Space Cowboy

Space Cowboy




Programme notes

The middle movement of ‘High Octane,’ written for myself and ASKO Ensemble. One of my favorite live moments was premiering this in the pop temple of Amsterdam, Paradiso.

In ‘High Octane,’ I imagined the composer Edgar Varese as a space traveler, letting him sing back to the earth. This movement, however, isn’t so much of a song as a rant: as a pioneer of electronic music he rails against not only hiphop and other electronic dance music but nearly every other musical trend in the the late 20th century as well.


Some people call me the space cowboy
‘cause I’m floating like an argonaut in heat

halfway from nowhere is too close for comfort
a tiny, twirling planet of green and blue below
full of hungry little rodeo boys, tangled up in the woods
west coast coin flippers trying to steal the goods
toyko gophers, brill building loafers and broadway mozarts
I can hear for light years, I’m the gangster of buzz

I was a tripahopaholic
‘fore Flash and Herc were spinnin’
I was cutting deep in vinyl
folding melodies like linen
when your single-pole, double-throw b-boys
weren’t conceived of
when breakbeat meant no barline
I dropped the old school metrical
for the wiggly-line electrical


my form is aerodynamic,
trans-atlantic bounding and leaping, don’t panic
no over-heated franco-sixin’
no stinking up the joint with neo-geo counterpoint
no lo-fi styling, finger-filing squiggly-lining,
sonic koans, buddha drones, improv over telephones,
live body art, new age for the young at heart,
old new age for shoppin’ K-Mart,
retro-folkie in the metro
homies, breeders, feeders, random seeders
readers selling half-digested Charlie
for those who can’t take it gnarly

Keep a distance from inflated overturing,
overrated border blurring,
pop for blue hairs, blues for kiddies,
spunky Mozart, punky pop tart, funky g-men Gordon Liddys,
biodegradable Newk (call it Hilverslumming)
all the things you ain’t (nobody’s fainting at your second coming)
pull the shado on Plato, hang the horn up on Burney,
if they ring you up at home, its too late for an attorney

no phone-it-in hand-clappin’, no nappin’ on the one
don’t leave your Wilsons out at night, don’t leave your Velvets in the sun
no Billie Holiday on ice, no doo-whack on the curbs
sounds like your backbeat left Chicago and
it headed for the ‘burbs
no Bugs ‘n Daffy zappin’, no scherzos outta Tom & Jerry
no Igor on a pogo stick, hey Arvo Pärt, meet Dirty Harry
later with the hi, honey I’m tonic,
no lo-calorie noodlin’ on the white bread keys,
get a grip on that vibrator, ya know you’re shaking at the knees
melodic stop n’ shop up on top
go figure bass down below
“plug it in and turn it on” don’t make it snap,
don’t make it crack, don’t make it pop, don’t make it wow and flutter
sounds like that digi-doggy’s down with a chronic phonic stutter

I got the hissy gliss criss-crossing; stereo’s for losers
klang and drone and bang and moan and
I can hear for light years, I’m the gangster of buzz
‘cause I speak of the effect before the ‘cuz

©1997 Saprophone Music & Donemus, Amsterdam