Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Echoes of Ancient Mesopotamia and Canaan




Michael Levy has a new album available!  Follow the links and order today . . .


ECHOES OF ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA & CANAAN

I am pleased to announce that my new album, "Echoes of Ancient Mesopotamia & Canaan" is available to pre-order from Amazon & iTunes from TODAY, ahead of its general digital release across all the usual major digital music platforms on 1st March 2020!

For all the details and to download a free PDF booklet of the detailed album notes, please see my new webpage about the release:


Pre-order this album on iTunes!

Pre-order this album on Amazon!


This album is my mostly historically inspired evocation, of the lost music of ancient Mesopotamia & Canaan; but as the final track, this release also features my most recent arrangement of the reconstructed melody of an actual bronze age hymn to Nikkal; the oldest notated fragment of music which can still be interpreted and performed today; performed this time, on a replica of an actual surviving bronze age lyre!

For most of the tracks, I play this fascinating replica of an actual, typical bronze age Canaanite form of asymmetric lyre; custom-made for me by Luthieros. The design of this lyre was based on the same proportions of a Canaanite form of lyre found in Egypt, dating to circa 1,500 BCE and which is preserved in Leiden.

These types of lyres were almost certainly introduced into Egypt during the reign of the Canaanite Hyksos kings, that ruled northern Egypt as the 15th dynasty, c.1630–1523 BCE. The exotic, sitar-like tone of the bass strings of this lyre, are due to the flat-topped, groove-less bridge. As almost all the lyres still played throughout the African continent today still retain this distinctive buzzing timbre (particularly the Ethiopian begena), since the lyre originally probably came to Africa via ancient trade routes between the ancient Near East and Egypt, it is indeed far more likely, that this buzzing timbre of the lyre was much closer to the original ancient near eastern/middle eastern lyres of antiquity.

For some of the tracks, I also use the more sinister, darker timbre of my tenor register 10-string lyre - ideal for evoking the mystery of the long-forgotten pantheon of ancient Mesopotamian & Canaanite gods!

As a taster, here is a YouTube presentation of track 4, "The Magic of Marduk":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeaVIu02_5g

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Em Report (2019)


Every once in a while, I remember that I have a blog and that I'm supposed to keep people posted about my stories and books that have been published in the past year or so. If I had more marketing savvy (not to mention more success), I would be doing this every month, but at this point I'm lucky if I remember to comb my hair before reporting to my day job. So I'll have to make do with this annual(ish) report.

I've got two new novels to crow about: Medusa Uploaded came out from Tor in 2018; the sequel, Medusa in the Graveyard was published July 2019. Joel Cunningham, at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, says, “Book Two of the Medusa Cycle is just as dark, daring, and propulsive as the first.” That should be all you need to hear! Run right out to your favorite indie book store (or click on one of my links to the Evil Empire) and buy them today . . .

I had to think harder about which of my stories has been published, but I've got a pretty comprehensive list, here: 

"10,432 Serial Killers (in Hell)” appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and was nominated for the 2019 Thriller Award. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine will also be publishing “Not My Circus, but They Are My Monkeys,” on sale August 14.

I managed to make it into two Apocalypse-themed anthologies in 2018/2019: “Cruddy,” a kaiju story, is in Enter the Aftermath, edited by Thomas Gandolfi, and “Appetite,” my riff on zombies/mummies is in Enter the Rebirth, edited by Thomas Gandolfi.

"Wraith” was published in Longshot Island no. 6.  In fact, editor Daniel Scott White did more than his fair share of Em publishing: “Alternate Universe Ernies” is in Unfit Magazine, vol. 1; “Destry” is in Unreal Magazine, vol. 1, and “The Hitter” is in the forthcoming Unfit Magazine vol. 4.

And last but not least, “Jumpers For Jesus” will be published by Mystery Weekly Magazine, (publishing date to be announced, but I've provided a link to the magazine so you can check them out, maybe subscribe). How can you live without weekly mystery? I need mine daily . . .

