Tag: MUSIC

MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES 3: PLAYING MUSIC

Believe it or not, it’s time to discuss music again!

As this subject really has little to do with apologetics-the main focus of my blog (but see my last paragraph) I’ll try to keep this post short…

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I’ve played in many bands over the years-none of them famous-and in professionally produced musicals, such as the Rocky Horror Show. However, the point of this post is not to produce a musical resume/CV by listing them all, but to express the thrill I’ve experienced in certain situations, hence this particular experience taking third place in my list of lifetime greatest (to date).

Probably more than half of the thrill came from playing in bands with my best mate of all time, Terence Ruffle. Terry always had an ear for exciting music. His tastes in music were to me sometimes questionable in terms of philosophy behind the lyrics, the character of the people involved, and their musicianship, but they were always the complete antithesis of boring.

Being the central driving force of the band’s morale and musical direction that Terry normally was, his intense passion for it all rubbed off onto others including myself, and at times produced incredible results. I don’t mean we all got rich and sold millions of recordings-it was quite the opposite. I mean that the main aims of producing energetic sounds and sheer playing pleasure were most certainly achieved.

The Accidents, a punky/new wave band I joined with Terry who was one of the founding members, didn’t really pop my cork. It was first of all the “Flying Heroes”, led by Carl Seager, and ultimately the “Surf Rats”, who caused me to hit the highest heights of natural euphoria while plucking, twanging and pounding on my bass.

Terry

The Surf Rats perfected playing fun. We took raw, well-known surf instrumentals such as “Pipeline”, plus some winning old songs, and cranked up the tempo and the energy, so that we were attacking them with as much vigor as we could muster. I don’t know if I can adequately describe the sensation I felt at times, when all five of us were giving our all-if only in the rehearsal room; when all five of us-a team, a club, a family, an army- were playing such exciting creations as fast as we could play them, as artfully as we could play them, and with as much expression and passion as we were able. I don’t believe any drug could produce the same feeling… it was a feeling of extreme happiness, levity, joy, madness…and there really is nothing like it that I know of.

At the bottom of my “About” page there’s a link to a video of the Surf Rats while I was in the band. It’s a poor recording made in a noisy pub, with hardly any bass frequencies, but you can get an idea of what we were about.

Switching musical styles radically, I bring to your eager attention a totally different musical sound I was involved in. Below is a sample, recorded badly, live but alive…

(INVERSION: “02”)

 At the age of fifteen I was roped into a group of musicians who were virtually in avowed opposition to the kinds of sound the Accidents and similar bands produced. Two brothers were at the centre of this: Colin and Ian Woolway. Their influences were mainly from jazz and “jazz-rock Fusion”, an altogether more technical and challenging playing style. I found myself struggling to meet the demands of musicians who thought that men like Jaco Pastorius, and not Bill Wyman, were the measure of a bass player. It took me many years to figure out what people like Jaco were actually playing, let alone how they played it, but nonetheless, we really did hit the heights of playing pleasure as surely as the Rats did.

Ian and Colin, both super-talented for their age, were not only technicians but were close to mastering the art of climax in musical expression. Along with very competent keyboard player and joke-teller extraordinaire Jerry Saltmarsh, Ian composed some pieces which stretched our abilities and imagination, and which also challenged the ears and the relatively pedestrian tastes of most of our listeners. For example, we routinely played and jammed in time signatures such as eleven-eight.

We, later named “Inversion”, were not polished by any means, and we were far from professional in our presentation and sound quality. But most significantly in relation to this post, we hit the same kinds of emotional highs as the Rats later hit, by means of stretching our musical minds to the fullest extent, and by playing as one, in some kind of sublime unity and communion not possible when playing alone. It’s that sense of oneness with other musicians, and playing music you love to the maximum extent in your power, which creates the buzz and the euphoria. It’s the creation of some never-before heard sounds emanating from brains, fingers and instruments, which sparks the light of inner ecstasy.

