Flamingo Girl + the Tics (Russell Wilson, U.S.A.) 2:24

Track 04

Luck + Death: home page — Amazon — Kobo

This is an absolutely wonderful track by George Frideric Handel and Russell Wilson.

Handel is, you know, that guy who wrote the Messiah. Russell Wilson is Associate Professor of Music at Utah State University Eastern, where he conducts choir and orchestra and teaches music theory and composition. He’s also a composer himself (you can hear his Prelude To Glory, for chorus and orchestra, here). Wilson created this recording using Cinematic Strings.

I was very happy to find this track, not just because it’s a wonderful recording, but because the very existence of the Tics, who are characters in Luck + Death, was inspired by a recording of the exact same piece that I couldn’t use.

For those of you who haven’t read Luck + Death yet, it isn’t giving away much to say that the Tics are a gang, but an unusual one. They wear flamboyant outfits, sport elaborate tattoos, and many of them have adopted prosthetics based on animal physiognomy, like false claws and fangs. They use a drug called Frantic that amps up their physical speed and their reaction times and they live in the disused upper floors of a huge Los Angeles mall called the Mega.

They also combine dance and a deadly form of fighting in a practice called Tarantella—think of Brazilian capoeira performed by world-class fighters who just took meth.

And, crucially, Tarantella is often practiced with the accompaniment of music that blends western classical traditions with electronica.

The Tics first came to me long before I wrote Luck + Death. At that point they weren’t part of a story and they weren’t really characters in the sense of being individuals with specific traits. But as a group with a particular attitude and look—and with a very specific musical accompaniment—they were a real presence.

Years ago I acquired a cassette tape of an album called The Electronic Messiah by the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Synthescope Digital Synthesizer Ensemble. This was a recording made in 1982 and it suffered from all the drawbacks and limitations of early electronic music.

The Electronic Messiah

There was a spate of electronic classical music after the success of the album Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos, and particularly after Carlos created the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

The Electronic Messiah was part of that trend and, like much of the music it inspired, it’s of decidely inferior quality to Switched-On Bach. Still, if you’re young enough (or stoned enough, or both) what you hear in your head is far more magnificent than what is actually coming over your headphones.

I listened to the first track, Sinfonia, repeatedly and with a manic intensity. As I did, an image formed in my mind of a garishly-outfitted gang who combined dance and fighting in a single ecstatic exercise of aesthetics and violence. I tucked the image away, then took it out again years later when writing Luck + Death.

For the soundtrack, though, I could hardly use The Electronic Messiah. First of all, it wasn’t CC-licensed and I didn’t have the rights. Second, it never sounded all that great and it hasn’t worn well over the decades since it was released. And of course I no longer had a copy (although one crazed audiophile uploaded a cheap digitization of it to the internet, so you can hear a sample of it in the YouTube clip below).

What I needed was a recording that captured the way that the music had sounded to me, subjectively, all those years ago. Enter my hero Russell Wilson, who saved the day with his Cinematic Strings rendition. If you go to the 1:42 mark in the Electronic Messiah video, you’ll hear the same music that Wilson recreated.

So, to Russell Wilson: many thanks for an awesome piece of music that was critical in piecing together this soundtrack.



Flamingo Girl + the Tics was originally released as “Messiah” Fugue–Cinematic Strings 2 demo by Russell Wilson, which can be found here. It was released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The photograph by brainware3000 shows the window of a Chinese restaurant in New York City and was released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. It can be found here. I cropped the original photo and altered the saturation.


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