I hope I have good stuff to report next year, but if not, there's always hiking, geology, ghost stories, music, movies, book reviews, whatever I can come up with. So please watch this space. 



Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Music for Writers (the SciFi and Fantasy Edition)



Lately people have been asking me to recommend music to listen to while writing. A lot of writers already have their favorites, but most people stick with what they already know. Classical music can be off-putting to people who don't hear it very often, because they think it all sounds like Bach and Mozart. I don't mean to cast a poor light on those composers, but they don't represent everything classical music has to offer. After all, most movie soundtracks can be described as classical in form (or jazz, which is a close cousin). So here's a sampler you can explore if you're feeling more adventurous.

Gustav Holst: Most people are familiar with The Planets, and it is, indeed, most excellent music for evoking fantastic images, but if you don't also listen to “The Perfect Fool”, “Egdon Heath”, and Beni Mora (especially the third movement, “In the Streets of Ouled Nails”), you're not getting everything you can out of Gustav Holst. Not by a long shot.

 
Ralph Vaughan WilliamsI love The London Symphony from start to finish, but by far my favorite part is the 3rdmovement. It’s so rambunctious! You can say the same about The Wasps Suitewhich was written to accompany a play; it has an optimistic, heroic tone. But, my goodness, Sinfonia Antartica! The symphony was adapted from the film score for Scott of the Antarctic. You can see that bleak, majestic landscape when you hear the music, but I feel more inclined to envision the landscapes of Mars. 



Claude Debussy’s famous works are so well-known, I don’t see the point in listing them here, especially when I can recommend something far more magical – his Nocturnes.They conjure mystery, wonder, adventure; what more could a writer ask for? Well, perhaps joy, which is what you’ll hear in “Joyous Isle.”



Yolanda Kondonassis: While we’re on the subject of Debussy, Debussy’s Harp is simply gorgeous, especially Kondonassis’s interpretation of “The Engulfed Cathedral” and “Dances Sacred and Profane.” I would grieve for you if you never heard these, my imaginative friends. 



Isao Tomita: Another beautiful interpretation of Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral” is arranged for synthesizer for the album, Snowflakes are DancingEach song on the album is lovingly rendered for the Space Age, but it’s also suitable for those more inclined to Fantasy.



Mahavishnu’s album, Apocalypseblends jazz and classical music. When I hear it (which is often, since it’s on my list of top ten albums), I always envision post-apocalyptic landscapes. “Vision is a Naked Sword” also provokes memories of intense thunderstorms in the Sonoran Desert.



Another of my favorite albums of all time is Gail Laughton's Harps of the Ancient Templesinspired by the music of ancient cultures (including a couple that exist only in legend).  (Note: try the Laurel Website, for new copies.)



Chances are, you've heard the first movement of Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazadeand that's about it. Most music samplers don't bother to move beyond that magnificent opening. However, if you saw Amazon's Prime series, The Romanoffsyou may recall the first episode, about the beautiful Paris apartment. The son (who hopes to eventually inherit that fabulous joint) turns on the radio and listens to gorgeous music. If you play Scheherazade all the way through, you'll get to hear that lovely piece, too. Once you have, treat yourself to The Golden Cockerel and Skazka (Fairy Tale), too.



Anatoly Liadov was not as prolific as some of his contemporaries – he liked to take his time. So we're fortunate he produced works like “Baba Yaga” and “Kikimora.” For those trying to envision something different from the European mythos that permeates the fantasy genre, try some Russian flavor from Liadov. 



Jean Prodromidès was a composer of French film scores who isn't well-known in the U.S., but if you were one of the lucky kids who saw La Voyage en Ballon when it premiered over here in the 60s, you got to hear one of the best scores ever composed. This music is adventure, distilled. We have Jack Lemmon to thank for that – he bought the American rights. The best version of the movie is the one that has no narration, just action and music. 