Once again I have to thank my God for the pleasure he’s allowed me to have and still allows: these days I play with my fifteen year-old son who’s a budding jazz trumpeter and already matching what I can achieve musically. God created music. He created sound and our ability to hear it and create it. He created our imagination, our fingers, our dexterity and all that’s required to produce an amazingly diverse array of sounds, and he created our ability to enjoy it, sometimes to the point of reaching a feeling of indescribable joy.

Of course the ultimate expression of the gift of music is in praise of our creator. I would love to say that I’ve had that feeling of euphoria while playing or listening to contemporary Christian music, but I personally cannot. Some of the greatest old hymns do it for me. I’m sure the music of heaven is and will be far beyond what we know now in terms of creativity and joy-giving qualities, most of all because of the great God that we will be worshipping with it.

MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES 4: LISTENING TO MUSIC

As millions of you readers out there (yes I am joking) may have already noticed, music features highly in my list of favorite things, and yes, I am rather obsessed…

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This may be the most self-indulgent selection for my “ten greatest” yet. For that I apologize (I think). But the subject matter is undeniable: listening to music does amazing things to my mind, body and soul. When the world seems all wrong I can wash myself, yes, with prayer, but then with some top-notch sounds…and put it right again within minutes.

Of course, I’m not the only one so affected. Music is a language gift from our Creator, ultimately for our worship of him but also for our enjoyment, even if it’s not overtly “worship” music.

(Unknown Title, by Anon-make sure you can hear the bass)

The other day I revisited the above tune which I recorded from the radio  in ’02 or ‘03 from John Peel’s show in the UK. I regret that I took no note of who authored it or what the title was, but within three seconds of its commencement a flood of emotion washed over me-a self-conditioned Pavlovian response perhaps-but more likely a divinely designed response. As is so often the case, it wasn’t just the melody, the minor chord progression, the understatement or the rhythms of the piece which appealed to my predominantly melancholy nature, but the sheer genius imagination of its author. It’s the inventive power of the composer and ultimately the giver of the gift of music, which touches my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, the world is now awash with what Orwell called ‘musaac”, and while beauty in all things is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder so that I don’t want to trash someone else’s tastes, it seems you can’t go anywhere or do anything without being subjected to somebody’s idea of “great music” and noises designed to facilitate the parting of you and your money. Music is everywhere we go now, like air which may be fresh and sweet or polluted and rancid. Consequently there have been times in recent years I’ve thought I could go off the whole concept of music altogether, for the same reason as I might go off chocolate if I was forced to eat it all day long. So I take great steps to keep my mind free of what I don’t want to hear as far as I can, so that what I do enjoy is not thrown out like the proverbial baby with the bathwater.

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I have extremely varied tastes in music, which include certain Classical, Electronic and Jazz styles, with still a delicious hangover from the guitar bands of the past that I’ve loved. I can find as much pleasure in a Chopin nocturne as I can in the Ramones, or in electronica such as I’ve added to the post.

My Mum told me that when I was three years old I would commandeer the family record player (an ancient music reproduction device-but yes, still the best sound quality out) and select my favorites, playing them over and over. So began a love affair which I’m convinced was God-given: a blessing to mankind every bit as great as flowers, scenery and sunsets. I often thank the Lord for allowing me not only to enjoy music, but also for helping me to discover some of the most amazing sounds ever made in the physical universe.

I wrote a post some time ago called “Music As a Love Language of God”. I expressed myself as clearly as I can in that post, so if you’re interested, here it is:

https://nickyfisher.com/2012/09/21/music-as-the-love-language-of-god/

A SPIRITUAL DEFENSE STRATEGY

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Photo by L Shyamal

All of us who are people of faith have times of testing, do we not? It’s for such times that we need a spiritual “defense strategy” ready. Also we’re called upon to  “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Faith does not and should not have to be without reason, as some people believe.

(Nils Frahm, “Ode”)

For me there are three initial steps in a good defense strategy: step one is prayer, and step two is Scripture-by that I mean the Bible.

