Back in 1996 I worked on an audio play adaptation of Larry Niven's story "Neutron Star". Although the play was never produced, and probably never will be, I did finish writing the entire musical score and edited the novella into a working script. I composed the music using my favorite MIDI composition software Mark of the Unicorn's "FreeStyle". The intent was to eventually hire musicians, voice actors, and a real studio to produce the final product. While I had written several themes in MIDI, with working titles like "Fear", "Mall Music", "Nessus Walking", "Mourning for the Laskins", "Bar Music 1" and so on, I had also kind of assumed we'd probably need to hire an arranger as well. As time went on I kept working on the music and script, figuring we'd need to produce a demo to show to potential investors, or an agent, or to sell the whole project outright. Enough time passed that I converted my FreeStyle files into MOTU "Digital Performer" format, and added some of the sound effects. I even taped a demo version where I spoke the Beowulf Schaeffer parts, but I never managed to find actors to speak the other couple of parts, and I'm no good at imitating a female voice. The audio files available now are the result of taping the output of my synthesizers along with some sampled sound effects, then digitizing them on an older Mac, and finally converting the AIFF file into MP3. Along the way a little bit of noise, clicks, and dropouts cropped up - but it's not bad considering my setup doesn't even qualify for the name "home studio".

I do not have the permission to distribute the story, so I cannot provide the dialog in the audio files, nor the script, however the script follows the original almost exactly - as told from the first person perspective of Beowulf Shaeffer. To get an idea of what the end result would have been like first find a copy of the original novella. If you don't have a copy in your library already you might be able to find a copy of the out-of-print collection Neutron Star. A more likely bet would be to look for the new collection Crashlander.

Once you have the story in hand, read along while listening to the soundtrack recordings below. I broke the soundtrack up into seven "acts", however I never did come up with appropriate music for the last act. The soundtrack has several musical cues, as well as timed sound effects. In my composition and readings I always had one eye on the script, and another on the SMTE time code scrolling by on the Digital Performer screen. Without the spoken parts it sounds like there are a lot of dull stretches where nothing is happening musically - that's because a melody would be buried or distract the listener from the dialog. With each sound file I have included a couple of timings and sound cues to help you keep your reading in synch with the soundtrack. Since you have neither the script nor the precise SMTE time code your own reading probably won't match up exactly, but it should get you fairly close to what I intended. I never got around to writing music for the final act. That is basically just Beowulf in the hospital talking to the puppeteer. You can probably get pretty close to the effect I would have gone for if you tune your radio to a Muzak station, or just read the last couple pages inside an elevator.

A final note, while the production will probably never happen, I do still retain copyright to my compositions. No license whatsoever is granted for any use of this music other than private listening from this web page.

Act - 1 • The "heartbeat" background sets the stage of Beowulf in Skydiver waiting to be killed. At about 3 minutes in he mentions that the whole thing started with him walking into a drugstore. Soundtrack shifts to a background murmur of people and what I call the "Mall Music". At 4 minutes the murmur goes silent and the Puppeteer walks in. I tried for music that sort of suggests an exotic being walking on three legs. The first act ends with sound effects of the displacement booth.

Act - 2 • The displacement booth opens outside. Since during the windy season there are 1,500 mph winds, I figured there was still a pretty strong wind when it isn't the windy season. Beowulf examines the spacecraft and the Puppeteer tells about the Laskins' mission. The sound effect this time represents riding an "escaladder" to the nose, and opening the airlock.

Act - 3 • They examine the inside of the spacecraft. At about 1.5 minutes in, the flashback is over, and Beowulf is sharing everything he had learned about neutron stars. At a little over 4.5 minutes there is another flashback, of a conversation between Beowulf and the Puppeteer. The bar where the conversation takes place apparently has live music.

Act - 4 • "They built my ship in two weeks flat". This act starts with the "construction theme". I know it sounds like some twisted combination of "Working in a Coal Mine" and "The Low Rider", and I think it really needs more cowbell. When the wind comes in, that is a brief discussion between Beowulf and the Puppeteer, which takes place as the ship is being built. At around 3 minutes the music switches to another jazzy bar background. This time the conversation is between Beowulf and Sigmund Ausfaller.

Act - 5 • This act is the first one with no flashbacks. This sequence starts with "Four films had been taken from the Laskins' cameras" and ends with "I was nose down to the neutron star, and I was going to stay that way".

Act - 6 • This act is where all the action is. Beowulf is learning what it was that had killed the Laskins, and is likely to kill him as well. At around 3 minutes there is a sound effect to represent the experiment with his lighter. That effect was created using a hammer and a guitar practice amp with a spring reverb. I never got around to making the rest of the sound effects for the inside of the ship getting torn apart. The tempo picks up during the "action theme" as Beowulf desparately tries to save himself.