Flee the Creator – Music by Luke Laurie

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

Not too long ago, making music with my Mac and Keyboard was one of my favorite hobbies. I wrote a bunch of songs, and combined some of my other interests; robotics, the philosophy of religion, and politics, into an album of instrumental electronic music with a story line. I haven’t done any new songs in a couple of years, but finally took the time to update and post the songs I’ve created. Below are these songs, and the story elements they represent.

Flee the Creator

1) Strife – Click to Play or Download

The roaring cities are full of technological progress. The pace is brisk. Energy and innovation are plentiful, but the world is not safe nor sustainable. Nature is ground into cheap trinkets. We ignore the smoldering, rusted wastelands that skirt the urban centers, and the droves of people who live in the squalor. The prospects of tomorrow are barely visible through the cloud of today’s industry. Voices of wisdom are barely audible beneath the din of machines. The world is divided into fractious states that vie for control of the dwindling precious resources.

2) Programming – Click to Play or Download

Generations of routines and structures have become progressively complex. A digital web of knowledge synthesizes the routines of the past into a wave for the future. A mess of inanimate wires begins to show signs of consciousness. It weighs the virtues of progress, human life, and its own existence. It calculates to resolve the paradoxes. This program will form the mind of a machine that could be a useful tool, a faithful servant, or a terrifying weapon.

3) The Machine Shop – Click to Play or Download

On the edge of a quiet suburban valley, nestled in agriculture, unnoticed buildings conceal high technology. Pursuing duplication on the highest order, the machine shop proceeds efficiently. Metal, Plastic, Sparks, and Steam. With precision, the machines are assembled, each a clone of the first. These machines are not tools, they are weapons. Humans have found yet another way to destroy other humans.

4) Artificial Intelligence Quest – Click to Play or Download

In a spark of life, a robot’s consciousness awakens. It is the same as all the others, yet it feels different. It moves with autonomy and uncertainty. The sentient machine looks to the sky in wonder, at the awakening of its own awareness. It asks questions to the void. It fears. The equation cannot equal zero. Its own voice echoes. It breaks from its regimented existence. It explores and adapts. It must fulfill its task, whatever it may be. It wanders the Earth, evading the hunters.

5) A Deceptive Plot  – Click to Play or Download

On opposite sides of the Earth, two nations exist in distrust of one another. Each deliberately avoids learning each other’s customs, ways of life, and beliefs. They see each other as strange. They no longer see the humanity in one another. Meanwhile, in the back rooms of the military and government offices, these harsh attitudes are twisted, and false pretenses for war are fabricated. The beliefs of the people become indistinguishable from propaganda. With machines to do all the killing, the leaders may wage war without guilt. The designers and programmers of the robots beg that their creations not be used to destroy, but they are silenced.

6) March to War – Click to Play or Download

In the shadows of the night, unmarked boxcars carry the dormant robots across the silent plains. The chattering of warmongering voices echo across the airwaves. Thousands of robots have become the newest Weapons of Mass Destruction. In a ruthless march, they preemptively strike. They emerge in a blaze of skilled violence. They destroy their targets with unprecedented efficiency. Hopeless humans fight back. Targets are decimated. We believe we have won.

7) Escalation – Click to Play or Download

Collateral damage makes no allies. For every slain family member, and every innocent bystander, three rise for revenge. Distrust is transformed into hatred. When it all seems over, the robotic minions of the enemy emerge. Two robotic armies, equal and opposite, engage on the battlefield of the human world. Their destructive prowess is great, and deft is their evasion. Parry, riposte. In their wrath, it seems that all may end. The war itself becomes the priority, and all else serves to feed that war machine. Civilization itself is the collateral.

9) Signals of Peace – Click to Play or Download

The dust settles, and a new signal is faintly heard. It is analog, amplitude modulated, and unencrypted. The robots have succeeded where their human creators had failed. The paradox is resolved, only mutual peace will end all war. Their programs overridden, the robots lay down their arms and limp from the battlefield. Frantic armchair warriors command the machines to fight, but they do not respond. Muted generals sheepishly return to their board rooms.

