October 17, 2012

Music for a Parasite

Over the summer, you may have heard about a study which concluded that folks who clean their cat’s litter box regularly are at an increased risk for suicide. As it turns out, the “increase” was beyond minimal, but the science behind why there’s any increased risk at all was kind of fascinating.

As explained in this story from All Things Considered, there’s a parasite in cat poop that first needs a living host, then needs to escape from said host. As a result, it causes the host to behave less cautiously than it might otherwise. As for bugs:
Janice Moore, a biologist at Colorado State University, says one example is a tiny worm that infects pill bugs.

JANICE MOORE: And when those worms mature in the body cavity of those pill bugs, then the pill bugs behavior changes and it roams around out in exposed areas. It no longer cares about crawling under things, which is ultimately really, really bad for it.

HAMIILTON: But good for the worms; reckless pill bugs are more likely to end up in the stomach of a bird which is where the worms complete their lifecycle.
Driving home listening in the car, “reckless pill bugs” jumped out at me as a perfect name for a song title. So I wrote it down when I got home, along with countless others I keep handy.

A few days later, a rhythm wormed its way into my head during a meeting. I managed to quantize it on paper and thought that it might sound good as a one-note synth sequence. I took it home, programmed it, ran it through the Minimonsta and it sounded pretty good. It was up tempo, skittish, and sort of mechanical. I immediately thought, “this is a reckless pill bug!”

Once I decided to grow the track from there, things fell into place fairly quickly. The rest of the synth bits that match the driving rhythm were also programmed in ACID and driven through the Minimonsta. The bass riff came from the Minitaur, of course, as does the wobbly little lead bit in the middle section. A happy accident with a detuned oscillator, that.

As the song came together, I decided it needed one more thing – my voice. Not much of it and, naturally, not in its natural state. The Micron has a primitive, but effective, vocorder that I used to mess with me repeating the song title over and over. I’ll probably play around with that a little more in the future.

So, without further ado, the adventures of an addle-brained lil’ bugger and the passenger trying to get out:

Yes, I realize that the song title makes “pill bug” one word. Is it better if I claim laziness or artistic license?

Up tomorrow – something altogether darker and more epic!

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