From the recording Stardust Once Again
It’s fair to say that “Stardust Once Again” would not exist without “Moonlight Sound Design”, a composition by Raimonds Tiguls. The director of a local event choir, MPLS (imPulse) approached me after a concert I played with them in 2018 and told me about this piece that was written for Hung and choir (a Hung is a Swiss sound sculpture created by PanArt that uses dimples to make the tone and a secondary shell to give it it’s UFO appearance, but serves as a Helmholtz resonator amplifying the sound). I did not own any handpans at that point (Hung—which is Bernese for “hand” is the first of many manufactures of handpans), but did own a RAV Vast, but the key was completely different from the key Moonlight Sound Design was written in. Unlike most traditional instruments, a RAV Vast (or Hang, or Handpan) are some version of steel tuned to a specific set of pitches. The only way to get DIFFERENT pitches, is to purchase a different instrument with a different pre-set tuning. …and these are all handmade instruments—you don’t just dial in a machine setting and *poof*. So I set out to compose something for MPLS (imPulse) and the RAV Vast’s I owned—which would be the first composition for this instrument and choir in the world!
At the time, I had recently stumbled across a meme about death and us becoming space dust, and it was funny too because after you turn to space dust you land on someone's sandwich.
I loved the idea of our eternal nature surviving death. The haunting and hypnotic sound of the RAV Vast would be perfect to touch on metaphysical topics.
As I began to write, I realized the text needed to be fleshed out more to really tell the story. And the idea of space dust wasn’t wrong, but star dust inspired more of the spirit of adventure and vast-ness (see what I did there?).
As I approached writing for the RAV, I wanted to capture different textures of the instrument as well as the marvelous sustain. As a percussionist, I approach my music composition from a rhythmic and texture standpoint first and a melodic standpoint second. With the RAV, I wanted the instrument ambient noise texture and the variations in sound which knuckles, hand slaps, thumb strikes, finger strikes each provide. I sent an early draft to Sam with the first third of the piece to get the green light to compose the rest. He gave it! …then a pandemic hit and it sat on a virtual shelf while the world shut down.
I picked up the text several times during lock down—even recording a pop version of the lyrics—completely unrelated to Stardust Once Again except for most of the text. But that still sits on a different virtual shelf to this day.
Earlier in 2023, I received an email from the director again inquiring about doing Moonlight Sound Design with MPLS (imPulse) and what the status was of Stardust Once Again. I told him I would get a new drum for Moonlight Sound Design (much to my husband’s chagrin) and asked for two weeks to finish Stardust Once Again.
Ambient, colorful, soaring, deep, funny… all in the 5 plus minutes of music. The beginning sets the sound of the RAV Vast in your ear… pitches popping out from a plethora of overtones….the choir starting deep, soft and low. The timbre of the different vowels formed by different sections of the choir as they crescendo to a unified AHH…
“When I die, my essence will emerge unembodied”. The soul’s journey after death. As the atoms that you see in the mirror every day become undone, the choir dissolves from unity to chaos—each individual having their own voice but unified in idea. As the realization dawns of the eternal nature of the soul, the lush chords proclaim the revelation, “I will be stardust once again.”
You can almost hear rustling and blowing as the treble voices soar like the wind blowing dandelion seeds into your neighbor’s well-manicured yard—scattering you everywhere.
You feel the call of rhythm as you embrace your new adventure, realizing you can dance to the rhythm of distant worlds and play in the light of newborn stars! It is all so damn poetic …until you land on someone’s egg salad sandwich.
When I was 25, my soulmate died in a car accident. I remember standing in the kitchen of my work after that thinking, “You are off exploring the universe, and I am standing here making egg salad. Something is wrong with that.” So this seem a PERFECT place to reflect on that moment and honor the moment… and it just so happens that the chords in this section are “e minor G major and G major” and the RAV pays “E-G-G” in the accompaniment.
The final revelation that YOU are eternal—that YOU are a powerful creator and can—and most likely will—forge a new body from stardust once again and play this grand adventure one more time!
When I die my essence will emerge unembodied
My atoms will become undone
what you see will no longer be—I will be stardust, once again
The wind will carry me—scatter me everywhere
(Like dandelion seeds on a summer breeze)
I will dance to the rhythms of distant worlds and bask in the glow of alien moons
I will climb the highest mountain—cross the Cerulean Sea
Play in the light of a new-born star
It will all be so damn poetic until I land on your egg salad sandwich
We are but sand, which will gather together again
I will forge my new body from stardust once again