This is the home page of Morashon, a creative work being developed as an Open Source project. I am seeking collaborators who are able and willing to help me realize my vision.

The whole enchilada (radio play with subtitles; best to download it):
avi format (Windows/UNIX users; 600mb)
mov format (Mac users; 360mb)

Play or download the "trailer"**:
trailer1.webm WebM is a great new open format sponsored by Google. Works with any recent version of Firefox or Chrome.
trailer1.avi Windows/IE friendly version (slightly evil) Mac/Safari friendly version (more evil)
If all else fails, there's always Youtoob

** Yes, I know this is not a traditional trailer. It's a song from the movie, focusing on a minor character, introducing two of the main characters as if they were incidental. It exposes nothing of the plot. Nullis Pretii?

Initially, I am hoping to find one or more people who are capable of contributing to creation of a visualization of the music and dialogue in the trailer. The goal is to produce a computer-generated mini-movie, with detailed backgrounds, compelling characters, animated (with lipsynch), and rendered at a resolution appropriate for online delivery (Youtube HD quality or better). I am open to any and all suggestions as to how to move towards this goal, including potential interim milestones such as a storyboard, character and scene designs, 'pre-visualization', and so on. Ideas off the beaten path will be entertained, as long as they are at least somewhat relevant to the stated goal. This (the visual side) is not presently in my wheelhouse, so I expect to be educated/surprised/inspired/amazed.

About the project

Morashon is a cinematic work of music and drama that I am attempting to develop using the principles of Open Source as they are traditionally applied to software ( The project is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. CC licenses are to general creative works what Open Source licenses are to software. The CC 3.0 license I have chosen is roughly equivalent to the BSD and MIT software licenses. It is a permissive license, in that anyone is free to change the work or use it for commercial purposes, as long as they give proper credit to the original authors. If you choose to collaborate with me on this project, you will by definition become a co-author, and will be credited as such for your contributions. You will be free to distribute the final product, or any version you or anyone else creates, to anyone you like, free of any obligations other than attribution (credits) as required by the license. The end goal is to develop a complete, feature-length movie, capable of being distributed online, on DVD, and (who knows? stranger things have happened) for theatrical release.

The 'source code' for the work is presently hosted at github.

Click on the subject headers below if you hunger for more details.

+ The story
- The story

While I am loath to submerse myself in the cocoon of traditional edutainment values, it has been impressed upon me by many of my countless admirers that “people crave a story”.  And there is, in fact, a story to be told.  I would prefer to wait and have that story reveal itself to you in all its proper glory, but since I am canvassing for recruits to my cause, and I don’t have the glory at hand, I suppose I must presage it in some winsome fashion.  So here goes.

+ Spoiler alert! Full synopsis below
- Spoiler alert! Full synopsis below

The Pianoman lords it over his domain, the Starlite Lounge. Befitting the name, he plays a warped form of lounge music, suitable to the mood and style of his surroundings.  He introduces us to a man who sings a song of haunted sadness.

We flashback three years.  

The Pianoman’s sidekick, an intrepid green Ogre, sings a song of love and longing.  As he serenades, we are introduced to two characters, a man named Thisone (pronounced “Tea Sewn”), and a woman named Annai.  It should be noted at this point that everything takes place in some sort of virtual simulated environment, known colloquially as “The Grid”.  The world has changed in ways that make it almost impossible for people to travel or even go outside; they spend most of their lives plugged into this networked simulation of reality.

Thisone and Annai attend a concert given by one Morashon.  Annai reports that Morashon is a result of recent research into A I (Artificial Intelligence); Thisone is doubtful.  They meet Morashon after the show, and he asks them to return for a private discussion. Morashon has admirers that seem to verge on the cusp of being disciples; Annai is one.

“Meeting” back at the lounge, Thisone expresses his doubts, about Morashon’s character as well as the claim that he is not human.  Annai convinces him to go to another show.  When Thisone arrives, he finds himself alone with Annai and Morashon.  They talk, and Annai sings a song.

Annai “meets” Thisone (virtually) at his place, and agrees to do some technical sleuthing.  They are both accomplished programmers, and soon come to realize that something is suspicious about Morashon’s code base.  Annai is disappointed, and agrees that they might need to hack into Morashon’s data stream to further the investigation.  Annai and Thisone begin an amorous (virtual) relationship.

Annai meets with Morashon, who seems suspicious, claiming Annai no longer trusts him. He expresses distaste for Annai’s relationship with Thisone.  He sings a song.

Annai and Thisone agree to go through with the hack.  They intercept Morashon’s interface, and take over his avatar during a performance.

