Mike’s “Vancredible” to California after the 1978 World Series. I visited them for one night in 1980 on the way back from a triangle vacation in Hawaii, Alaska, and a flyover of Mt. St. Helens (and Mt. McKinley, for that matter). Mike had always been interested in the theories of Van Daniken, and at the time there was a book by British ufologist Robert Temple who claimed that aliens could have come to Africa from a planetary system around Sirius; based on today’s science, that sounds unlikely (since Sirius is a double star and the system had a catastrophe 120 million years ago; check Wikipedia). We all had admired Nicholas Roeg’s film “The Man Who Fell to Earth” with David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, and the wistful song “Betty Jo’s Lament” from the musical. (I seem to remember some lyrics like "Chase the Clouds" but can't confirm it now.)

I visited them again in 1987; when Mike met me at the San Francisco airport, the stock market had just crashed (it was Black Monday in 1987). I would lose track of them, but my knowledge is that HIV would eventually affect them both. We all know that treatment has gotten much better than what was available in the 1980s.

Legendairelestat clip of Bowie song mentioned on YouTube.

Wikipedia attribution link for artist’s impression of the star Sirius

Picture below: from NASA exhibit af Folk Life Festival on Washington DC Mall, June 2008.

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