Science, Sound, Tattoos


First tattoo, my design. Here’s the story behind it.

Tycho Brahe’s Universe

The main part of the design is the Tycho Brahe model of the universe, a compromise between the geocentric (Copernican) and heliocentric (Ptolemaic) models. Brahe believed the Earth was at the center of the universe and that the sun and moon orbited the earth, while the planets orbited the sun. As you may already have noted, this is inconsistent with what we observe of the universe today. However, it was a paradigm shift in thinking that nudged us — and our egos — from the center of the picture, building toward a more accurate model. In fact, one of Brahe’s apprentices was Johannes Kepler, who, in later years, used Brahe’s work as the basis for the laws of planetary movement.

Here’s where it gets a little weird.

While I was doing some more research about Brahe, I learned that he apparently wore a prosthetic nose, allegedly a result of a sword duel:

“Tycho had earlier quarrelled with Parsbjerg over the legitimacy of a mathematical formula, at a wedding dance at professor Lucas Bachmeister’s house on the 10th, and again on the 27th. Since neither had the resources to prove the other wrong, they ended up resolving the issue with a duel.”

I kind of dig the fact that the nature of drunken academic disputes has barely evolved in the last few centuries. (I’m smarter than you. No, I’m smarter that you!”) Not to mention, this wasn’t Brahe’s only memorable brawl. He also got into a feud with Galileo.

And then…there’s the bizarre story about his pet moose:

The hoofed critter would trot alongside Brahe’s carriage like a loyal dog and lived inside his castle. But, unfortunately, it also appears to have developed a regrettable taste for Danish beer […] A nearby nobleman had asked him to send the moose to his castle to entertain the guests at a party. As the dinner wore on, the creature grew increasingly tipsy until it eventually wound up roaring drunk. According to Brahe’s biographer Pierre Gassendi, shortly thereafter, “the moose had ascended the castle stairs and drunk of the beer in such amounts that it had fallen down [them]” to its eventual demise.

Voyager and the Golden Record

On the outermost ring of my tattoo is an aerial view of a record needle, a symbol etched on the Voyager spacecraft’s Golden Record:


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The Voyager space craft is best known for being the only man-made object to have exited the heliosphere, traveling farther than anything else humans have ever built. The Golden Record was a project (directed by Carl Sagan) to create an all-encompassing sonic record of life on Earth to send off into space. Think of it as an audio time capsule of our existence, meant for anyone or anything that may eventually find it.

The ethos of that project was this: “To the makers of music — all worlds, all times.”

On that record are sound samples of 55 languages, whale calls, folk songs, heartbeats, you name it. Listen to an excerpt of an ancient Chinese folk song on that record:

Not surprisingly, a radio piece made me fall in love with this project, the story of how Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan fell for each other:


On a macro level, the tattoo design also resembles a mandala, elaborate and artful circular symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism. The psychologist Carl Jung once wrote that mandalas are expressions of the “totality of the self.” They are also used as representations of the universe:

In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.

Monks who are trained to create mandalas spend days, even months working on meticulous designs, only to destroy them after they are finished. They are reminders of the impermanence of life itself — how the things we build, no matter how beautiful nor coveted, will eventually give into entropy. This follows the Hindu cycle of the universe, a belief that things are created and destroyed repeatedly, which I believe to be true in science and in ourselves. Matter and energy within the universe combine in a multitude of permutations to give us elements, planets, stars, and life. Within us, the energy and matter that encompass us allow us to experience life through suffering, joy, and healing (forces of destruction and creation in their own right).

THE MANDALA (A Short Documentary of the The Celestial Palace)


I also have a penchant for circles.

Mathematically, circles incredibly intriguing. They have an infinite number of tangents, and all points in a circle are equidistant from a center point, giving it a unique symmetry. Then, there’s the infamous value of  π, taken from a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter (C/d), which has maddened mathematicians and mystics alike. The number continues without a sensible pattern into infinity; the fact that such an irrational number can be derived from such a symmetrical shape is simultaneously fascinating and perplexing.

In nature, circles occur almost everywhere you look: ripples, halos around the sun, craters, bubbles, hurricanes. They also occur in man-made objects, e.g. clocks, wheels, bowls, compasses, buttons. They have come to symbolize balance and perfection, despite the fact that perfect geometry only truly exists in abstraction.