Backstage after the show, Morashon is furious.  He accuses them both of treachery and deceit.  After a long discussion, during which Morashon shows that he has certain powers over the Grid, he finally explains to Thisone (unbeknownst to Annai) that Annai is actually an A I, developed by Morashon, who (he claims) is human after all.  He tells Thisone that Annai must never know her true nature, or else she will become so powerful she might bring on The Singularity.

Back at the lounge again, Annai and Thisone talk.  He ends up spilling the beans about Annai being software.  At first Annai refuses to believe it, but after her own research, she realizes it is true.  She breaks off contact.

Thisone continues to perform as Morashon. He sings a few songs, and lectures the audience about trust and stuff. One song in particular becomes a Grid-wide hit. Annai briefly appears at a concert, then disappears again.

The flashback is over; we are back at the Starlite Lounge.  A strange, androgynous character shows up and talks to Thisone.  This person claims to be some sort of amalgam of Annai and Morashon.  They ask Thisone to join them in a new, superior virtual reality.  Thisone declines; Annai/Morashon promise to ask again when Thisone is old. Thisone sings a sad song.

The hit song plays while the credits roll.

The End

+ The songs
- The songs

Open format (ogg/vorbis)

Changing Time
Give It All To Me
Mouth Of Truth
Half In Love
Mr. Happy
Like, Am I Real?
Ballad of Morashon
Mouth Of Truth (Reprise)
Love Sublime (Over & Over)
God Is Blue

Evil commercial format (mp3)

Changing Time
Give It All To Me
Mouth Of Truth
Half In Love
Mr. Happy
Like, Am I Real?
Ballad of Morashon
Mouth Of Truth (Reprise)
Love Sublime (Over & Over)
God Is Blue

All songs are subject to change without notice

+ State of the art
- State of the art

My approach has been to try to create a plausible soundtrack of the movie. Nothing visual exists so far, unless you count the stage directions. There is a book (spoken words and lyrics -- possibly a bit out of date), a score (notation exports from my sequencer tracks), and recordings of the songs (see "The Songs" section above). I am presently working on a rough rendition of the entire piece as an audio soundtrack, with dialogue, incidental music, and songs in a proper mix.

Every word, spoken or sung, has been voiced using software I adapted from Festival, an amazing Open Source speech synthesizer. I wrote some code to extract data from the Rosegarden sequencer data and produce Festival-compatible singing files.

I have created my own markup language to control phrasing and intonation (one might refer to this as a modern-day case of virtual recitative).

To my sensibilities, the music and singing are right where I want them to be, though I occasionally get inspired to tweak a mix here or there. The spoken dialogue is something new and experimental, and I am still in the process of refining it to my satisfaction. The trailer is representative of the techniques used throughout the piece.

+ State of the process
- State of the process

In the course of developing this work, I have attempted to apply Open Source methods wherever possible. Quite a bit of actual software code is involved, as I modified various bits of existing Open Source packages, as well as writing a number of scripts in Python (and a ham-handed try at some Scheme in Festival!). The greatest challenge was not managing source code, which tools like Git and services such as github are well suited for (not to say my code engineering processes and practices have been anything to write home about). The difficulty came in trying to apply the sensibility I use developing software to the music and dialogue itself. I felt it was essential that this project include access to the actual 'source code' of the creative result -- sequencer tracks, multitrack sound files, myriad bits and pieces that are then spliced and diced into something like a final production. And, I wanted all of that stuff to exist in the revision history, just as it does for code.

Judged on terms one would normally apply to an Open Source code project, I feel like it has been a limited success. Keep in mind, this has been the part-time labor of love of a lone lunatic, bereft of the benefit of hordes of assistants and cleaner-uppers to clear the deck of dreck after each messy landing. In my defence, the state of affairs with regard to the tools I am using (without which I could never have gotten this far for sure) is not amenable to the kind of automated build processes that are standard and in fact a requirement for serious software development. As a software engineer, I am frustrated and somewhat embarassed by this state of affairs. As a creative artist, I plead not guilty by way of needing to follow my muse when it felt like striking. In other words, best engineering practices have taken a back seat to "getting it done".

This sort of situation is (nominally) acceptable for a single contributing individual, but clearly not ideal, or in fact even workable, if a team of people ends up involved in the project. I fully acknowledge that much work is in store to clean up the mess. Python and bash scripts are smattered about, used in conjunction with wonky manual export processes. TBH, I have little idea how this sort of thing is managed by large (or small) Hollywood studios, and the professionals who do this sort of thing every day. I can say that in my experience as a musician and recording technician, I have seen some pretty dismal digital work environments, and this is simply another one. I confess that I have never before worked on a serious long-form project that incorporated dialogue, songs, incidental music, and effects into a 2.5 hour final mix, so much of this was a real trial-by-fire. I am sure there are folk out there who could (and hopefully will) give me a piece of their mind on how to (and how not to) structure this kind of endeavor.

