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Once Upon Deep Time Liner Notes & Lyrics


“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule

to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”

-- Charles Darwin


“Where words fail, music speaks.”

-- Hans Christian Andersen


“Life is for the living.

Death is for the dead.

Let life be like music.

And death a note unsaid.”

-- Langston Hughes


“Nature’s music is never over; her silences are pauses, not conclusions.”

-- Mary Webb


Once Upon Deep Time was conceived, written, and performed by Matthew Bonnan except:


You Can Hear Us (Maxwell Bonnan, lead guitar; Quinn Bonnan, supporting vocals)


Rightside Down (The Lickerish Quartet [Eric Dover, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Tim Smith], supporting vocals; David Hess, lead & rhythm guitars)


Distant Touch (Maxwell Bonnan, lead guitar; Samantha Giancarli, tenor saxophone)


Blindsight (written by Maxwell Bonnan and Matthew Bonnan; Quinn Bonnan, lead vocals; Maxwell Bonnan, all guitars)


Storytellers (Stockton a Cappella, Directed by Neil Aaronson, supporting vocals; David Hess, lead & rhythm guitars)


Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Matthew Bonnan

Saxophone on Distant Touch and Stockton a Cappella on Storytellers recorded by Neil Aaronson


All songs (c) 2022 Matthew F. Bonnan, Aardonyx Music Publishing, all rights reserved except "You Can Hear Us" and "Blindsight" (c) 2022 Matthew F. Bonnan, Quinn Bonnan, and Maxwell Bonnan, Aardonyx Music Publishing, all rights reserved.


Sound effects and samples:

Forest birds, rain, waves, and frogs: Ableton Live 11; Blowing wind (Mark DiAngelo: https://soundbible.com/1810-Wind.html); Underwater ambience: Fission9 (https://freesound.orgpeople/Fission9/sounds/504641/); City birds: Keju Luo

(https://freesound.org/people/thegreatbelow/sounds/546794/); Sonar pings

(Breviceps: https://freesound.org/people/Breviceps/sounds/493162/); Whale

song (https://freesound.org/people/Breviceps/sounds/493162/); Field crickets

(Ray Jensen: https://freesound.org/people/rayjensen/sounds/202749/)


All lyrics (c) 2022 Matthew F. Bonnan, Aardonyx Music Publishing except "Blindsight" (c) 2022 Maxwell Bonnan & Matthew F. Bonnan, Aardonyx Music Publishing.


  1. Once Upon Deep Time

  2. You Can Hear Us (feat. Quinn & Maxwell Bonnan)

  3. Rightside Down (feat. The Lickerish Quartet)

  4. Distant Touch (feat. Samantha Giancarli)

  5. Into Thin Air

  6. Chatter

  7. Dinosaur Songs

  8. Theater of the Mind

  9. Blindsight (feat. Quinn & Maxwell Bonnan)

  10. Connection (Into Thin Air, Part 2)

  11. Storytellers (feat. Stockton a Cappella & David Hess)

  12. Once Upon Deep Time Reprise


Once Upon Deep Time


Put away your screen

And I’ll tell you a story

Once upon deep time

If you close your eyes

I can take you back

In the theater of your mind


You can hear my voice

You can hear these notes

Because oh so long ago

Changes occurred

In our bones and our minds

Or so the story goes


But I’m getting ahead of myself

And these dusty bones on a shelf

Well, they won’t tell the story themselves


Voices and music

Vibrations of air

A movement of fluid and bones

Connect us to the past

To the now and forever

To ancestors long ago


So let the story

Take you back

Once upon deep time

Let this story

Take you back

In the theater of your mind


You Can Hear Us (feat. Quinn & Maxwell Bonnan)


We can hear the evolutionary past we carry within us


Seconds into hours into eons time will pass

It ticks by very slowly, but it goes so very fast

If time is a vast ocean and each life a tiny cup

What will echo to the future when our time is finally up?


Can you hear us?


Time’s arrow points one way and you can never turn around

The changes keep on coming and there’s no way to slow down

No map to guide us onward and it’s hard to comprehend

How did all of us get here and how might this all end?


Can you hear us?


