Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On Mars

Things are going to be a bit quiet around here while I thrash towards the end of the first draft. So here's a couple of cool videos as place markers. Both were created by Adrian Lark, and are flyover animations reconstructed from HiRise data, with an amazing resolution of 0.25 metres - around the size of an A4 sheet of paper. The first loops around part of the scarp at the base of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on Mars - and the largest found so far in the Solar System.

The second floats around the edge the raised mound (a mountain some five kilometres high) in the centre of Gale Crater - note the tremendously varied terrain. Gale crater is one of the possible landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory, a large, robust rover scheduled for launch in 2011. One of its main mission goals is to determine if microbial life ever existed on the surface of Mars; Gale Crater is a prime target for this search because its mound contains clay-bearing layers at its base, with layers of oxygen- and sulphur-rich minerals above, and flowing water seems to have carved channels across the floor of the crater and into its wall.

(By the way, neither of these animations comes with a soundtrack. What would you choose?)


Blogger Larry said...

That's pretty cool! I notice what looks like a lot of ice locked into the rocks-it looks ruddy cold up there!

March 23, 2010 11:51 am  
Blogger PeteY said...

For the second one, Bowie & Eno's Moss Garden. Is it too much of a cliche to use Eno for "space" stuff?

March 23, 2010 12:29 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

Music wise you can't beat Vangelis-Conquest of Paradise from the movie 1492 or his music from Antarctica. Or maybe Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene/Equinoxe!

March 23, 2010 12:54 pm  
Anonymous Sergey said...

I agree about Vangelis and Eno.
What about Eno's "Prophecy Theme" from Dune soundtrack?

March 23, 2010 2:36 pm  
Anonymous Al R said...

Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons, by The Pixies, segueing neatly into Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon, from The Flaming Lips.

March 23, 2010 4:07 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

@Al, I must check out Flaming Lips- they play an instrumental track at the shop I work in and I wonder if its the Lips. They also play one called Cashime or something about robots which I like!

March 23, 2010 4:31 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

The Flaming Lips album (and it is, an old-fashioned concept album) is 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots'.

No one has chosen any classical music, yet. Something from Vaughn Williams's Antarctica Symphony for the Olympus Mons scarp, perhaps?

March 23, 2010 5:51 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

Paul, classical, how about Holst's Mars from The Planets suite,or maybe some Sibelius. Then there's Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead

March 23, 2010 7:50 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

"Folk Song" by The Sundays

March 23, 2010 7:58 pm  
Blogger RFYork said...

I guess I'll point out the obvious: "The Bringer of War", section 1 of Holst's "The Planets". It holds up pretty well. But, probably not politically correct these days.

March 23, 2010 8:07 pm  
Anonymous Al R said...

Some phenomenal stuff in the Antartic symphony, especially the organ break.

Bax's Tintagel always does it for me too.

March 23, 2010 9:13 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Lots of good stuff... English composers always good for landscape music, but Sibelius sublime, too. Had totally forgotten Eno did part of the Dune soundtrack, and the Vangelis Antarctica soundtrack.

The bits of Sinfonia Antarctica I was thinking of were the opening and, yes, the thunderous organ passage. Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground might be good, too.

March 23, 2010 10:14 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

How about pieces from Mike Oldfield's Songs of Distant Earth?

March 23, 2010 11:36 pm  
Blogger PeteY said...

The Slab by Public Image Ltd

March 23, 2010 11:52 pm  
Blogger PeteY said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 24, 2010 5:09 am  
Blogger PeteY said...


You know, I keep thinking of musique concrete/electronica/krautrock/avant-garde type things. Throbbing Gristle, Harmonia, Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. These are the sort of things I like to play when driving about in the Alps. Spiky.

But in honour of Paul's writings, in particular the Martian shootout in The Secret of Life, I nominate This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us, by Sparks. heh heh.