One constant technical limitation has been Git's aversion to large binary files. In addition, I have found empirically that any Git repo that grows much beyond 3 gigabytes (size of everything in one's .git folder) does not fare well with the present version (1.7.x). With the addition of visual materials, we will almost certainly explode both Git and github's capacity to handle things. New techniques will be required (I recall seeing some articles about using Git to process handles to large binary files, managing the actual file data on dropbox or equivalent...) Regardless of the question of artistic merit, this project could end up spinning off some useful software. I look forward to ideas and volunteers.

If there are folk about who find the software side of things interesting in its own right -- in particular, using synthesized voices for singing and directed dialogue -- I am all for pulling those features into a legitimate FOSS project of its own. Contact me at: morashon at morashon dot com.

If any of these software challenges end up getting traction, I am well versed in freenode and IRC, and ready to roll up some new github repos.

+ Thoughts regarding art, commerce, copyright, and culture
- Thoughts regarding art, commerce, copyright, and culture

When the history of our era is written, I believe that the introduction of the Internet, and the digitization of the bulk of human communication (including the storage and retrieval of works in various media) will be seen as the seminal event of our time. Creations that fail to enter into the digital realm in a full and unencumbered fashion will, for all intents and purposes, not exist in our history -- at least for the great mass of the population. One vector into digital immortality is a significant measure of fame in popular culture; the Beatles legacy is well protected, due to their popularity and commercial success. The fate of less celebrated artists and creators is obviously less certain. Even if an obscure work is digitized and nominally made available, if it fails to reach the notability requirements of Wikipedia -- if it fails to be properly indexed by Google's search algorithm -- then, for all practical purposes, it may be lost as well; hidden in plain sight as it were, because it cannot be easily discovered by those with casual interest in the particular genre. These days, failing a winning stint on American Idol or other even more vacuous reality-based enterprises, the road to recognition is crowded and hard-fought, and the results, even for works of great worth, are often sadly disappointing.

Along with the mass digitization of the majority of our cultural artifacts, we have witnessed the great commodification of what might once have been called art -- that which is produced by the 'entertainment industry'. In spite of the sorry state of popular culture, there are obviously still true artists at work, sprinkled in among the dreary, uninspired sequels, knock-offs, and plain lowest-common-denominator media equivalent of junk food, bereft of any semblance of what was once quaintly referred to as "socially redeeming value". One problem with this state of affairs (among many more obvious and well-noted problems) is the result that even the best of what our culture has to offer, in every genre and medium, is almost by definition the "product" of some media company, typically a public for-profit corporation with fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for its shareholders. Thus the work of Britney Spears, the Beatles, and Philip Glass are, from a commercial standpoint, indistinguishable with respect to the status of their works as pieces of intellectual property. The films of Stanley Kubrick and those of Jerry Bruckheimer are simply two sets of 'catalog' owned by various corporations.

Why does any of this matter? Because for-profit corporations use intellectual property laws to greatly control and restrict access to their property. They engage in massive lobbying efforts to ensure that such laws are written in their favor. They have no economic interest or obligation (as they see it) to be concerned about the relationship between the works that they own and control, and the cultural heritage that some fraction of those works may represent. They have successfully lobbied the US congress (and other governments) to repeatedly extend the life of copyright, ensuring that works even 90 years old are not available as part of the public domain. Copyright was not originally conceived as a right that an artist would typically sell to a corporation to control in perpetuity, but that is the state of affairs as it exists today. None of the work of Disney, or the musicals of the 30's and 40's, or the Beatles, or Elvis Presley, or Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, etc. and so on -- none of what many would argue is the product of a great new age of media, the last two thirds of the 20th century -- will, as things stand today, ever enter into the public domain. They cannot be copied, distributed, edited, or even usefully commented on (commentary added to the original) without being swallowed in a mire of legal and accounting obligations. For works of world renown, this is only a minor annoyance. Celebrated works are typically made available at reasonable cost by the media companies who stand to make money from their back catalog. For more obscure and less profitable artists, however, the long-term picture is quite bleak. There are many thousands (if not millions) of books out of print, but whose copyright holders still refuse to release into the public domain (if they can even be determined and contacted). Many works of music, film, and writing are now in this purgatory of less than superstar fame but encumbered by perennial copyright due to their original contracts with their distributors. The media companies have little incentive to clear up this mess, as in their view a corpus of old, free works with potential to entertain and inform could compete with their need to constantly turn over their product and sell the latest, trendiest popular cruft to the consuming public.

