Silicon Man

Colleagues Raoul Kraus and Tim at old Anafaze "industrial controls" showing off Tim’s robot, Bingo
Colleagues Raoul Kraus and Tim at old Anafaze "industrial controls" showing off Tim’s robot, Bingo

Silicon Man

Words and Music by: Tim Tompkins


Silicon Man, you’ve been a long time comin’,
(like twenty thousand centuries)
you learned to summon
(left brain hummin’)
new rock extensions of your hands,
impaling, pounding, chopping,
while you populated hostile lands.

Leaving the Stone Age, you had metals melting,
(cauldrons bubbled)
copper and bronze gave way to iron ore smelting,
(efforts doubled)
refined and carbon-hardened steel.
Having mastered fire now,
you’re rolling out a finer wheel.

The industrial revolution
had a live axle drive (to keep greased)
and the heat for thrust came from fossil fuels.
Coal and oil use increased,
workers toiled (but few could feast,)
and the beast of burden business finally took a dive.

Silicon Man, you’ve been a long time comin’,
but now you’ve landed on the market,
someone’s (drummin’ up demand)
pushing extensions for your brain.
Gray matter used to do the trick
but you need chips to evolve in the fast lane.

It’s silicon’s S-I symbol that attracts me
and her number 14 (7 and 7.)
It’s the shapely 28 of her atomic weight,
a sexy quark machine.

I heard she’s on a high proton diet.
Don’t you mean, high protein?
Proteins are full of protons.
What about the neutrons?
That’s where the nutrition comes from, for the nuclear family, so the little neutrinos can grow up and exert the strong force.
Lies, all lies.

It’s the tetravalent lure of her electron levels
in the charge cloud dance routine (with exotic impurities)
that enhances the chances for black magic romance
as her molecules crystallize at boundaries,
blocking current or conducting it profoundly.
You could fabricate a million silicon transistors
and hide the little switches in a bean.

What kind of beans are you talking about, red beans, black beans, lima bean?
Hey, you’re not talking about big fat string beans are you? That would be a piece of cake!
Bean cake?
What about Mexican jumping beans, are they full of switches?
Well you could say that all living cells are …
… twitching with switches …
… at the molecular level…
… as the worm turns…
… as the laspeyresia saltitans larva squirms.
You’re losing your marbles, and you know what they’re made of.
Yeah, they belong in this silicon song!

Silicon Man, now you’re a brave new species,
composed of not just flesh and bone, but PCs,
(pumped-up computers,)
without them you’re on your own.
Don’t forget your little wireless phone,
gotta have smart tools and toys full-blown,
all the gadgets with high-tech hearts of stone.

These are micro-lithic times we’re in
but it’s a stone age just the same.
We’ll make a jillion-atom chip jump with a one-track mind
or line up single-atom bumps to spell your name.

Yet our fancy processors are still no match
for the networked neurons of an insect brain (fault tolerant.)
They’ve been breeding for survival nearly half a billion years,
long before our late arrival with our technical careers
that are peeling back archival truth till deeper truth appears
and engineering bright new artifacts to bridge the culture span,
making way for the descendants …
giving birth to the descendants of Silicon Man.


In 1983 Frances and I were living in my grandmother’s old house in Portland, Oregon, where her dear old piano still dominated the dining room. There, a bonky little tune took its initial shape under my fingers in just a few minutes. The trick – all my songs have some kind of trick – was the key change in every verse, not just tacked on, but inherent. More than two decades later, when we assembled a fine little recording jazz band for the song, it turned out to be the modulations, almost halfway around the circle of fifths, that caught the fancy of wizard pianist Denny Berthiaume such that he rehearsed and then recorded it looser and wilder with each take, to the delight of Frances and me, guitarist/engineer Scott Sorkin, bassist Nelson Braxton and drummer Jason Lewis, all of whom were splendid conspirators, along with Frances and young Paris on vocals and dialog, in the birth of the song – never performed live.  [Tim]

Performance Credits:

Singers: Tim and Frances.
Spoken dialogs: Tim, Frances and Paris Lahman.
Piano: Denny Berthiaume.
Bass: Nelson Braxton.
Drums: Jason Lewis.
Guitar: Scott Sorkin.
Harmonica: Tim.

Production Credits:

Piano, bass, drums and guitar were recorded at Gordon Steven’s Open Path Music studio in San Jose, CA, with Scott Sorkin engineering.
Vocals and harmonica recorded at the GallopAway Music studio in San Juan Bautista, CA, where mixing and mastering also took place.

The rhythmic technical-tinkling sound effect was achieved by close-mic’ing an Anafaze 8PID temperature controller’s Coto reed relays, which continuously sampled the thermocouple input channels in a round-robin fashion. Each magnetic release of a relay set its three reeds vibrating briefly, and the group of two dozen made a strange chorus of them.

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