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Irish Singer/Songwriter Mick Flannery is surprising in many ways. The expression Still waters run deep springs to mind when in conversation with him. He speaks in a slow, low, almost monotone voice, something akin to the way he sings, and it is mesmeric.
In recent times, for that read Covid, he has morphed into new directions and has used his lockdown time to produce a newborn and a new album at the same time. The former may be expected, the production of the latter is more surprising seeing as it hinges on dramatic chess matches in history.
And then there is the crypto, or rather NFTs, which was totally unexpected but not for the execution, more for the inherent understanding of what it offers.
Flannery had heard about Bitcoin from friends before but hadn’t really paid it much attention. Then in 2017 he became interested again. It wasn’t the price that attracted him but the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency, the finite number of coins in Bitcoin and the community.
“Money was always going to be digitized so the emergence of Bitcoin is not that unexpected. And even though there are energy concerns surrounding layer one blockchains, it’s hard for me to see a more important use of energy than the conservation of people’s time and work,” he tells Blockleaders.
“I’m no expert but I did dip into Bitcoin and Ethereum at the time.”
Flannery turns out not to be a hodlr as real life intervened and he sold his early purchases to pay for boring essentials such as rent and food.
Back to the Chess
Flannery never studied chess and did not enter competitions. He didn’t have the time or the energy to study classic openings and plays, but he does enjoy blitz chess games – with people of his standard – which operates on a timed basis, is very fast and also very forgiving.
“You won’t be judged in the same way for all your mistakes and lack of foresight because of the time pressure.”
Flannery’s love of chess was fostered by his father who showed him famous clashes, explaining the history behind these epic matches. In particular, the backdrop to the American chess player Bobby Fisher playing Boris Spassky in the 1970s. This was more than chess. It was in the middle of the cold war when Fisher finally broke the domination of the Russian chess masters and there were KGB interventions, talk of the American having cheating gadgets in his chair and Fisher being chased into the Philippines.
During Covid, Flannery had more time to explore these chess games. He chose 12 epic chess battles from across history and composed the music based on the movements of the chess pieces. He would assign chords to different chess pieces and then play the pattern created by the game. Not all games could be so assigned, and a few resulted in random chords that were impossible to funnel into a tune.
“With Bobby Fisher I could not convert any of his Spassky games into music and instead hit upon a game with fellow American Donald Byrne. I needed the pattern to develop into a melody, not just random, rambling music.”
The lyrics followed the battles. In the case of Bobby Fisher’s match Flannery used lines which followed Fisher’s race to the Philippines and to Japan. During the famous Western Hero game Fisher went on a number of King hunts and Flannery uses these game plays as musical runs.
“After writing the poem on each match, I’d then try and sing the poem over the music and sometimes I had to vary the pace or move through the chords faster than they were played. If for example, I’d assigned the chord of C to pawns and there were four moves by pawns in a row, then I’d stagger the timing instead of giving equal weight to each move.”
Each poem was about the winning player, which allowed Flannery to use the Fisher/Byrne match but incorporate themes around the Russian players and the KGB. In addition, on a number of games Flannery found the music reached a peak and he didn’t incorporate the end moves.
“It had to be music as well as algorithms.”
So back to Crypto and Web3, Flannery worked with his sister and her husband to create videos of each song. The tempo of the music was replicated by the movement of the pieces across the board, as if they were dancing to the songs. These videos, some of which are 2D and some 3D, have been converted into NFTs. There are 1000 NFTS altogether, so less than 100 per song and these will go on sale in Open Sea on February 22. Flannery is uncertain of pricing as yet but wants to send some of the profits to the Effective Altruism charity so he can’t as yet decide whether to aim high and earn more for the charity or price them lower so they are affordable.
Flannery is holding onto the copyright of the album and is releasing it on Bandcamp as normal. Going back to crypto, he again stresses the issue of energy consumption but also the issues of quantitative easing and inflationary fiat currencies.
“It’s hard for people to see inflation creep up and devalue all their working hours in the past. Cryptocurrencies can change that.”
Full list of the 12 songs and corresponding Chess games:
Night At The Opera
Paul Morphy vs Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard
Take Your Beating Well
Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne
“The Evergreen Game”
Pride And Sorrow
Paul Morphy vs Unknown amateur
Morphy begins a rook down.
New Orleans, 1858
Rashid And Firebird
I’ll Learn To See
Judit Polgar (12yrs) vs Pavlina Chilingirova
Vassily Ivanchuk vs Sergey Karjakin
Song ends at Vassily’s queen sacrifice.
Mikhail Tal vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Song ends at Tal’s famous Knight sacrifice.
Bobby Fischer (13yrs) vs Donald Byrne
Game Of The Century
New York City, 1956
Albert Einstein vs Robert Oppenheimer
Song ends as Oppenheimer resigns.
Princeton, 1933 (allegedly)
King Of Hate
Alexander Alekhine vs Rodzynski
The Wayward Queen
I Do Not Run
Gary Kasparov vs Guy West
Song ends as West resigns.
Via Telex 1977
Awonder Liang vs Gunay
Polgar Challenge (2021), Online
- Quantitative Easing
- The Philippines
- Working Hours