Music collaboration taken to the next level

Ideas, Inspiration, and Creativity

Art and science is based on sharing, whether the artist wants it or not, whether they do it actively or just by being influenced from each other. To some extend art is the transformation and expression of an observer’s view of his environment. What if an artist could extend his observation space to a global scale?

Music collaboration platform

There were several attempts to share ideas in the music world: Thousands of years ago people tried to make musical notation; in the 7th century it was believed that one cannot make notes about music, but around nine hundred years later in the 16th century the five line musical notation started it’s career to be the international accepted standard among musicians.  However, in the case of electronic music the advent of sharing music came with the development of the MP3 file format, which reduced the file size in order of a magnitude.

The consequence of the highly reduced file size for music tracks in combination with the Internet with reasonable bandwith, was the idea of P2P networks we saw in the late 90’s like:

  • Napster,
  • Gnutella,
  • and long time later the BitTorrent technology.

Now fast forward ten years and we see collaboration platforms like “Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia” for knowledge sharing or MySpace where a lot of artists share their music and ideas. I do not like MySpace, it is overloaded, the user interface is an insult and simply hurting my eyes, but people use MySpace. Which means that I have to  use MySpace mainly because other people I care of are using it, too.

Electronic music in context of the Internet

I have three all-time favorite CD’s (in chronological order):

Autechre, aka. the story of the broken CD

Autechre - Tri RepetaeIt was the summer of 1996 or 1997 when I was at this small second hand shop in Esslingen. At that time I was DJ’ing at Breakdance-Battles and just newly had discovered electronic music. There was this golden CD with barely any text on it. Out of curiosity I listened to it at the shop and after a short while I started to hit the CD player, because I thought the CD was jumping or had scratches. After double checking the CD for scratches I realized that Tri Repetae was ment to sound like that.

Back then I had no Internet and it was incredible difficult to figure out who Autechre was, which other albums they had, and what kind of music it was. Most of my Breakdance and battle friends declared me for completely nuts for listening to such “noise”.

Today you go to http://discogs.com/ and have instant access to all information around the artist you are interested in. Most of today’s electronic music you can even buy at iTunes or Beatport.

Meeting Speedy J: the Loudboxer experience

Speedy J - LoudboxerHalf a decade later after listening to Public Energy No. 1 for quite a while already, I checked Speedy J’s website. I was in University with a decent Internet connection. Back then I started getting interested in computers and into programming and the University gave me a nice Sun Ultra-10 SPARC workstation to experiment with. I installed Linux on that SPARC machine and things like flash graphics did not work. It turned out that Speedy J’s website was flash only! There I was – poor guy – with a high end workstation but not able to see his favorite artist’s website. At that time I gave introduction courses for web programming with PHP and I wrote the website’s webmaster an angry email about the site not working for me.

And that’s how it happened that I eventually wrote a text-only version of Speedy J’s flash-only website and later I installed him an open source forum software called Phorum after the launch of Loudboxer. Jochem really liked the forum and I got a free guestlist promise to one of his live performances. There it was – Loudboxer – this album with this one huge and long track which was also several tracks. Tracks seamlessly evolving to other tracks; not like DJ’s beatmatching and blending records: no, this was one album from one artist with his own tracks! It was amazing, he even mixed in a recording of a live performance into this album. Truly shocking; – and that was in 2002.

Doppelhelixxx – Immer auf die Kleinen, aka. how artists get inspiration

Doppelhelixx - Immer auf die KleinenMy brother, aka. Seven, and I grow up in a small village in the south of Germany. Soon we got interested in this new Rap music and Hip-Hop stuff; Public Enemy were our heroes quite expressing our feelings being “Gastarbeiter-Kinder” in Germany. Around 1992 we started organizing Breakdance-Battles. So it happened that my brother listened to this Funk, Soul, Electro Funk, and Beats and Scratches music, while I was training hours and hours scratching and beatmatching. Late 1994 we also got in touch with Breakbeats and Drum and Bass, which opened a whole new universe for us.