…Which brings us to the whirling dervishes from the Mevlevi Order. You’ve probably seen movies or photographs of whirling dervishes: men dressed in white gowns and tall hats spinning continuously – as if in a trance– usually on a stage or in a large hall. This dance, called the Sema, originated in the 13th century:

The Sema represents a journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to the “Perfect.” Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the “Perfect.” He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, able to love and to be of service to the whole of creation. The Sema is a testament to the dizzying effects of attempting to reach perfection.

If you think about it, the earth spins on its axis; the planets rotate around the sun. The quantum particles around and in us vibrate and spin, though undetected by the naked eye. Because we are rooted on the earth and made up of these particles, we are all eternally spinning. We are all constantly attempting, reaching to be better than ourselves.

Whirling dervishes

In short, the synthesis of all these symbols is a reminder of our collective longing for perfection, the perpetual pursuit of knowledge, our impermanence in this world, and two things that have made a lasting impact in my life thus far: science and sound.

Age of Exploration: Adventure is Out There!

It is with deep pride and pleasure that I present to you my sophomore album, Age of Exploration. Ta-da!

This album is about places, transit, and adventure. My biggest hope is that it will inspire you to explore the world around you as well as the one within you. Dare to step out of your comfort zone, try something new, meet interesting people! Surprise yourself. Then, tell me all about it!

The entire album will be available FREE for streaming on SoundCloud until 11:59pm Pacific. You can also purchase your digital copies online. There are no physical copies of the album YET, but I will work on getting those out to you soon! (As most of you know by now, I recently relocated to Chicago, IL, so I’m still getting settled in!)

If you’re interested in the Age of Exploration Travel Guide, which includes extra album artwork, song lyrics, and full album credits, send me an e-mail at with “Travel Guide” in the subject line. These items will eventually be available in the album’s physical version.

Adventure is out there! Go find it, and listen to this album along the way. Let the journeys begin.

Big, big love to you,

Lily Bee

P.S. I LOVE live reactions. Feel free to e-mail or tweet me as you listen to it. I want to know what you think, whether you love it or hate it!

Also, if you’re going to tweet about the album, use the hashtag #AgeofExploration and tag me @dangerbui!

Seven Days at Sea: A Father’s Day Story

The story behind “Thuyền” (meaning “boat” in Vietnamese), a song on the new album Age of Exploration.

My dad recently came to Chicago with me to help me move. When he first emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in the 1970s, he ended up in Chicago. He was around the same age as I am now. I asked him whether I could interview him for a story. This is what resulted.

This next album is about exploring the world around you as well as the world within you. This interview helped me do both things.

CARMA: What Goes Around Comes Around (In Space)

A radio story for the new Lily Bee Music Podcast

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Music and sound clips from this episode:

Hoagy Carmichael – “Stardust”

Bill Nye the Science Guy (PBS) – Outer Space

ACME School – radio waves

Helpful links:

How Radio Astronomy Works

Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) and CARMA Official Site

“Star Sailor” – original song from far too long ago in my YouTube history:


Sometimes, you don’t fully process things until you’ve let yourself go through them. I find myself writing this in medias res, but I can’t help jotting something down. Something in me needs to speak.

Yesterday was our last show on the east coast tour. We made our last stop Chloe’s Coffee in Gaithersburg for a handful of reasons, the main one being that when I lived in Maryland, I was a regular at Chloe’s. It was a musical home base for me in many ways. Not too long ago, I was just a girl with a uke who showed up at open mics on Wednesday evenings to play for whomever might listen. To see the room filled with familiar faces and new faces (for essentially the same songs and same silly girl with a uke) warmed me to the core.


I’m at the cusp of the ending and beginning of many things. As far as endings go, I know that this will be the last tour that we do for ‘Daydream at Midnight,’ an album that still reflects such a huge part of me, though almost two years have passed since I first wrote the songs. It’s the end of being on the road for the month; I finally get to go home to my room, my car, my gym, my family and friends.

As for beginnings, I’m getting ready to release ‘Age of Exploration,’ an album that speaks for much of my life since the first album and beyond. Also, while I was away, I received the news that I was accepted to an internship in Chicago, IL. That means I’ll be moving to a brand new city in fewer than three weeks! Don’t worry—I’ll be making music indefinitely, so you can quell your fears of radio silence from my channels.