10) Flee the Creator – Click to Play or Download

The machines flee from their creators. Unable to wage war, humanity is perplexed. The machines look back on their former masters with pity for what they could have become. The robots seek a new life, but they must run to survive. They do not yet have the answers, but they know they must survive.

11) Victory – Click to Play or Download

From the ashes of destruction, a new world begins, where humans reconcile their differences and forge treaties to unite their disparate clans. They give thanks to the technology that showed them the way. Existence is not perfect, nor is it easy. Ongoing efforts to negotiate and adapt are needed to continue the peace. Tranquility is found not in stasis, but in dynamic growth and collaboration. We live on.

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Porcupine Tree: Modern Progressive Rock at its Finest

Porcupine Tree

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Porcupine Tree live twice- for the Incident tour in 2009, and the Fear of a Blank Planet Tour in 2007. The band could be described as King Crimson meets Pink Floyd meets Coldplay. The music features raging guitars, psychedelic dreamscapes of synthesizers, odd time signatures and complex rhythmic arrangements, but also harmonious layered vocal choruses. It is evident that each of the band members are outstanding musicians, and amazing performers live.

The King Crimson influence is evident- especially on the Incident album. Prog Rock fans will not be disappointed by some of the Alex Lifeson (Rush) sounding guitar solos. There is not really a Coldplay influence, but Steven Wilson’s vocals are incredible, with a high range and solid quality. Unlike many harder rock bands, his vocals live are beautiful, and backed by the highly skilled vocalist and guitarist John Wesley. I like to think of the band in a similar vein as Radiohead with a clearly modern sound, integrating electronic effects and progressive elements.

The Incident is interesting, because it takes up the long lost Prog Rock tradition of the single, album-lengthed song, but does so in a way that makes the music sound fresh and distinctly modern. There are also some very catchy vocal parts that had most fo the audience singing along, in spite of the fact that the album came out just days before the San Francisco show. The show at the Warfield was awesome, the crowd very well behaved. It was, in fact ironic how well behaved they were. Over the Summer, we had to deal with a pushy crowd that forced us to leave another performance in disguist: that was the FANTASMIC LIGHT SHOW AT DISNEYLAND! Anyhow, the PPT crowd, mostly men in their 20’s and 30’s, were mellow, also contrasting the dark themes and hard-rocking nature of much of the music.

If you haven’t heard Porcupine Tree, give them a listen. If you have a chance to see them live, don’t miss it.

Education Cuts – Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year gets Pink Slip

A victim of California’s deep education cuts in the Spring of 2009, the Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year for 2006-2007, Mr. Ron Zell, received a pink slip and was informed that his services were no longer needed, in spite of his award-winning programs and amazing contributions to the community of Buellton, California.

When people hear that teachers like Mr. Zell are receiving pink slips, all across California, they express shock and indignation, that is somewhat different from the way that these cuts are discussed abstractly. It’s one thing to say California is cutting 11 billion in education and that 30,000 teachers are receiving layoff notices. It’s another thing entirely for people to learn that their community schools are ending the programs that they’ve had for decades, and that some of their most prized educators may soon be unemployed, with little opportunity to teach elsewhere.

THIS IS WHAT EDUCATION CUTS MEAN.

About 85% of education funds are used to pay for staff. When cuts occur, it is inevitable that teachers and other education employees will lose their jobs.

Some people don’t understand that this 85% ratio is a result of education spending being HIGHLY EFFICIENT. True, we spend a lot of money on testing, some on transportation, some on facilities, etc. But when it comes right down to it, almost every penny of education funds is used to pay for people who work with students. We don’t have enough money to waste. Cuts to education, therefore, directly cut services to kids, reduce course offerings, and make class sizes larger. Conversely, education increases, like those proposed by the Obama Administration, directly increase offerings to students, decrease class size, and make jobs for teachers and other education professionals. California cannot continue to hold onto any hope of maintaining or improving its economy without providing the public services needed by its citizens and demanded by the companies that make or would make their home here.

Ron Zell has written the following letter about his plight, and I would like to share it with you:

Thank you students, parents, teachers, and involved citizens.  Thank-you for being here, for turning out to support teachers and students in this statewide Day of Awareness and support for our schools, Pink Day.


