Lave Approach

Final approach to the coriolis station orbiting Lave. Please ensure rotational vector match.

Yes, I just nerded out big time, and if you understand the title or first sentence before reading this (fairly lengthy) post, you have no place to talk.

This is another “noodle of the day” that I went ahead and recorded. It is the public debut of my new Oberheim Xpander, which gets the first 1:30 all to itself. If I were being ruthless about the composition, it’s too long and needs to have some kind of bridge. The track is an overly decadent long build, but I’m writing more for me these days and I’ve been enjoying it.

It’s also one of those pieces where someone will undoubtedly say, “wow, listening to a little too much Vangelis when you wrote this, eh?” to which I say, “there’s no such thing as too much Vangelis.” Of course, pulling in the CS-80’s Guitar 1 patch (with a hint of initial pitch bend) at the end puts it all a bit over the top. But again, I like it.

So what’s with the title? This was perhaps the most difficult piece I’ve ever tried to name. It’s a bit melancholy, a bit peaceful, sad, lonely, happy, delicate, and contemplative. I’m at a somewhat weird emotional place lately – typical mid-life wallowing coupled with a disconnectedness that would take far too long to even try to describe. Call it a weird equillibrium between depression and the zen state that precedes incredible activity.

The track was on repeat for about an hour while I tried on different titles for size. Most came out too depressing, and I didn’t want to unduly color the listener’s perception – I think the piece is a bit of a chameleon and will affect you differently depending on your mood. The mental image I kept coming back to was a solitary journey of some sort. Oddly, a spaceship with an exhaust trail and ice crystals streaming off the outermost points kept popping into my head. I didn’t really want an obvious space name, though, as that’s way too trite for new age stuff like this.

Then it hit me… what I was envisioning was a high-def mental recreation of what I would see in my head when playing one of the best videogames of all time: Elite. I played that game regularly for over 6 years. It was one of the very first “sandbox” games that didn’t really have an end. In the game, you’re the captain of a one-person ship and can be a trader, a pirate, a pirate hunter, fend off alien invasions, refuel by skimming solar energy, and even deal with tribbles. It set the stage for so much that came after it.

All trading took place at space stations in orbit around the various planets. In a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the stations rotated and you had to match that rotation while moving into the bay. During this docking sequence, as in the Kubrick film, the music was Strauss’ By the Beautiful Blue Danube. Unlike the sequence shown in the video, when you were just starting out and still poor, you had no docking computers and had to do all of that manually.

If you watch that docking video, especially if you were born after 1985, you may involuntarily shudder at the crudeness of the graphics, though they were pretty state of the art at the time… hidden surfaces were kind of pricey to calculate. But while my eyes were seeing jittery black and white lines and dots, what was going on in my head was nothing short of what you’d see in any big budget movie these days. While trying to name this, I also had periodic mental glimpses of Eve Online, and X3 – both games that owe much of their pedigree to Elite.

So when I finally thought about that docking sequence that I performed thousands of times, I immediately realized that this music would have fit it nicely, especially if you added in the system approach after a hyperspace jump.

And the name of the first planet you reach in Elite? Lave.

Colophon:

  • MOTU Digital Performer 8 (Sequencing, EQ, compression)
  • Oberheim Xpander (Main theme)
  • Roland JV-2080 (Strings)
  • Kurzweil K2600XS (Harp)
  • Access Virus TI (Synth violin lead)
  • Yamaha CS-80 (Lead harmony)
  • Valhalla DSP ÜberMod, VintageVerb, and Shimmer

By the way, I whipped up the artwork in Illustrator and Photoshop… I started with something a little more photorealistic, but it felt wrong. I decided instead that it should be more line-drawing in nature and cryptic unless you got the reference.