Bad Astronomy

Avoid Black Friday: Get “21812” and “Hearts to Symphony” Instead

[Oh, you gluttonous Americans! Thanksgiving is over, and you can barely move around your own overzealously fed digestive tract. The very thought of hitting a mall on Black Friday fills you with dread… as well it should. So why bother? I’ve been thinking of sciencey/geeky/skeptical gifts you can order online (using your fing-longer while still lying supine, no doubt) and writing about them. Previous entries have included “The Hockey Stick and The Climate Wars”, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Living on Earth”, and a joke book I wrote with Zach Weinersmith called “27 Nerd Disses: A Significant Quantity of Disrespect”. This time: music!]

George Hrab and Phil Plait
George Hrab and Your Host perofrming “Death from the Skies” at NECSS in 2011.

Photo by Terry Robinson

Last year, on February 18, 2012, my friend and musician George (“Geo”) Hrab threw a concert in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. If you listen to his Geologic Podcast you know his music is funky, smart, science-laden, and highly skeptical. I was really happy to hear he would be doing a concert, and then thrilled when invited me to come. I wound up introducing the whole schmeer, as well as performing on stage for “Death from the Skies” (based on my book), and a couple of other pieces. The concert was a blast — but you don’t have to take my word for it…

… you can see for yourself! The “21812: A Gneiss Night Out” is now out on DVD. It has the whole concert as well as lots of fun extras, including interviews with some of the folks involved, tons of photos, a cool typography video, and a “Making Of” documentary. If you’re a fan of Geo — and you should be — this is a must have.

Here’s a sample, “Children on Airplanes”, an amazing drum trio that opened the second half of the concert.

Hearts to Symphony

Photo by Carly Paradis

Next up: more music. Unlike Geo’s stuff, I have a hard time finding a simple category for the music of Carly Paradis. It’s not really classical, it’s not really rock, or folk, or any easily-defined theme. It’s mostly instrumental, though she does use some voice… it’s atmospheric, but not new agey.

She just came out with an album called “Hearts to Symphony” (available on iTunes and Amazon), and whatever kind of music you want to call it, I really like it. She has some samples on Soundcloud which will give you a taste, and there’s a short review with some choice words about it. The iTunes link above also has samples.

I’ve never met Carly, but we’ve been Facebook friends for a couple of years, and we’ve chatted back and forth a few times. She’s a science fan, and in fact one of her songs, “7.83 Hz”, is named after the fundamental frequency of the Schumann resonance, an electromagnetic standing wave in the Earth’s ionosphere. I mean, c’mon.

I listen to this album quite often at home while I’m writing (I’m actually listening to it now as I write this article, if you like your reviews meta), and I find it mesmerizing. She plays with harmonies, building simple themes and adding complexity to them. Much of the music on the album is symphonic, broad, sweeping… she’s done music for movies (like “Moon”) and has worked with soundtrack composer Clint Mansell, so she has the chops.

I wish I could put my finger on this music, but I can’t. So I’ll just say give it a listen and then buy it if you like it. I like supporting talented, independent artists, and I hope Carly has a long and productive career ahead of her.