This post outlines my personal “step 3”. Step 3 involves mental and spiritual reference to the reasons I had for my faith in the first place, compiled and memorized while the going is good. I’ve fallen back on step three several times already in my life, and found it to be a valuable tool. However, please see my disclaimer at the end of the post *

Step 3 is a collection of acronyms, (or they may be “initialisms”, depending on your point of view), the letters each representing a key word which prompts me to recall a “reason” for the hope that is in me. The acronyms are pretty meaningless on their own, but they serve a purpose. They’re evolving perpetually. To date I have four:

1: DIO APO HAELJASE-E

2: MASHT PROCH

3: JELL MUSH

4: MAWF

Is that perfectly clear? Good, now I’ll give you a summary-a first layer of explanation -for each one.

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DIO APO HAELJASE-E

The first acronym supports my belief in the existence of a creator, or if you like, intelligent design. It also indirectly supports my faith in the God of the Bible, since it reflects the nature and character of that God.

D is for DESIGN.  I see incredible design in all of nature. Out of the thousands of examples which could be given, one of my favorites is of a moth I saw late one night near where I live (not the one in the picture). On the ground with its wings spread out in bright light it had a five-inch wingspan (12.5 cm), and on the back of each wing, no doubt to warn predators, it had a large eye-like pattern, so that you seem to be looking at a formidable, intimidating five-inch wide face. How would the moth “evolve” itself those “eyes”, and why would it, if it could survive long enough (millions of years) while it was evolving them?

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I is for INFORMATION. A strand of DNA, contained in each of the trillions of cells in our body, is packed with more information than a library. Information has never been observed to come from chaos. Researchers scan the skies for a radio signal which would confirm intelligent life in outer space, yet ignore the incredible message in plain view within life on earth;

O is for ORDER. The universe operates in a very orderly, lawful way, as does our own solar system and our own planet. The laws of nature hold all things together and allow us to exist and function.

A-P is for the “ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE”, dismissed as mere coincidence by the evolutionist. Earth is uniquely placed and equipped for life in our galaxy and in our solar system, and benefits from many hundreds of extremely fortuitous conditions. As an example, if earth were tilted any more or less in relation to the sun, its temperature ranges would be too extreme to support life. If we didn’t have the moon at just the right distance from us and at just the right relative size with just the right orbital pattern, we would have no tides to keep the oceans alive and fresh, and there would be no life on earth. Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the harmful power of the sun’s radiation.

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Photo by Gregory H Revera

O is for ORIGINS.  Even famous evolutionists admit that they don’t know for sure how life evolved from non-life, and they’ve never seen it happen. When the first living cell miraculously produced itself, who did it mate with and what did it eat? I can much more easily believe in an intelligent creator than in a rock producing all the complexity we see.

There is plenty of scientifically supportable reason to believe in the Biblical view of origins. Try http://www.icr.org for a start, or http://www.answersingenesis.org

H is for man’s HUNGER for God. Man has an inbuilt hunger for the spiritual (Pascal’s “God-shaped vacuum”) which explains the existence of many religions throughout history and in every culture. Religion is not always a product of superstition: perhaps superstition is born of a longing for God, and the realization that there is something much greater than us.

A is for ATHEISM. The condition of atheistic cultures to date has not been impressive or endearing.  Atheistic philosophy has been the cause of far more evil in our world than any religion has (refer to the regimes of such men as Stalin and Pol Pot). This is not to say that every atheist is a “bad” person: they are not. Instead it demonstrates that being God-less is not the answer to our problems.

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Also consider the implications of atheistic philosophy. If there is no God or creator who sets the rules and standards, neither is there any fixed universal, objective standard of right or wrong. Hitler, then, was no more “wrong” than the West was-we just happened to disagree with him. What one person or culture decides is good another may decide is evil, and who has the right to deem it otherwise?

