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    Rick Masters

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    Man Shall Follow


    Rick Masters is a Techno-folk balladeer, guitarist, songwriter and filmmaker from California, primarily recognized for his two films: Aoli, Comet Clones & Pod People (1982 - US Gray Prize) and Hydrogen Hawaii (2001 - Tely Award). Although his musical focus tends toward film soundtracks, he was moved to release the album Man Shall Follow in April of 2013 to warn of the impending environmental catastrophe (extinction) facing humanity.

    At the age of 19, Rick Masters attended Ventura Jr. College in the months following the devastating blow-out of a Union Oil drilling rig off the Santa Barbara coast, which remains California's worst environmental disaster to date. Forever polarized by the despoiled, once pristine beaches and the astronomical death toll of wildlife, he published his apocalyptic "Rain Poem 1981" in the college newspaper to mark the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970). Set in a grim and hopeless future where storms of acid rain rake the Earth, ending all life, the lone protagonist recalls warning his children about the deadly rain. "How could I tell them once that I had tried to stop the rape of skies but somehow failed along the line? And they were doomed to sit and watch as misty drops kissed blades of grass that slowly yellowed, bent and died,"

    In 1976, Masters heard of a theory blaming refrigeration chemicals for the destruction of the Earth's vital ozone layer and attended the first International Conference on Problems Related to the Stratosphere in Logan, Utah, where he was stunned by the delaying tactics of the chemical lobby. Soon after, Masters penned another long poem about environmental catastrophe, "Return of the Warrior." Here the protagonist leaves the last remaining outpost of starving humanity and makes an epic trek to the Pacific Ocean to drown himself in the sea he had once loved. "You know that I've lost everything I've ever loved. It's true," he says to the dead ocean. "But what I've lost is nothing, when I see what we've done to you. For nothing lives and nothing flies beneath this hellish light. I can't believe we let it come to this without a fight, I raise my arms in hopeless rage. I curse the cities of the dead. I wade into the ancient sea, for the last whale's song had said 'Man shall follow me.' And so we did,"

    In 1986, Masters merged the two poems into one and set them to music in a marathon 16-minute vocal performance. But it was not until the triple-meltdown of the nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, and growing reports of raw methane bubbling up from the permafrost bordering the melting Arctic sea that the reclusive Masters was moved to finally release "Man Shall Follow" in April of 2013 on an album of the same name. Gary Richardson, Executive Director of Idaho's nuclear watchdog, the Snake River Alliance, describes the song as "an eerie prophesy of a not far distant future. ,his ghostly voice and lyrics create an Edgar Allen Poe-like journey and vision carried on the stream of rhythm and melody created by Masters' unique 12-string guitar, and occasionally synthesized accompaniment."

    "I released Man Shall Follow as we punched through 400 ppm of carbon-dioxide content of our atmosphere," says Masters. "When I wrote the heart of it in 1970, the CO2 content stood at 330 ppm. There is nothing like this rapid rise of carbon in the scientific record. We are now entering the mysterious territory of unknown feedback loops, where events begin accelerating and compounding themselves on a planetary scale far beyond our control. The great scientist Carl Sagen warned us that we could cause Earth to become a hell like Venus if we burnt all the carbon at once. This is what we have done.

    "What will happen, now, is that the reflective polar ice will melt away and the immense subsea methane ice deposits will begin to boil off, releasing much more carbon than humanity ever could. First, the weather will go mad as the jet stream fluctuates wildly. Then cold temperature extremes will cause clouds to form in the stratosphere of both poles, destroying the atmospheric layer of ozone that protects us from powerful solar radiation. The oceans will rise suddenly, inundating all the world's coastal cities, which are huge repositories of environmental poisons. The unending march of powerful storms will become increasingly acidic until all harvests fail. Starvation will lead to anarchy and the collapse of nations. The wealthy and the powerful will establish outposts that will survive for a while on stored supplies as the world's forests burn and most life goes extinct. Temperatures will continue to rise as Earth approaches transition to full greenhouse. The seas will steam - but long before they boil, we will be gone. This was the moment in time I captured in 1970. We are all going to die. And despite the things I have tried to do in my life to stop it, the best I have accomplished seems to be to provide some musical accompaniment to our demise."

    Lyrics to "Man Shall Follow"

    Hello old friend. It's been some years since I have have journeyed here, to your shore. I sought you out, this last Autumn, for I feared I'd never see you anymore. In thirty years, the world has changed, though not the way we planned. I find myself confronting your ravaged shores again. And it took me months to travel from the pale eastern lands just to reach you, Red Pacific, and to walk your barren sands. They've given us just five more months until the food is gone, back home. I cut my share and came to you. By Spring, we'll leave you all alone. That blazing sun is so damned hot and I'm so soul-dead tired, I think I'll have to sit and rest my weary bones a while. You know that I've lost everything that I've ever loved. It's true. But what I've lost is nothing, when I see what we've done to you. For nothing lives. Nothing flies Beneath this hellish light. I can't believe we let it come to this without a fight. When Earth was new and I was young, a time so far removed from now, the swollen skies released their seeds and thunder, spitting garish light that froze the swaying of the trees. A raindrop splattered on my lips. It skittered, wet, across them and thrilled my tongue in cold delight. One night, when the Earth was new and I was young, Oh! A time so far removed from now. Then in a rush of cautious doubt, I sought my pa to ask him if the crystal droplets from the sky could harm my body or my mind? He chuckled softly, shook his head. He told me, "Son, the purest drops of liquid you shall ever taste will be the ones from angry skies." What have we done to change his words? The raindrops, all around us, fell. What could I tell my boys when they, through parched and burning lips inquired why falling rain, so wet and moist, Must not be touched by human tongue nor granted playground on Man's skin, regardless what his thirst requires? How could I tell them once that I had tried to stop the rape of skies but somehow failed along the line and they were doomed to sit and watch as misty drops kissed blades of grass which slowly yellowed, bent and died? These tattered rags held to the end. I thought they'd never make it when that storm of acid rain rolled by and thunder split the lightning sky. "Doom!" rang the hills, the echo clear, resounding through the skags so drear, atremble upon that sterile plain, all frozen in majestic pain, all shorn of their eternal need, for acid rain had killed the seed. I sought what shelter they could give. The storm passed on. It let me live, The buckles on my boots are jammed with mud from walking overland. The yellow suds that edge the shore carress my fingers, cool and warm. My clothing falls in sogging heaps and far out on the ocean's rim, a lonely tower gapes and mocks as spray explodes against it's skin. The wind, your froth, the breaker's din, assault my form, yet ease my dread. The droplets slither on my skin and trickle down my barren head. For hair has gone like children's poems and chirps of birds and Autumn leaves no life to live, no faith to feed. For faith has fled with budding Spring and Nature's love and Autumn leaves these burning eyes that melt the beach and mourn again for turquoise skies and fields of hay and aqua waves farewell to all and turns to rust as all that lived returns to the dust. Life-maker, life-taker, the story once was written, of Evil, we tasted. You banished us from Eden. Now, we're sorry. I'm so sorry! How can we beg your pardon? We were unworthy shepherds. We killed the garden. I raise my arms in hopeless rage. I curse the cities of the dead. I wade into the ancient sea for the last whale's song had said, "Man shall follow me," And so we did.

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