Life is one incredibly crazy journey, and if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that the people I’ve met have been my favorite stops along the way. The cities that I’ve visited would have been empty experiences if it weren’t for the laughs, meals, conversations, walks, cartwheels, and photos I’ve shared with new and old friends.

Mind vs. Heart

Logic vs. Intuition

Art vs. Science

On the road, I realized that these forces in particular constantly collide inside me, but I’ve come to learn that life is most beautiful when they work in tandem. After all, both sides have an inherent desire to pursue, discover, and understand the Truth. A couple years back in this blog, I wrote, “Reason over passion and temperance over both.” Now, after living a little more of life, I’d like to iterate that perhaps reason and passion can co-exist, with temperance as a sort of referee.

In this ongoing pursuit of Truth, I know that I will continue to find myself along the way. We’re changing all the time, yet we never really change at all. Funny, isn’t it?

On crossroads

I stand by what I said before: “home” is as much a physical place as it is a feeling, a relationship with things and people around you. I’ve found that my definition of home evolves through time. It’s fickle, sometimes stubborn. Malleable.

This east coast tour is quite special to me on a personal level — not just because it’s our first one as a band but also because it takes us through cities that hold a special place in my heart. I’ve spent my fair share of time in Boston with family and dear friends. My love affair with New York is one that never ceases to flicker because of the plethora of things the city has to offer. Washington, D.C. begat my first-ever solo album and was the springboard for my musical life. The east coast has been a second home to me.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to reconcile the rift between east and west and have since then given up on trying to find a happy medium. I decided that I am the medium because of how much I love both places. I’ll never be able to give up perennial sunshine, idyllic coasts, or flip flops. Simultaneously, I’ll never fall out of love with skyscrapers, city lights, and the litany of large crowds. I love my TV shows and my NPR podcasts. I’ll take my ComiCon and my museum lectures.  I’ll take my shopping sprees and my library splurges. At this point in my life, I realize that crossroads are the norm and not the exception. I’m perfectly content with that. I’m content with being who I am and everything (and everyone) that has led me to learn who that is.

The Dreamers and I played our first show in New York last night at Caffe Vivaldi. In a big way, this was a dream come true. A little less than two years ago, I was writing songs in an empty room on a hardwood floor, diffidently speculating, “What would it be like to play New York City with my own band, on tour?”

Last night, I answered that question for myself: it feels incredible.

SNEAK PEEK: The Making of the Album ‘Age of Exploration’

Why, hello there.

I’ve been in the studio this month with my band creating some ear candy and cannot wait to share it with you all! We’ve got a great team working on this album, so I hope we can deliver something that you’ll enjoy. 🙂

The title of this upcoming album is (drumroll) “Age of Exploration.” Each song on this record is either about a different place in the world, or the song was written while I was somewhere away from home. It’s an effort to represent places that I’ve seen and people I’ve met during my travels, hopefully encouraging anyone listening to the songs to get out there and do some traveling themselves!

Here’s a brief video into what we’ve been up to in the studio. If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste this URL:

I’m happy to have taken you along with me on this journey to creating my sophomore album. Many of you have tuned in from the very beginning of my songwriting process to my demo recording, and now studio recording. I hope that my updates have been helpful in understanding how an album comes together, how songs evolve, and how many people are involved in this collaborative process.

Instrumentally, this album features the trumpet, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, cello, harmonium,  accordion, castanets, taiko drums, Vietnamese dan tranh, glockenspiel/celeste, and many more little trinkets on top of the normal ukulele/guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. Just a little teaser for you. 😉
Other stuff

  • The music video release for “Up” will be happeaning on March 30, 2012! Find more details here. We’ll be playing a live show at Viento y Agua Cafe in Long Beach (also on Livestream) and premiering the video live as well as online at my YouTube channel!
  • Our April East Coast Tour is happening on these dates! Please tell your friends and family on the east coast to stop by! We’d love to see you and/or them!
  • Send me stuff (if you want)! My P.O. Box address is P.O. Box 1421, Los Alamitos, CA 90720 in case you want to send me any postcards, letters, or bee-related things! Be warned: I am a gift-giver-backer! If you send me something, you’ll likely get something back in return!

