I completely improvised this semi-educational astronomy revue on 7 December 1994. This recording is not safe for kids and work!
I grew up in Ithaca, NY, home of the late, great astronomer Carl Sagan. If you know Carl's work, you know a part of what makes me excited to be alive on our little planet, just a tiny part of everyone and everything. He promoted a perspective inspired by looking at photographs of our Earth from space, such as this shot of our Earth from the moon from 20 July 1969, or the one below of Earth from Saturn from 15 September 2006 (click the pics for more info and credits):
Here's a short quote about that perspective (from a super list of Sagan quotes on wikiquote):
"A tiny blue dot set in a sunbeam. Here it is. That's where we live. That's home. We humans are one species and this is our world. It is our responsibility to cherish it. Of all the worlds in our solar system, the only one so far as we know, graced by life."
And here's more on that perspective:
"Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
So, my love of astronomy, planetary science, and Carl Sagan's work came out when I sat down just over 20 years ago to record something and came up with the two chords and opening line that started this song. I didn't attempt to get deep about the "pale blue dot" perspective at all -- I just described some things about our little solar system. It was recorded live, with one mic on my improvised vocals and another mic on my acoustic guitar but run through my old MXR Distortion+ pedal. And then it was done, and a year or so later ended up on one of my all-improv albums, liquid planet, to wither in obscurity.
Fast forward to 16 November 2011, at the Skunk Hollow Tavern, where I'd been hanging out and playing their open mic since April (and this continues...). Some nights at the Skunk get a little wacky, and this was one of those nights. I'd already spewed out a 'funk of the skunk' improv song on my third tune, and on my fifth I tried to improvise another version of this improvised song. It went over really well, and I've played it dozens of times again since then and it's never the same twice. (I make a point to not drop f-bombs, though.) My friend Woody calls it "the solar system song", and really raves about it. Somewhere along the line Woody had me refer to the asteroid belt as the "asteroid suspenders", and there's often talk about whether or not we should mention poor, demoted Pluto. It's usually a lot of fun. But I hope you read Carl's quotes above thoughtfully (and read more of his wise words), because I think our little world needs more of Carl's perspective.
Thanks for listening!
many planets around the sun many planets around the sun but ours is the only one with life as far as we know there's little Mercury right up next to the sun just a ball of rock like our moon it never has life begun it's a hot rock and Venus is a little further away looks a little like the earth but it's covered in carbon dioxide and carbonous, sulpherous awful stuff and it's fucking hot as hell under the clouds they got the greenhouse effect big time and outside of us is the planet Mars red sand like a desert except it's fucking cold as hell a rocky cold desert there's these moons around Mars called Phobos and something else they look pretty fucking wierd cause they're just a wierd little lump of rock like the asteroid belt is outside of Mars' orbit just a huge ring of rocks I've seen a software game that lets you fly through all the asteroids then comes Jupiter it's almost a sun itself except it never got to be one cause it's such a puny gaseous body that's millions of times bigger than Earth it's just this giant gaseous thing surrounded by it's own solar system many moons bright shiny moons in the sky if you were floating around in Jupiter chilling around in the clouds of Jupiter I can myself floating in the red spot just floating amidst these gaseous light air balloon kinda creatures floating around Saturn is the most beautiful with it's big luscious rings another gaseous ball that could've maybe have been a sun but it's just way too small to even have begun but it all beautiful rings floating around in those clouds would be really nice if you could only survive methane helium and whatever all those gases are that float around the stars out there these planets in the outer rings or our solar system the next two are Uranus and Neptune and we think they look like a smaller version of Jupiter and Saturn just kinda green or blue or something there's these rings around Uranus I didn't mean that personally babe and Pluto just zooming around out there sometimes dipping in for a bite maybe someday colliding with Neptune maybe never are there any more out there and just think about it it takes years and years and years just to get out of our solar system and it's just this tiny little teeny speck in the scheme of the galaxy now the cat wants outside I gotta go big and small 7 December 1994 (improvised as the tape rolled) ©1994 by Andy Wyatt