March 24, 2010 5:14 am  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

There's a tension between the sublime and the monumental (slab/spiky) developing. Am wondering how The Sundays' Folk Song' fits into this...

Pete - a chapter in an early Mars novel, Red Dust was shaped around Eno's 'Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)'. But I like Sparks too (saw them years and years ago, around the time that song was big).

March 24, 2010 7:37 am  
Blogger Larry said...

Muse's Map of the Problematique.
Depeche Mode's Fragile Tension
Gary Numan's I Nearly Married a Human or Gymnopedie

March 24, 2010 10:03 am  
Blogger PeteY said...

Hey, I've got Red Dust, but it's currently languishing in my teetering 'unread' pile. Must prioritize it.

March 24, 2010 7:24 pm  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Paul, and about which chapter in "Red Dust" you are saying?
For me this reference to Eno your work is very interesting.
By the way - I was happy enough to see Brian performing live in Moscow - though he played mainly a kind of ethnic hard-rock with Rachied Taha and Steve Hilladge instead of soundscapes ;)

March 24, 2010 7:27 pm  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Paul, and about which chapter in "Red Dust" you are saying?
For me this reference to Eno your work is very interesting.
By the way - I was happy enough to see Brian performing live in Moscow - though he played mainly a kind of ethnic hard-rock with Rachied Taha and Steve Hilladge instead of soundscapes ;)

March 24, 2010 7:28 pm  
Blogger PeteY said...

Larry, why Map of the Problematique, and not Knights of Cydonia? Admittedly, Gale crater isn't in Cydonia, AFAIK.

March 25, 2010 3:19 am  
Blogger George Berger said...

I don't know the Antarctica Symphony well at all. I heard it for the first time last week. Another suggestion is Tapiola by Jean Sibelius, his last great work. This tone poem seems to describe the densly forested wastes of part of Finland, and anyway concerns a character of the Kalavala epic. But much of that piece would fit these great animations quite well. BTW, lots of Vaughan Williams is now preserved on my iphone. Great Stuff, especially The Lark Ascending.

March 25, 2010 11:07 am  
Blogger Larry said...

I've not heard any of VW's symphonies,need t address that.
How about the famous slow ,
Movememnt from mahler's 5th?
Or Bizet's March to the Scaffold from his Symphonie Fantastique?

March 25, 2010 12:00 pm  
Blogger George Berger said...

Hi Larry--Very briefly: The Gymnopedies are too frivolous (as was Satie) for these majestic animations. The (thanks to the film) famous Adagio from Mahler's 5th doesn't, imho, capture the vastnesses depicted. That part from Berlioz invokes my most hated, pessimistic, piece of doom music, the Dies Irae, and hence is unsuitable for astronautical optimism. No, I still opt for Tapiola . Indeed, it was only after I wrote my contribution above that I noticed that you and Our Host had already mentioned Sibelius. So I hope I named the piece that was in your minds.

March 25, 2010 12:45 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Hi Sergey and Pete,

Chapter 73 of Red Dust was specifically written with Taking Tiger Mountain in mind, as far as I can recall. But the whole section of the novel is about, well, climbing Tiger Mountain. Having those HiRise images would have been very helpful...

March 25, 2010 5:55 pm  
Blogger Larry said...

Paul,some years ago I had an idea for a story about scientists exploring Mars that find a fossil. I had the title Red Dust for it. Then a few years later a book came out by Paul J Mcauley with that very title. Well that snookered that idea ;)

March 25, 2010 7:43 pm  
Anonymous Sergey said...

Thank you for information, Paul!

March 27, 2010 8:03 am  
Blogger PeteY said...

Sorry, folks, I seem unable to let this one rest. Kudos to Larry for his Depeche Mode suggestion, it's made me refamiliarise myself with them. But the right track is New Life. Try it with Gale Crater. It's optimistic, even enough for a new age of heroic astronautics.

March 28, 2010 5:53 am  

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