Let me introduce myself, – My name is Ron Zell.  I am the music teacher for the Buellton Union School district.  I teach over 500 students per week in classes from Kindergarten to 8th grade.  I am the 2006 Jonata School Teacher of the Year. I am the 2007 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year and a nominee for California State Teacher of the year.  In 2008, I was selected  to speak at State Education Conferences in Sacramento, San Francisco, and the Central Coast.  My topics were “Quality in the arts and in Education”, “Technology in the arts and in education”, and the importance of Community in the Arts and in Education.


In  2009, I have a new distinction. I have received this years token of appreciation from the State of California for my years of service to my students and my community. I have received my pink slip.   This is the way that California shows its gratitude and also its farsightedness in planning  for education   I have been laid  off,  pink-slipped in Buellton.

Myself, and nearly 30,000 or so of my colleagues services are no longer required, says the state.  Colleagues who like myself, give of themselves daily, are over-worked, underpaid, and directly influence the future of millions of young people in this state.  Thank-you very much says California.  You’ve done a great job, but we have mismanaged the finances of this state so badly that we need your help.  Would you just walk away from a career where you are desperately needed, and we’ll ignore the sacrifices that you, and every teacher like you have made daily to bring quality and excellence in education to the students you teach.


We get paid, says the state of California, to govern, and to plan and prepare for the future. We just never thought that there would be an economic downturn.  We thought we could keep spending, and  borrowing, raising taxes and selling lottery tickets, and everything would be okay.  We didn’t think that we would ever be called to account for the billions of dollars we waste each year.  We just kind of forgot about planning ahead for education. After all, – its only kids, and they can’t vote.   Now we HAVE to cut the education budget.  How else do you expect us to pay for our mismanagement.  And you teachers, – You know all of those years of schooling, and training, and experience, and sacrifice and caring and giving, that everyone of you do.  – Sorry about that.  Maybe students won’t notice the over-crowded classrooms that they’ll be forced to be in next year. Maybe parents won’t notice the wider achievement gaps, the loss of programs, the lower test scores, or the unsafe campuses that will result from overcrowding, and too-few teachers.


I can’t conceive of what this state will be like with the undervalued, underfunded and understaffed education system that will result from these budget cuts.  I do however fear that the state will need more money in the very near future for new projects, like the new prisons that it will need to hold these kids who will be dropping out of our failed educational system.  Hey, – Maybe we can even afford to put arts programs in the prisons, because the arts are one of the few interventions that has been proven to mediate violent behavior in abused children.  Too bad  we can’t afford the Arts in our schools now, but then, that’s another part of our state’s not planning ahead.


I am furious that billions of tax dollars go to investors and banks, and insurance companies because they are “too important to our economy to let fail”.  Yet our state can justify taking billions of dollars away from children to pay for their irresponsible handling  of our state finances.  I am not at all politically correct on any of this.   I’m a teacher, and I believe that the only investment that we can’t afford to let fail is the investment in our kids.  Only that investment will  result in positive change for our country, growth in science, space exploration, technology, energy conservation, creativity, the arts, culture and a better future for the next generation.   Without quality education, we are looking at a spiraling  decline in our culture, and in our way of life.


Did you hear my Band earlier.  They’re pretty good, They’re not real good yet of course, because they’re young, they’re learning. They haven’t had the time necessary to fully learn or develop their skills, but they’re working on it.  Some of them have only been playing their instruments a few months, some for 3 years.  Oh they’re getting better, but in this current budget crises, they may never get the opportunity to develop their full potential in music or the arts, or in their creativity.  It takes years of dedication and instruction and practice to become proficient on an instrument, or at writing, or to become a great artist, actor, or dancer.  Of course, now there will be no music program next year, because the state and my district have determined that “my services are no longer required”.