Emblematic of the problem -- to this day, if there is a birthday scene in a movie, you will almost never hear the strains of "Happy Birthday" (see -- even though that is what we all sing at every birthday party. Small matter -- in movies, you hear "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" (a bit awkward for birthday girls!) But it just makes the point that ownership of creative works that are controlled in perpetuity creates a barrier to properly archiving and representing life as we actually live it.

In software, we have something called "Open Source" (and/or "Free Software"; there are internecine battles regarding these phrases that need not concern us here. If interested: Open Source software is created with the express purpose of allowing anyone to have access to useful computer software without restrictions -- as long as the original inventor(s) of the work are given due credit. In some instances, modification and commercial distribution are restricted; in other cases, the only restriction is the requirement of attribution. In all cases, the result is that the software cannot, due to the legal force of the licenses used, be co-opted by corporations or other business interests in an exclusive fashion. Unlike typical commercial software from companies such as Microsoft or Apple, Open Source software can always be copied to any machine or medium one desires; it can be freely distributed to your friends, or indeed publicly distributed anonymously, for anyone to download themselves. Without going into great detail as to how such work is funded (there's a plethora of information you can Google) -- note that pieces of Open Source software are utilized as components in numerous commercial products and services, and deliver the bulk of Internet traffic, including from major companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Creative Commons is the analog of Open Source in other fields of endeavor, such as music, film, and written works. The idea is to offer a legal and ethical framework within which artists and creators can choose to have their works protected from appropriation, but allow distribution and copying with some restrictions, such as (at a minimum) requiring proper attribution of credit to the original author(s). Licensing one's work in this way does not, incidentally, mean one can no longer sell one's work -- you are free to continue selling books, records, iTunes downloads, and film tickets. However, it is true that your works can now also be distributed freely, so there may be cases where potential paying customers will be able to acquire your works without compensation. On the other hand, licensing one's work under Creative Commons provides a chance for your work to effectively be in the public domain, with the proviso that your authorship will be noted and respected. There is a small but vibrant and growing community of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative folk who want to contribute to our common cultural heritage, bypassing the typical corporate pathway, with all its encumbrances and limitations. Our goal is to create a corpus of work that can fairly compete with, and provide legitimate counterbalance to, the Disneys and Viacoms and News Corps of the world, whose dedication to the public trust and welfare is limited at best.

When people first started talking about Open Source software, they were commonly derided as utopia-addled fools and worse. Now, it is a legitimate driving force behind much of the software and high-tech industry. Rather than replace proprietary products from Microsoft and Apple, what it does is keep those companies in check. Microsoft must now contend with the fact that LibreOffice can do almost everything their expensive Office software can do. Linux competes with Windows and OSX, making it harder to engage in 'vendor lock-in' and predatory practices. Some commercial companies are willing to forego profits in some sectors to support Open Source alternatives to royalty-encumbered technologies. By way of example, Google acquired a company (On2) whose video codec WebM (formerly known as VP8) helps to ensure that a powerful group of patent holders (MPEG-LA) cannot restrict the ability of artists and independent businesses to distribute audio/video works freely and openly on the Internet.

In a similar fashion, I am hopeful that the Creative Commons movement will provide a legitimate alternative pathway for creators of all stripes to get their work out to the public, and reach their intended audience without a low-value middleman standing between producer and consumer. As in the Open Source case, I doubt this will spell the end of publishing houses, movie studios, and record companies -- but it might provide a much-needed check on their tendency to mop up every bit of culturally relevant work and smack a barcode on it, charging a tithe every time we sing "Happy Birthday".

+ Who Am I
- Who Am I

Morashon is the pseudonym (pen name) I have chosen as the author of record for the parts of this work created by me. A good internet sleuth could probably track down my real-world identity if they really felt the need to do so. I respectfully ask that viewers and collaborators not bother, as I prefer to take credit for this work under this moniker for now.

+ This website sucks
- This website sucks

Well, this is how I roll my hand-crafted html + js droppings. If someone wants to get involved and set up some wordsqueeze, smashflow, or whatever the latest trend is in webistic platform delivery/UI design, by all means knock yourself out. My goal with this page was simply to lay out some pertinent information, and hopefully make contact with potential collaborators. Visual expression is not my first vocabulary.

All material on this site is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

© 2013 by Morashon               Contact: morashon at morashon dot com