I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know, but Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still is the essential SciFi soundtrack, and Jason and the Argonauts is the essential Fantasy.



I searched for Georges Auric's La Belle et la Bête for 40 years before someone finally released it on CD, and that's when I discovered that the score had been lost among his personal papers that whole time. Someone found it when they were sorting through, after his death. As beautiful as Cocteau's images are in that movie, Auric's score is half the experience (at least!).



Igor Stravinksy's Rite of Spring was adapted for Disney's film Fantasia by Leopold Stokowski. Many have grumbled about his version, by I think it captures the essence of the piece. You can't hear that music without seeing the dinosaurs. However, if you want to see dragons, go with the original. 



When you were a kid, you heard Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the WolfNow that you're a grown-up – possibly writing a novel with characters in the military? – try the Lieutenant Kije Suite.



Sergei Rachmaninoff would be insulted if we included the work of his countrymen and not his majestically macabre masterpiece, “Isle of the Dead.”



Ottorino Respighi is one of my top ten favorite composers, and the album I've linked to for Pines of Rome is one of the greatest recordings ever made.  This music is a link to ancient Rome, and the wider world beyond it.  However, for pure ecstasy try "The Birth of Venus" from Three Botticelli Pictures.



This is a long post, but a short list.  If you like this music, explore a bit more. You won't be sorry.




Sunday, July 14, 2019

Playlist for Medusa in the Graveyard, with Links:



Music is just as important in Medusa in the Graveyard as it was for Medusa Uploaded, so I thought I would provide a playlist with YouTube links. Those of you who like Spotify can create your own playlist on that site using this list for reference.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice” by Paul Dukas illustrates the actions of the scrubbers on Olympia, cleaning toxins from the surface of Merlin after she docks in the infamous Lock 212.



If you hear the score for La Belle et La Bête, by Georges Auric, you may be tempted to sit and watch the whole movie.



"Suites for Two Pianos” by Sergei Rachmaninoff is amazingly romantic, and the perfect music for a garden party.



"Halloween Town” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, by Danny Elfman, is my favorite song from the whole movie.



"There's No Business Like Show Business” by Irving Berlin, is Kitten's favorite song, ever, and the one that really sums her up.



Selections from The King and I, by Rogers and Hammerstein, cannot be fully apreciated unless sung by a Mini, but certain Broadway personalities have given it the ol' college try.



The score for Around the World in 80 Days, by Victor Young – as Oichi says, it makes you feel as if “We have nothing better to do than drift lazily in this balloon. . . . ”



The score for Mysterious Island, by Bernard Herrmann, is packed with dangers and thrills.



"Hydra's Teeth/Skeletons/Attack” from Jason and the Argonauts, by Bernard Herrmann, makes excellent use of the bassoon and a variety of interesting percussion instruments. 



"Baba Yaga” by Anatoly Liadov will evoke images of the hut that walks on hen's legs.



"My Little Grass Shack” from Ports of Paradise, arranged by Alfred Newman and Ken Darby, performed by Mavis Rivers, is the definitive version of this song, and showcases the variety of Indigenous percussion instruments that were lovingly recruited by Ken Darby for this recording.



Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Maori folk music is best appreciated when it's sung, danced, and played at once. It's hard to find good performances online, possibly because there are so many to sift through. Probably you have to see it in person to appreciate its full impact.



"Nocturne/The Flashlight/The Robot/Space Control” from The Day the Earth Stood Still, by Bernard Herrmann, is Sense of Wonder, personified.



Oichi's Default Majesty Music makes another appearance, once she catches sight of The Three, close up.



"The Sunken Cathedral” a.k.a “The Engulfed Cathedral” by Claude Debussy, arranged for synthesizer by Isao Tomita, is my favorite rendition of this piece, which has always sent chills down my spine. Yolanda Kondonasses also does a gorgeous version for solo harp.