Being influenced in this context means also the aspect of being Turkish, but born and raised in Germany. Listening to Turkish music now and then and watching stupid Turkish movies of the mid 80’s. Influenced in this sense also means the advent of computer graphics in cinema movies with it’s clear climax in Terminator’s morph scene. In such an environment Doppelhelixxx a true mulit-kulti band was born: The Seven (Orhan, Turkish Gasterbeiter-Kind), The Scan (Kreshnik, Albanian Gastarbeiter-Kind), and The Duke (Daniel, plain German kid) and they produced albums like:

Teminator vs. Barış is Doppelhelixxx’ very early work and they never really released it. I have a CD with hand written titles of it. This album introduces the listener to Funk and Hip-Hop based rhythms, paired with samples from the international known Turkish Rock musician Barış Manço in contrast to the German dubbed quotes from Terminator the movie, shifted to an electronic level.

Clearly “Immer auf die Kleinen” is my all time favorite. When I wrote the text-only version of Speedy J’s website I also showed Loudboxer — this many-tracks-but-also-a-single-track-album — to my brother. After a while he got hooked into the idea and more than a years work later he finished “Immer auf die Kleinen“; this patchwork of Hip-Hop background, touched by Breakbeats, quotes from Turkish movies, distorted by the information music of Autechre, still each track perfectly blending into each other. Immer auf die Kleinen is a journey — maybe a very personal journey — into music without constraints or a clear genre.

A new project of Speedy J and Soundcloud

Speedy J is known to push the limits of what is possible in electronic music production. It was a bit quiet after Loudboxer around Speedy J, but Jochem was not standing still. He toured a lot and played numerous live sets. After Loudboxer he started his Collabs series, producing tracks with other artists like Chris Liebing.

Not a long time ago a reasonable electronic music live act could end up in renting a truck to get your equipment on stage. Today that equipment fits into a off the shelf laptop. This huge technological improvement influenced electronic music artists, too, of course. Think of Richie Hawtin playing with three turntable decks and his effect machine in 1999; now playing with four virtual decks with the help of two laptops. Think of Ricardo Villalobos’ “Narod Niki” project where eight electronic music artist perform a joint live act on their laptops. Or think of the quite contrary: Laptopbattle‘s where eight electronic music artists compete against each other live on stage.

Open Collabs

And of course Jochem Paap aka. Speedy J topping all of it by starting his latest project called Open Collabs.

Open Collabs

“Collaboration is the way forward. We have to rethink how we deal with intellectual property. Creative Commons is a good start. The way we all discover, consume, share, recommend music / art has changed dramatically over the last few years, invented and driven by ourselves. We have already decided how we want things to work, so it’s about time institutions / legal frameworks are adjusted to catch up. The current attitude of the indusrty (DRM, calling people pirates, etc) only causes polarization between consumers and the industry, and causes a whole generation to grow up in a climate with disregard for intellectual property. This project is an attempt to set an example on how the changed infrastructure and culture can be seen as an environment for creation, inspiration, collaboration, fun, fair treatment of all collaborators and their material, and hopefully a cool end result”.

You will find even more details at http://www.speedyj.com/opencollabs/

This leads us to

Soundcloud is something like MySpace, but with a crystal clear design, user interface, and focus on sharing music and ideas. Of course, you have the nowadays mandatory social networking, instant messaging, and all the buzz-word stuff in there, too.

Speedy J created an account called “Open Collabs” at Soundcloud and asked people to drop him tracks and snippets. In that way he collected an amazing amount of around 200 tracks and ideas from people all over the world  in the period of November to December 2008. Now he is working with the collected material to form his latest album; in true collaboration style: all earnings of that album will be shared 50/50.

Music collaboration

The idea of music collaboration is not really new in the Internet. There are well established sites like:

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