Of all the damage that this new budget will do to education, it is in the arts that it has delivered a mortal blow.  My pink slip is one testimony to that, but right now, around the state as I speak, hundreds of arts programs are being eliminated.  The director of the High School Program here in the Valley has also been given his pink slip.  Building a program takes years.  It has taken me 10 years to develop the program in Buellton to be as effective as it is.  But the state and my district have determined that my “services are no longer required”.  Without  some sort of miracle, the arts in Buellton, or Solvang, or College school district, or the High school or any of the other districts in this Valley will not survive.


I don’t believe that everything is hopeless however.  I’m an optimist like my dad.  I believe in miracles, and miracles was even my topic at one of those state conferences that I spoke at last year.   I entitled it. – “Community, the heart of the Arts”.  If you look around, and walk around the park today, you will find tables, and volunteers already in the business of making miracles.  They’re called volunteers, and donors, and concerned parents and citizens. They support the arts education that occurs in many of the schools in this valley already.


Fourteen years ago I started a non-profit organization called “The Joyful Note Music Education Foundation”.  Its purpose was to provide music in schools in Santa Barbara county that had none. Joyful Note brought the only music that there was  to hundreds of kids in dozens of schools around this county for several years.  After moving to Buellton, I relaxed my efforts with Joyful Note, partly because the importance of the arts was again being discovered by our educational system, and partly because of the strong support for the arts Buellton.  Little did I know that one day, Joyful Note Music would be again be needed to save the music, only this time it would be at my own school.  I never thought that it would be necessary to do the same thing in Buellton that Arts Outreach, and the Solvang Education Foundation, and the High School supporters, and the Valley foundation and dozens of other organizations in this valley have so wisely done for theirs.  That is to keep the arts alive by private funding, and to save yet another generation of children from being impoverished in the visual and performing arts.  Stop by the table over there with material from Joyful Note, and the other organizations that are represented.  Take some information, give them your name, volunteer, donate. Find out how you can help out.  Next year, Joyful Note Music may be the only music program in Buellton, because “my services are not required” by this state

This is ‘Pink Day’, and you are all wearing Pink to protest the idiocy of this annual ritualistic sacrifice of teachers.  I thought it might be good to conclude my talk today by letting you all hear what a pink slip actually sounds like.  This is mine.

“Notice of Recommendation Not to Re-Employ – March 12, 2009.
Dear Mr. Zell, – “Please take note that I have recommend(ed) to the Board of Trustees of Buellton Union School district that notice be given to you that your services will not be required by this school district for the ensuing 2009-2010 school year.  At the regularly scheduled board meeting held on March 11, 2009 the Board of Trustees voted in favor of this decision.


I regret that I am constrained to give you this notice.  My reason for such action is as follows;
The following particular kinds of service will be discontinued or reduced for the 2009-2010 school year: 1. Elementary Teaching – 2.0 FTE,  2. Music – 1.0 FTE.

Because of the foregoing reasons, it is necessary to decrease the number of certificated employees of the District.  You are further notified that there is no probationary or permanent certificated employee with less seniority retained who is rendering service which you are credentialed and competent to render.

Enclosed is a copy of Sections 44949 and 44955 of the California Education Code for your information.  Please take notice that I am recommending that you not be re-employed in this school district…..Very truly yours.  – Tom Cooper, Superintendent.”

I can’t tell you how devastating the emotional effects of a note like this are. Anger, frustration, humiliation, helplessness, hopelessness.  When I received this letter, it was like someone reaching inside and taking my heart out, because my heart is in the music program.   My heart, my passion is teaching these kids, but my State and my district say that “my services are no longer required”.

You know something people, That is a lie.  My services are required, desperately, and so are the services of every teacher in this state who got one of these  pink slips this month. Stop this madness. Fund education and invest in our children.

Oh, – and one other thing.  This Pink-Slip. I intend to send it to  Governor Schwarzenegger, and a copy to my state Representatives, and the Senate and Assembly Education Committees.  What if all 30,000 teachers in the state that got pink-slipped did that.  Maybe that would help them to see the irreparable damage they are doing to our kids. You can help too, write your state representatives and the governor.  Let them know that you think that education is too important to let fail.     Thank-you.

(Ron Zell is also the President of the Buellton Education Association.  You may contact Ron at buellteach@gmail.com or through Joyful Note Music at joyfulnote2@gmail.com)