Thursday, November 15, 2007

The John Carter Songbook

Released in 1988 by the Swedish record label Phono Suecia, The John Carter Songbook (1979-1985) is a collection of electro-acoustic music composed by the Swedish composer Sten Hanson. Some have dubbed it “Martian music,” as Hanson creates the sounds of Mars as heard by John Carter, the fictional hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series (1917-1964).

So what does The John Carter Songbook sound like? “In principle this is pentatonic music, but with a lavish flora of glissandi and microtonal elements,” according to one listener. “Drones, synthesized and processed vocal sounds, and other imaginary creatures,” according to another.

While the Songbook's first six tracks are based upon Burroughs’ Martian novels, the seventh track captures the center of the Milky Way Galaxy as depicted in a novel by Michael Moorcock (The Sundered Worlds/The Blood-Red Game?):

1. Morning on Barsoom (11:30)
2. Battlesong of Tars Tarkas and the Green Warriors (6:25) sample
3. Bestiary (2:06)
4. The Chessmen of Mars (3:44)
5. Song of the Holy Terns (2:28)
6. The Love Song of the Red Princess (10:00)
7. The Birthplace of Matter (10:29)

The Songbook’s program notes include a description, rules, and sample of the game Jetan, or Martian chess, which was created by Burroughs and introduced in his book, The Chessmen of Mars (1922).

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