Once our spirit level began to sway

To tremors in the rocks and the rolling waves

A link to the past that echoes till this day

Descendants of survivors that paved the way


Well, I know you feel the vertigo

Looking back into deep time

A message echoes from the past

You can hear us, deep inside you

You can hear us, all around you


You can hear it in the voices carried on the wind

In a chorus of crickets when the night rolls in

This symphony of life it will bring you alive

A gift from antecedents only trying to survive


Can you hear us?


Once our spirit level began to sway

To tremors in the rocks and the rolling waves

A link to the past that echoes till this day

Descendants of survivors that paved the way


Well, I know you feel the vertigo

Looking back into deep time

A message echoes from the past

You can hear us, deep inside you

You can hear us, all around you

You can hear us, deep inside you

You can hear us, all around you


From the jaws of a fish

To the sounds in your ears

All our stories converge

Through these millions of years

Speak your mind with a tongue

That once opened your mouth

As old bones with new roles

Keep the notes pouring out

As we carry the song

Pass the genetic baton

You can hear with your ears

That we’re not really gone

No, we’re not really gone

No, we’re not really gone

You can hear with your ears

That we’re not really gone


You can hear us, deep inside you

You can hear us, all around you


We are here with you


Rightside Down (feat. The Lickerish Quartet)


Hearing evolved from an ancient balancing organ our ancestors used to tell rightside up from rightside down


-- Early Animals --

In the beginning no control

The currents take you wherever they go

Or fastened to rocks on the ocean floor

Holding on, holding on


Then with cells like wires

Rapid signals were fired

To living motors inside

Wresting control from eternity


Gravity pulled a tiny rock inside

Stretching our piece of mind

Our spirit level was born

At the current’s whim no more!


Rightside down

You can feel your world turned over

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


Rightside down

Can you feel your world turned over?

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


-- Jellyfish --

As you push against the tides

Your gelatinous body glides

Snagging prey and making your way

Feeling the world all around you


But things can easily go astray

And you can quickly lose your way

When waves come crashing down

Tumbling and tumbling around and around


Rightside down

You can feel your world turned over

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


Rightside down

Can you feel your world turned over?

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


-- Horseshoe Crabs --

More time has elapsed

Than you can ever possibly grasp

When our horseshoe-shaped bodies

First emerged to breed in the moonlight


The waves show us no mercy

As we fulfill our destiny

Tossed around in our search for mates

Tumbling about in the foam and sand


Rightside down

You can feel your world turned over

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


Rightside down

Can you feel your world turned over?

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


-- Our Bony Ancestors --

A mutation … or three

When our bony ancestors lived in the sea

New awareness came online

Now there was sound with the up and down


And it’s rightside down

You can feel your world turned over

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


Rightside down

Can you feel your world turned over?

Spirit level inside

Help me turn rightside up again


So, if you’re rightside down

And you feel your world turned over

Now you know the reason why

Music turns you rightside up again


So, if you’re rightside down

And you feel your world turned over

Now you know the reason why

Music turns you rightside up again

Music turns you rightside up again

The music brings you back to life again


Distant Touch (feat. Samantha Giancarli)


Fish perceive and navigate the world by hearing and sensing water movement across their bodies – once, long ago, so did we


I can touch you from a distance

I can feel your state of mind

When you move I feel the pressure

As our bodies turn and glide

Whoa, whoa

Whoa, whoa

Whoa, whoa, oh


It has been like this for eons

Peering out through lidless eyes

I can chart my destination

With my body and my mind

Whoa, whoa

Whoa, whoa

Whoa, whoa, oh


Can you imagine navigating with sound

Your body and mind as a compass

Pointing you homeward bound?

All life’s chords, they can show you the way

A melody map you touch with your mind

Your guide beneath the waves


When I move, I can move you

Like a team, we move as one

I can feel you in the darkness

Or beneath the shining sun

We will reach our destination

While the waves around us pound

My body is an eardrum

And I lay the course with sound

My body is an eardrum

And I lay the course with sound


Above the crashing surf

In the air it’s different now

We’ve lost our ancient compass

A melody disavowed

Whoa, whoa

Whoa, whoa

Whoa, whoa, oh


Can you reach me from a distance

As we stand on solid ground?