Since life, according to evolution, evolves by means of mutation and natural selection-the survival of the fittest-death, war, murder and the consumption of our competitors cannot be “wrong”. Our governments are oppressing us by deciding everything for us and by locking us into their system of thought, laws and regulations, and so government and the opinion of men has become our Master. Who’s satisfied with the results of that?

In God’s economy, each human life has great value. In the strictest and most logical view of the evolutionary worldview, I have no more value than a worm.

E is for EMOTION. Most of our emotions are superfluous and even detrimental to us if we are only here to contend with other life forms and emerge the winner (as we have). The God of the Bible made us in his image, and is himself a feeling, emotional being.

L is for LOVE. Real love produces commitment, caring, empathy, loyalty, faithfulness and truthfulness. Where does love come from if not from a loving, faithful designer? How could chemical reaction and interaction alone-born of rock-produce love? When your significant other asks if you love her or him, do you reply that yes, you are currently experiencing some chemical and hormonal interactions, and as long as they occur you will stick around and refrain from killing and eating him or her? Love in the popular definition of today is a reductionist ploy with the aim of reducing our relationships to one of temporary mutual use while the going is good. Godly love is that which produces stable relationships, homes and societies.

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J is for JUSTICE. Our sense of justice is evidence that we were made by a just, moral God. If we have ‘evolved’ a sense of justice, why do we still have crime, war and murder, at every level of every society? And why would or should we care anyway?

Again, if we evolved there is no such thing as absolute right or wrong, but only what we decide is right or wrong. It means that we cannot claim to have had the moral high ground over Hitler- we just managed to bully him and impose our view of right and wrong over his: it was a battle only for the ‘survival of the fittest’. This means that if a tyrant comes along in the future who defeats the forces of what we call “freedom”, he has every right to wipe us out and to rule over us. However, we recognize naturally in our hearts that there is such a thing as evil at large in our world, and that it needs to be checked. This recognition was given to us by a God of justice.

A is for “AESTHETIC SENSE”. We have an inbuilt appreciation for beauty of many kinds, and for all of creation, and not merely for our mate when we are busy reproducing, or for the food on our plate. We desire to be creative, to entertain, and to express ourselves, and we appreciate those who do so skillfully. We create and imagine often without any practical reason. We philosophize and think very deeply (well some of us do anyway).

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S and E are for SIN and EVIL. The Bible is right about human nature- just look around.  Those who claim that people only abuse each other when they are impoverished are often the same people who berate the ultra-rich for abusing the rest of us. And if we evolved, why shouldn’t they, since life is all about “survival of the fittest”? Those who claim that religion causes all unrest and abuse forget all about Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Dung, and other avowed atheists who murdered millions of their own people less than a century ago essentially for the crime of being the surviving “fittest”.

E is for EXPERIENCE. In the years I’ve been a Christian I’ve experienced God in many ways. This includes an acute awareness of His presence, and a feeling of indescribable completeness, inner peace and joy. It’s important for me to remember those experiences and continuous states of mind, and not to let them be dismissed as mere superstition, hormonal balance or positive thinking. I’ve experienced answered prayers, and I’ve seen the difference made by the Spirit of God in someone’s life, in a home, and in a society which has now turned its back on God to its own harm.

*DISCLAIMER

My disclaimer is the acknowledgement that in those awful situations some people face-perhaps all of us at some time in our lives- reason and information are inadequate or even counter-productive.  Sometimes all we can tolerate is some loving, prayerful company, and our own personal brokenness. Many times our brokenness is what our God is looking for.

ACRONYMS 2-4

The rest of my defense strategy part three will follow soon. Thanks for reading, and God bless you with truth and a sound mind.

MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES 9: LARKS’ TONGUES IN ASPIC Part 1

 MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES, 9: LARKS’ TONGUES IN ASPIC Part 1

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“Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”! A delicacy, no doubt, and to this day I’m not sure if it ever was a real dish actually eaten by anyone… but the significance is in the concept of its rarity.

At the tender age of fifteen I traveled fifty miles from home with some friends of mine, to London, and a venue called “The Rainbow Theatre”. We were going to see a band, and I really don’t think that before the event I knew anything about who they were or what they sounded like-all I knew was that the name on my ticket was “King Crimson”.