I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lady Sheba's “Canon in D” by Pachelbel, which turns out to be a bit of a plot point. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Em & Ernie On the Trail (Again)



Ernie and I hiked the trails at Piestewa Peak today, pushing our luck a little bit with the advent of warmer weather, now that it's April. We lucked out – it was overcast all morning, and there was a cool breeze. I only needed to drink my water because I was huffing and puffing from the climb.


If you don't live in the desert, you may not be able to tell how fat and sassy these plants are from the extra rain we got this year. They're built to take advantage of every drop, and to store that water in their tissues. The saguaros have pleated sides that can expand when they're holding more water and contract when the water level drops again.


This mountain complex is located in Northeastern Phoenix. It's made up of low-grade metamorphic rocks that were eventually pushed up and tilted by molten material that stretched the Basin and Range Province starting about 17 million years ago. The rocks are mostly slate, phyllite, and quartzite, with eroded seams of quartz. This time of year, the trails are full of wildflowers and happy hikers.


Piestewa Peak is one of the places that city folk can get away from the grind and into the wild. It's an ancient place, unintimidated by the city crowding around it. Every time we hike here, it reminds me of what I really want – and what I don't want. 


This place has gnarlitude. The older I get, the more I appreciate that.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gleanings in Buddha Fields




I've been reading Lafcadio Hearn's GLEANINGS IN BUDDHA FIELDS, and I was going to post a review on Amazon, but the version available there is apparently some kind of print-on-demand edition that has left at least one reviewer nasty-peeved enough to leave a bad review. The sad thing is that it gives readers the wrong idea about the quality of the book (rather than the edition -- why do these yahoos do that?). So I thought I'd better just post it here (and probably on Facebook  too), so I can let people know about this wonderful title.

I recommend that you find a copy of it at a used book store. My edition was published by Tuttle Books in 1971. It's a collection of stories and musings, a treasure trove of ideas and reflections about a place and a people that Hearn loved deeply. If I were to review it on Amazon, I'd give it five stars. (So there, cranky Amazon assassin.) 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Rufus and Michael, the Opera



This is an announcement from Michael Levy concerning his music of the ancient harp.  Check it out!

My Ancient-Themed Lyre Music to Feature in Rufus Wainwright's Second Opera, "Hadrian"!

I am pleased to announce, that the Canadian Grammy Award winning composer, Rufus Wainwright, will be arranging one of my ancient-themed lyre compositions, "Hymn to Zeus", in two scenes of his ancient Roman-themed second opera, "Hadrian" - produced by the Canadian Opera Company and due to premiere in Toronto on 13th October!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Oichi's Playlist (With Links!)



If you've read Medusa Uploaded, you've noticed that Oichi is a bit obsessed with music. I created a playlist for the annotated version of the book, but I thought some people might appreciate one with links. I've also included links to sites where good recordings can be purchased. 

The list is probably not comprehensive. It may not even be entirely accurate. For the past several months I've been up to my eyeballs in the sequel, Medusa in the Graveyard, so most of my brain power has been hijacked. But I hope this list will provide a good jumping-off point for curious readers (who are also listeners).

Ralph Vaughan Williams – “Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis,” London Symphony(no.2) (the EMI recording of John Barbirolli conducting the London Symphony Orchestra blows everyone else out of the water), and Pastoral Symphony(no.3) (Sir Adrian Boult's EMI recordings are gorgeous) 



Claude Debussy – Nocturnes, for orchestra (the best recording I've heard is on the Cala label, conducted by Geoffrey Simon with the Philharmonia Orchestra)



Gamelan music (try the album, Music from the Morning of the World)


If you've never heard Japanese Nō music, find some on Youtube. If you've watched Japanese period movies (stories about samurais filmed by Kurosawa, etc.), you've probably heard the instruments used in the film scores.