We will only bridge this difference

When the harmony is found


Into Thin Air


Our ability to hear in air relies on tiny, vibrating bones that evolved from our fishy ancestors’ jaws. The evolution of a voice followed …


When we emerged from the sea

The silence was roaring

We had no ears, no way to hear

The danger coming


Before there could be birdsong in the air

Or a chorus of frogs in the night

Bones from the jaw were repurposed

And airborne sounds came to life


Whoa, fish out of water

Into thin air

Listen! The past speaks loud and clear

From the jaws of a fish to the sounds in your ears

We’re all fish out of water

In the thin air


Hearing the danger was only the start

Voices were absent in that sunlit world

As long as we remained in light

Being seen not heard was connection enough


Yet so many ways in those long-ago days

Each was led from the sun to the night

To evolve through a tunnel of darkness

And emerge with a voice in the light


Whoa, fish out of water

Into thin air

Listen! The past speaks loud and clear

From the jaws of a fish to the sound in your ear

We’re all fish out of water

In the thin air


In the absence of light, the frog calls ignite

While feathered dinosaurs learn to sing

When you pass through the dark the sound is the spark

From which all of our voices spring


So, don’t let the darkness overtake us

In the night I need to know you’re still there

From the jaws of a fish to the sounds in your ears

You can hear us, we’re a chorus

Floating free on the air


Whoa fish out of water

Into thin air

Listen! The past speaks loud and clear

From the jaws of a fish to the sounds in your ears

We’re all fish out of water

In the thin air


We are fish out of water

Singing in the thin air!


Chatter


A frog’s perspective – once you can vocalize, you might meet your mate … or become dinner


Hey! Hey! Listen to me

Are you tuned in to my frequency?

I hope you hear my voice cut through the noise

And it guides you right here to me


Hey! Hey! What can you say?

You gotta time your notes for in between the waves

Of the chorus sounds all around

I hope my voice will win the day


And every note brings you closer

Closer and closer to our destiny

Yes, every note brings you closer

To the fusion of our futures, you and me


Hey! Hey! You have to be brave

To call out in a world where you’re never safe

Listen through the chatter and decide for yourself

When to stay and when to escape


And every note brings you closer

Closer and closer to our destiny

Yes, every note brings you closer

To ingesting me, for my energy!


So, hey! Hey! If you need to be told

Life is short and you gotta be bold

You’ll never touch the future if you hide from today

Life is more than simply growing old

Life is more than simply growing old

Life is more than simply growing old



Dinosaur Songs


Listen outside your window: there are dinosaur songs in the air …


Inspired by Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her work with Alex the gray parrot,

and the short story The Great Silence by Ted Chiang


You hear but you don’t listen

You hear but you don’t perceive

A message profound was spoken

But not by a human being


One night in the Age of Reptiles

Though we can’t say just when

Feathered dinosaurs began to sing

And everything changed then


So, listen outside your window

There are dinosaur songs in the air

A message echoes from the past

Can you hear us? Are you there?


We go through our days hearing

That which we don’t comprehend

Feathered dinosaurs serenade us

The Age of Reptiles never came to an end


How can we take this for granted?

When dinosaurs on the wing

Visit us daily, singing their songs

Yet we all look down at our screens


So, listen outside your window

There are dinosaur songs in the air

A message echoes from the past

Can you hear us? Are you there?

Can you hear us? Are you there?


No monkey has ever uttered a word

No dog has ever told us their name

No cat has ever stated their opinion

No other mammal has ever said a thing


But feathered dinosaurs have spoken

Yet we haven’t heard the call

One said, “You be good. I love you”

Will the words ever reach us at all?


Now listen outside your window

There are dinosaur songs in the air

It’s not too late to realize

All the magic that is there

All the past that is near

You can hear us … in the air



Theater of the Mind


Our hearing evolved from tiny ancestors surviving a dark, dangerous world – in the theater of the mind, sometimes we believe we’re still there


Not so long ago

In a different time and space

We hid in the shadows

A nocturnal hiding place


While avoiding the daylight hours

When great reptiles ruled the light

A chain of little bones freed from our jaws

Helped us navigate the night


Then imagination took over

From our eyes so nearly blind

With sound we found our way

In the theater of the mind


In the theater of the mind (Still hunted)

In the theater of the mind (Still blind)

Our imagination runs astray

In the theater of the mind


In the darkness you awake

But you’re not sure you know why

You listen while your heart pounds

And your eyes strain for a sign


In those moments your mind races

Flung back in deep time’s haze

You’re just a tiny creature

Hiding from a reptile’s gaze


When imagination took over

From our eyes so nearly blind

With sound we found our way

In the theater of the mind


In the theater of the mind (Still hunted)