As always, feel free to Tweet, Facebook message, or e-mail me. I love hearing from you!



P.S. Here are some photos from this month’s studio recording sessions for your viewing pleasure!

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Southwest tour wrap-up, April east coast tour, and other announcements

Traveling becomes something entirely different when you make people — as opposed to places — your destinations.

Before this tour, I’d never driven down the desolate, desert road leading into and out of Phoenix, AZ, or walked through downtown Austin’s motley portrait of nightlife on a Thursday evening. I never could have imagined the modest beauty of Ohio in winter. And because I’d been to San Diego before, our tour stop there could have easily been like any other previous trip, had it not been for all the incredible people that met us there. The same goes for each and every stop: these places and experiences would have meant nothing if I had no one to share them with.

In case I haven’t said it enough lately, thank you to ALL of you who have supported my music in one way or another. I’m fortunate to have been able to thank those of you who came to live shows in person – if I haven’t been able to do this yet, please know that I intend to at the first chance I get!

I am undeniably blessed to be able to share my music with others who so quickly and ardently support it. I know full well that opportunities like these can be fleeting, few, and far between.

After being on the road and meeting fellow musicians, music enthusiasts, and artists alike, I feel increasingly connected to the limitless network of creative minds that encompasses this world. I am humbled to know I can contribute to it.

March will be my most sedentary month yet, though there will be a lot of creative activity. Here are a few things to look forward to this month:

1) Release of another official music video;

2) Recording of my second album; and

3) Planning/coordinating April’s east coast tour (poster below).

I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me, so it’s best I don’t lag! Again, thank you to each and every one of you for your support. I wouldn’t be doing this without it. 🙂

Your traveling (now sedentary) musician friend,


P.S. For live feeds and updates, follow me on Twitter @dangerbui and like my Facebook page at 🙂

“Stardust” – new demo and free download!

First of all, HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR! I hope those of you who celebrated had a lovely time doing so. Wishing you much happiness for the Year of the Dragon up ahead!

So, I’m going to show you a demo of a new song. (Eep!)

As some of you know, I’ve been recording some demos for songs that will be featured on the new album, set to be recorded in March 2012 (yay!). I’ll be working with Lewis Richards, a producer at 17thStreet Records in Newport Beach, CA. I’m confident that we’ll create a record that we’re satisfied with and am excited about this new partnership. My biggest hope is that you’ll all enjoy the final product too!

Here’s a bare-bones version of a song I wrote called “Stardust.” It’s inspired by Carl Sagan, Hoagy Carmichael, Vladimir Nabakov, and an MBTA ride through Cambridge, Massachusetts. (I‘ll save the full story for live performances in order to prevent a lengthy e-mail.) While you’re listening, keep in mind that this song is just a demo version and will most likely evolve a bit in the studio. Click the image or here to listen.


Free download of the song here:

I also lied. I originally said that I’d show you a demo, which implies the singular (= one demo). What I really meant to say is that I’ll be sharing THREE new demos with you, including this one.  Keep an ear out for them. 🙂

As always, I appreciate your feedback and love to hear from you! Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think!


Lily Bee

boston uncommons

Boston, you came at a good time. Just when I was lamenting the fact that I might not experience a “real” winter (first world problem, I know), this Boston trip comes along and brings temperatures in the 30s, Dunkin Donuts, cannolis, bare trees, and New England clam chowder (in New England). Ah, chilly bliss.

The show at Boston College was tons of fun, and I had fun meeting everyone after the show as well. Boston College’s VSA did a great job decorating the Vandy Cabaret Room. Wish I had taken pictures while I was there >_<, but I’ll wait for them to be posted on Facebook to steal for a blog post. Can’t wait to come back for our April show!

The best part was hanging out with old friends, meeting new ones, (awkwardly) saying the wrong name of one on stage, wreaking silliness and havoc in the city, meeting up with an old junior high school friend, taking the wrong T train (twice), hanging out with family, teaching my niece to play ukulele, and so much more to come this week.

I feel warm and filled with love (and food). Even though the holidays can sometimes feel like a hyperbolic campaign for capitalism, I feel rich in friends and memories this season.