Pachelbel's “Canon in D” (Lady Sheba's Theme Music)



Beethoven's 7thSymphony2ndmovement (Allegretto – though it has a lot more emotional impact when played slowly, like a dirge)



Gustav Holst – “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (my Default Majesty Music),” “Jupiter, bringer of Joviality,” and “Neptune the Mystic”



Alan Hovhannes – “Mysterious Mountain



After you've checked out the Japanese Nō music on Youtube, look for The White-Haired Girl Ballet



You may have heard Leopold Stokowsky's excellent arrangement of The Rite of Spring in the film score of Fantasia (the segment with the dinosaurs), but the original arrangement is pretty mind-blowing. 



Tōru Takemitsu – Kwaidan score



Yasushi Akutagawa – Gate of Hell score



Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart



Anatol Liadov – “The Enchanted Lake,” “Baba Yaga,” and Eight Russian Folk Songs for Orchestra (I think of “Sacred Verse” (no.1) as Gennady's Theme Song)



Duke Ellington – “Take the A Train” and “The Mooch”



I think I may have mentioned the main theme from the film score for Around the World in Eighty Dayscomposed by Victor Young. If I didn't mention it in this book, I definitely mentioned it in the sequel.



Irving Berlin – “There's No Business Like Show Business” (another piece that plays a big part in the sequel).



Benjamin Britten's Simple Symphony“Playful Pizzicato”



Sergei Prokofiev – scores from Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible



Rimsky-Korsakov – “Hindu Song



Franz Waxman – Rear Window(opening credits)



Rogers & Hammerstein – South Pacific (Kitten's favorite musical)



Johann Sebastian Bach – “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring”



Cab Calloway – “Mini the Moocher



George Butterworth, “The Banks of Green Willow” (George died in the trenches in WWI, the same war that had such a profound effect on J.R.R. Tolkien)



Antônio Carlos Jobim – “The Girl from Ipanema” (pick your favorite elevator-music version)



I hope this list doesn't seem too long, and that you haven't gone cross-eyed trying to follow it. My ambition is to let people discover some new music or revisit old favorites. Once Medusa in the Graveyard is released (summer 2019), I'll do another one . . .


Sunday, May 20, 2018

That Moment When You Realize Success Just Makes More Work . . .



Writers have a lot of delusions when we start out. Time and experience should clear them up, but some of them persist. For me, the biggest of these is the idea that more success is going to equate to less work.

Stop laughing. I'm not the only fool who has thought more money and exposure would land her on Easy Street (or, if I'm going to be honest, Easier Street, since the more expensive version shall remain forever out of reach). But you would think I would at least remember that any endeavor that involves the creative process is just going to generate more work. For one thing, I should have noticed how long it's been since I posted anything on this blog that wasn't an announcement of Michael Levy's latest creative doings. 

A few years ago, I had nothing but time. I hadn't begun to write stories again, and I had no sci-fi extravaganza in the works. I was studying geology (there's something that'll hijack your brain), snapping photos on hikes, and cheerfully blogging about a variety of topics. In fact, that's pretty much how I picture my retirement (okay, seriously, stop laughing – it could sort of happen that way). Somehow I can't help projecting myself into this life where mornings are spent on a comfy porch, sipping coffee and watching wildlife. That also seems like a good spot for the afternoon and evening. 

So yes, the idea of being a happy, lazy bum REALLY appeals to me. And yet I keep generating more work for myself.

In my defense, back when my earlier books were published, there wasn't a whole lot I could do to help promote them. The internet was in its infancy, blogs were not a thing, podcasts were also not a thing, and Amazon was a brand, new thing. Now that Medusa Uploaded has been released, I'm doing interviews, writing guest posts, even traveling to a few signings and conventions. This, on top of my full-time job and my household upkeep. I'm feeling just a tad incompetent, these days.

I'm really happy about the book, though. I've still got a big stack of writing to do, and probably that will generate more work. Maybe I'll wise up and go back to writing about geology and saguaros.

Happy Trails, my friends. We've still got time to plan that retirement.