In the theater of the mind (Still blind)

Our imagination runs astray

In the theater of the mind


In a past riddled with danger

Just trying to stay alive

Sound and imagination

Were keys that helped us survive


But if you don’t see or hear reality

You imagine the worst in me

If we place our trust in what isn’t there

We all become the enemy


In the theater of the mind (Still hunted)

In the theater of the mind (Still blind)

Our imagination runs astray

In the theater of the mind


In the theater of the mind (Reach out)

In the theater of the mind (Open your eyes)

Don’t let the past push us away

In the theater of the mind


Blindsight (feat. Quinn & Maxwell Bonnan)


Some mammals used the three little bones in their middle ears to hear the echoes

of their high-pitched voices to see using sound


-- Giant Squid versus Sperm Whale --

Oh, a tentacled predator, down in the deep

I can sense that I’ve become prey

Though my eyes are huge, in the dark they strain

As rapid clicks keep c-c-c-comin’ through my brain

As the sound gets louder and more intense

I’ve got nowhere to hide, no defense

Intense sounds that make me reel

Whale teeth, the last thing I feel!


It’s echolocation, using sound to see

Blindsight when the light is missing

With loud clicks, you resolve the scene

And the predator becomes the prey


Three little bones from the jaw

Some mammals dialed up the higher frequencies

Sound was the spark to see in the dark

Echoes converging, blindsight emerging


-- Moth versus Bat --

On gossamer wings I traverse the night

Searching for mates and nectar

High pitched pulses all around … !


As those pulses keep getting closer

Our silhouettes tumble across the moon

Flapping wings, high-pitched pings

Bat teeth, the last thing I feel!


It’s echolocation, using sound to see

Blindsight when the light is missing

With rapid pulses you resolve the scene

And overtake your prey in the night


It’s blindsight!

It’s blindsight!

It’s blindsight!

It’s blindsight!


Connection (Into Thin Air Part 2)


Humans are social primates that connect through storytelling and technology – we’re only doomed to repeat the past if we choose not to learn from it


With the big reptiles gone

A new world met the dawn

Among the branches we made

Connections


With language at last

We emerged from our past

Telling stories enhanced these

Connections


We’ve begun to see

We’re enmeshed, you and me

With the tree of life we are

Connected


The night is always dark (so, don’t let the darkness overtake us)

Yet the sun returns each day (the past speaks loud and clear)

When it seems the hope has gone (well, I know you feel the vertigo)

I can touch you from a distance

And our voices light the way


Though we’re changing so fast

If we learn from our past

We can still make the human

Connection



Storytellers (feat. Stockton a Cappella & David Hess)


We learn best from stories: they are the gift that connects us with our long-lost ancestors and with each other’s humanity


And a personal discovery as a scientist – the story, not the data, is the power


I, I can tell you a story

But it’s not only mine to tell

It’s made of our shared anatomy

And ancient rocks that sing as well


Oh us, only we possess this gift

To know all of our ancestors long gone

A story, bringing us all together now

United through flesh and blood and time and song


Oh, and we, we’re all storytellers

Yeah, we, we are all the story

We’re just chemo-electric souls

Telling stories with vibrating bones

And that’s how the past comes home to you and me

And we, we are all the story (you can hear us)

Yeah, we, we are all the story (deep inside you)


Oh, me, well I’ve been siloed for too long now

Suffocating in this ivory tower

Oh, I, I thought the data did the speaking

But now I know the story is the power!


So, can I reach you from a distance?

Can you feel my state of mind?

Has our imagination run astray?

Have we all run out of time?


If I can hear you

And you can hear me

And if we hear each other’s stories

Then there’s still time


Oh, you, you want to hear a story

It’s the most human thing we need

Oh, us, we’re all a part of this story

This tree of life, you and me


Oh, and we, we’re all storytellers

Yeah, we, we are all the story

We’re just chemo-electric souls

Telling stories with vibrating bones

And that’s how the past comes home to you and me

Oh, and we, we are all the story (you can hear us)

Yeah, we, we are all the story (all around you)


There are walls where none should be

So, we must tell each other’s stories

And I believe that will help to set us free

Because we, we are all the story

Yes, we, we are all the story


Once Upon Deep Time Reprise


So, now you know

‘Cause I’ve told you this story

Once upon deep time

It is far from complete

With mysteries replete

For all of humankind


Well, there’s only so much we all know

And there’s still so much farther to go

Till we see how the parts make a whole


It’s not too late

To realize

All the magic that is there

From the jaws of a fish

To the calls of a frog

To dinosaur songs in the air


So as the music takes us back

Once upon deep time

We connect to a living past

In the theater of the mind


Acknowledgments & Thank Yous


This project began in isolation during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic. What began as a way to work through a difficult time ultimately became something greater thanks to so many people.