The band members walked onto a dimly-lit stage without fanfare or introduction, and took their places. A soft, unfamiliar tinkling sound began. It kept tinkling…and kept tinkling…until it seemed like the tinkling wasn’t going to end.

“Is this it?” I thought… “Is this what we came all this way to hear?” I wondered where the “song” was, and where the strumming guitar and the rhythm had got to. I started to think I might want my money back.

A violin began to play a few notes, at first seemingly without design, and some cymbals started to make a continuous, growing percussive sound.

“What do they think they’re doing?” I thought, “Don’t they realize how boring this is?”

At this point in the disappointing, mystifying show the tinkling did stop, and the violinist began to play a sharp up-tempo rhythm, quietly at first. Then long, dark, intensely sustained guitar notes pushed themselves into the forefront of my attention. Suddenly I was interested.

Quickly now, a sequence of tones unfolded and descended, growing in expression and volume; the full and rich guitar growling in time, joined in unison by the bass and a swelling drum roll, as though some unspeakable giant were approaching outside, preparing to pound on the walls of the theatre. The band was masterfully leading us …leading us all into a million-ton crescendo of noise, percussion and melody, until all culminated in one almighty explosion of chords, drums and lights, the instruments in full voice, marching in incredible 7-4 time, with that deliciously mesmerizing and seductively sustained guitar whipping the entire atmosphere to a frenzy!

Suddenly the sound halted, the lights fell. I was hooked.

No, the onslaught hadn’t stopped after all: it was returning, it was building again, building inexorably towards another climax of sense-shattering noise and light…

King Crimson, manned by excellent, pioneering musicians…Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Bill Bruford, Jamie Muir and David Cross… all armed fully with the determination and the skill to break the cliché barrier.

The piece was called “Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 1”.

So began my journey away from the world of mundane, predictable bubble-gum pop and rock, and into a life-long love of experimental music-an art form which too many Christians are quick to blanket-condemn as being “of the devil”.

Thus the Christian world condemns itself all too often to mediocrity, and to remaining thirty years behind the musical times. Our God is the creator of imagination-just look up into the night sky. We should be the ones leading the world of music. We should be leading the world towards our God, yes, but we should also lead with the full power of imagination and passion that God has given to humanity, and so glorify the Lord of heaven and earth with all our musical might.

WHY ARE WE HERE: THE INTRICACY-STUPIDITY PARADOX

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Why is it that our brains and our bodies are normally so much more complex and ordered than our behavior?

(ME: “MAKE MAN”*)

This post is a sequel to my recent post, “God, Cows and Human Consciousness”

According to the Smithsonian, there are an estimated 37.2 trillion cells in one human body (1). In each one of those cells are 20,000 to 25,000 genes located on 46 chromosomes (2).

The nucleus of each cell in our bodies contains approximately 1.8 metres (European spelling) of DNA in total, although each strand is less than one millionth of a centimetre thick. (2).

The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons (nerve cells) and many more neuroglia (or glial cells) which serve to support and protect the neurons. Each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, equivalent by some estimates to a computer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor. Estimates of the human brain’s memory capacity vary wildly from 1 to 1,000 terabytes (for comparison, the 19 million volumes in the US Library of Congress represents about 10 terabytes of data…3).

THE PARADOX

Considering  such facts, I have to ask myself why there are people cutting heads off of other people, extorting huge sums of money from those who are already poor, vandalizing and stealing property which their neighbors worked hard for, walking away from their own children, and acting out a whole host of other ills which plague human existence.

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Yes, some people manage to complement their physical complexity, by helping those in need without seeking enrichment, by developing incredible talents, or by helping to heal and to create. But as a whole, the human character has a sorry history.  Why, if we evolved, do our bodies vastly out-perform our minds, our souls, our intellect, so that for example, while those trillions of synaptic connections were doing their job three thousand years ago, their owners were belching, scratching their behinds, yelling obscenities, and slicing at each other with swords and clubs? And things really haven’t changed much have they?