Sincere thanks to the 2021 Stockton University Research & Professional Development committee, Dean Peter Straub, Provost Leamor Kahanov, and President Harvey Kesselman for supporting the sabbatical that helped produce Once Upon Deep Time. My heartfelt thanks to Neil Aaronson for help and advice with audio and for arranging and directing the choral portion of “Storytellers” with Stockton a Cappella; and to Michael McGarvey for his assistance and recruitment of art students to the project. Stockton a Cappella*, your vocals on “Storytellers” will mean more to me than you can ever know. A shout out and much love to David Hess for killer guitar parts on “Rightside Down” and “Storytellers.” Samantha “Sam” Giancarli, your tenor sax knocked it out of the park on “Distant Touch.” To the guys of The Lickerish Quartet - Eric Dover, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Tim Smith, thank you for making “Rightside Down” sound amazing. Joe Talvacchia, thank you so much for giving Maxwell Bonnan the foundations necessary to rock, and thank you for inspiring me to learn piano. To my children, Quinn and Maxwell Bonnan, thank you for putting up with dad’s annoying project. Maxwell, thank you for your original guitar work on “You Can Hear Us” and especially your songwriting and composition for “Blindsight.” Quinn, thank you for your vocals on “You Can Hear Us” and your Cherie Currie-inspired voice on “Blindsight.” I love you both. Finally, Erin Oswald, thank you for your love and support, and for helping me

see myself and nature with new eyes.


*Stockton a Cappella Fall 2022: Abby Rose Alcalde, Megan Baldwin, Ean Boakes, Anahi Boone, Barbara Branco, William Brust, Gracie Buondonno, Paige Butler, Bianca Capolupo, Chelsea Carbajal, Jessica Cerasaro, Maxwell Clayton, Robert Clemens, Olivia Commesso, Suzanna Cook, Emma Desiderio, Anthony Difelice, Olivia Di Spigna, Ryan Dooley, Isabelle Eisenstein, Caroline Eng, Reagan Erwin, Kierre Fenderson, Emma Fengya, Mariah Fishman,

Rabiyah Footman, Juliana Gonzalez,Reilly Hodge, Emily Jackson, Morgan Kahn, Jaclyn Kobilis, Hunter Kovach, Leah Kowalski, Jessica Lagary, Nicole Lampariello, Emily Magyar, Winnie Mei, Nicollette Mendes, Kimberly O'Beirne, Sophia Piparo, Tyler Raske, Carly Schenck, Kennedy Smith, Melissa Taps, Ava Troxel, Violet Vogel, Yamirah Williams, & Rebecca Yamoah


My childhood, teenage, and college inspriations - you were always in my headphones:

The Alan Parsons Project, Asia, The Beatles, The Cars, Crowded House, Dada, Def Leppard, DJ Shadow, The Eagles, Elton John, Freestyle, Genesis, Heart, Steve “Silky” Hurley, Imperial Drag, Indigo Girls, Jellyfish, Jesus Jones, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, M|A|R|R|S, Nine Inch Nails, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, The Police, Queen, Queensryche, REO Speedwagon, Lionel Richie, Rush, Talking Heads, They Might Be Giants, Toad the Wet Sprocket, UNKLE, Eric Woolfson, Yes


My audio heroes:

Trevor Horn, Quincy Jones, Robert “Mutt” Lange, George Martin, Alan Parsons


Mom & Dad - thanks for always filling our house with music!

Family & Friends - thank you for your support and encouragement!




About Matthew Bonnan

Matthew Bonnan is a Professor of Biology at Stockton University, a vertebrate paleontologist, an author, and a singer/songwriter. Since childhood he has been passionate about the evolution of life on Earth and music. Once Upon Deep Time combines both of these passions. (Photo by Erin Oswald.)







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