Solomon in his wisdom gave far better examples to demonstrate what I’m trying to say:

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (Proverbs 11:22).

(And yes, the same goes for the “cute” guy with no heart, right girls?)

Earth

WHY ARE WE HERE?

There are four considered answers to this question:

1: We are not here, we just think we are;

2: After an expansion of nothing or almost nothing, we evolved on a large piece of rock, and started bashing the daylights out of each other;

3: An alien race “seeded” us here;

4: We were created by an infinite, eternal being which we call God.

In answer to the first possibility, how can non-existent creatures have ideas and then examine them? I would say that if I “think”, I must really be here to think, and if I am only thinking that I’m here but I’m not, why do I think myself going to work every day to pay the bills? Can’t I think of a more enjoyable, easier existence?

Secondly, while this is not a post designed primarily to cast doubt on the theory of evolution, I have to say the idea of billions of synapses “evolving” from a puddle somewhere to create Moonlight Sonata, trips to the moon and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is more ridiculous to me than the idea that we aren’t here at all.

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The belief that we and all living organisms were seeded on this planet by an alien race does nothing to solve the problem of point 2. Since, according to evolution, the universe is finite, the question of how such incredible, conscious complexity arose from nothing or virtually nothing doesn’t go away. Not only so, but it seems to me that if we were “seeded” the aliens brought a bad batch to this planet. We can genetically modify a tomato seed: why didn’t they genetically modify our seeds before coming here? Were they in too much hurry, or, having invented and developed the technology to cross billions of light years of space, why couldn’t they think up a better design, one which wouldn’t turn violently on itself, or die of cancer, heart disease etcetera?

In the movie “Expelled” Richard Dawkins, having adamantly declared that the idea of the Biblical God is an abomination to him, and that no such God could have designed what we see all around us, goes on to admit that he considers alien seeding on the earth as a possibility for the origin of life here. Having rejected design, he accepts the possibility of design…so long as it wasn’t the Biblical God that did it.

As you may have guessed, I favor the fourth alternative, that a supernatural, infinite and eternal being created all that we see. God is spirit, says the Bible (John 4:24), and he exists before, after, and independently of our time, space and matter universe.

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So did God make a bad batch? Did he create evil? I believe the Bible admirably answers these questions: God created a creature capable of choosing to worship and love Him, for which the ability to choose right or wrong, and the potential to actuate wrong-doing was necessary. This is a heavy, meaty concept. I intend to elaborate on it in subsequent posts.

For now, I want to say that God created humankind with great potential, but by turning our backs on Him we have forfeited and thrown away that potential. It’s not lost forever, though, because when he said “whoever believes in me has eternal life”, he didn’t have in mind a perpetual retirement plan: He had in mind the development and fulfillment of our potential as a never-ending way of life for those who have chosen to love Him.

Those who think that this is an empty, boring concept which “must” be wrong, are totally missing the point. How can a God who created the universe and everything in it, which itself “cannot contain him” be too small? How can a God who designed and made DNA, dinosaurs, deltas, dragonflies and diamonds be uninspiring? How can a God who knows all things be too narrow? How can a God who willingly died at the hands of his own creation in order to give every person on earth eternal life be too exclusive and too judgmental? How can a God who created time, space and matter be too new? How can a God who claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, be ignored?

We were created to worship God: that’s why we’re here. And somehow, when we worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4) we are willingly engaging all the complexity of our bodies and brains with our spiritual nature in one incredible union with the holy and almighty being who created us in the first place, and who loves us eternally.

NOTES

*  This is another tune I wrote and recorded about twelve years ago, on an album called “Talking Universe” © Nick Fisher

1: http ://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-are-372-trillion-cells-in-your-body-4941473/?no-ist

2: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/genetics/vgec/schoolscolleges/topics/dna-genes-chromosomes

3: http://www.human-memory.net/brain_neurons.html