Music To Die Alone In Space To is a full-length LP electronic album by Spruke with a brand-new distribution paradigm that is unprecedented in digital music: every copy of the album is unique to that owner, re-recorded in full with new parts, new sounds, and a voiceover performance done by the user's choice of performer of any gender, language, and cultural identity.
Adrift and Asphyxiating: The Sound
Music To Die Alone In Space To sounds like the Tron: Legacy soundtrack collided with deep house, with a deliberately patient pacing that's like an audiobook met Brian Eno's Music For Airports. It's narrated by an astronaut who has been set adrift in space, cut from the cord tethering them to their spaceship by a rogue particle of space dust. Drifting away helplessly and endlessly according to the laws of inertia, they have an hour of air left to ponder the significance of what's happening to them and all the heavens they can see in every direction.
The sound is a very controlled interpretation of what the pure physics and chemistry and math of the infinity of the universe might sound like, out in the void. Synthesis and patterns rule the day, with no "real" or earth-invoking instruments to be found anywhere on the album; even chords or musical patterns that might invoke specific earthern cultures are avoided. The only percussion is the steady heartbeat of the astronaut, the only sounds are the internal beeps and systems of the suit combined with the overpowering synth sounds of nebulas, black holes, and neutrinos. And the entire thing is mixed especially with a concern for the stereo field and the audio representation of what it might be like to hear it all from within a space helmet.
Track "Neutrinos", rendering number 5, Representation of infinitesimally small particles passing through the individual, 53 second preview
So every copy is unique? How unique?
The album is re-recorded in full with new settings for every backer- that unique. Check out the infographic below for a better idea of what goes on.
Many sections of the album, usually at least one segment per track, are not songwritten in the conventional sense, by writing out musical parts or programming synths, but rather by creating a system of patterns and rules that cause musical content to be written and synths to be generated. These organically and unpredictably created elements combine with planned, conventionally written passages that act as landmarks and recurring themes, to make every single time we output the track individually gorgeous and unique- one instantiation of what the track could be. Check out two renders of "Void" below, so much the same song yet each copy so different.
Track "Void", rendering number 3, 43 second preview
Track "Void", rendering number 4, 43 second preview
We've chosen only reverb and delay units that are nondeterministic- every track is exclusively made with dense delays and reverbs that do real spatial modeling with imperfections, and mix in 24/96 before being dithered down and will contain subtle imprints and differences in every recording. You'll hear unique little "ghost" sounds, invisible echoes, a thousand tiny imperceptible ways in which your copy has real depth and space that set it apart. The two following mixes of "Rotations" were from the same render, but mixed differently, and a very close listen, especially in headphones, can reveal any number of imperceptible tiny differences in the space and echoes.
Track "Rotations", rendering number 2, mix placement 1, 77-second preview
Track "Rotations", rendering number 2, mix placement 2, 77-second preview
I can choose the identity of my voiceover performer?
Yes! Part of the mission of this album's high level of personalization is that it's meant to sell the awe and terror of being adrift in space to you, and just having one canonical voiceover wouldn't accomplish that. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the $2000 target we're trying to hit here is to hire that many voice actors. It's enough to hire the first twelve voice actors backers will be able to choose from, the first four of which have already been recorded:
- American Male speaking in English with emotional vulnerability (Mikey Neumann)
- Indian Female speaking in English with Hindi accent
- British Female speaking in English with Moderately British accent (Melissa Hollick)
- South African Male speaking in English
When you back this Kickstarter, please make your vote for what gender, language, and accent you wish to see among the next nine choices yet to be supplied in the forum. We will be doing our very best to use up the remainder of the budget on the nine stated preferences from the forum that will satisfy the most people and cover the greatest range possible. Adding support for more voice actors is certainly a possible stretch goal.
Track "Distant", rendering number 1, Hindi-accented English female narration, user-supplied "Footsteps In The Snow" by Debussy as the song the radio catches, 23-second preview
Track "Distant", rendering number 2, South African Male, English, user-supplied "Symphony in G Minor" by Mozart as the song the radio catches, 20-second preview
These cover arts are pretty!
That's good to hear, because another part of the customization is that you'll have your choice of any cover art for your exported copy! The .mp3's you receive will have associated album art with the cover art you select when you choose your rewards. Six can be seen in this post already; we'll go up to a dozen as one of the stretch goals is crossed!
What's the "Canon" copy?
There will be one pair of renders of the album, called Canon A and Canon B, that become the version which will eventually find their way into Spotify, Google Play, iTunes, and other distribution venues (which would frown on having three hundred variants of the same album submitted, one might think). They will be considered the canonical, official version of the album, although in our hearts, the true version of the album is the nondeterministic amalgam that exists among the hundreds of copies.
If you want to enjoy the album but can't afford one of the uniquely recorded copies, you can still sign up for just getting the Canonical copies, which is still like getting a really cool album!
Who is "we"?
I've been using "we" in this Kickstarter because as the massive workload of re-recording the album two hundred or more times drags on, we'll be involving more people to help, and it's going to take friends and collaborators pitching in to help everything come together in a timely fashion without burning Spruke out; and the final project will feature art by third parties and the talents of a dozen voice actors. But, by and large, this is a Spruke work. The music is by Spruke, and the concept and execution are by Spruke.
Special thanks goes to the following people who have made this project extra-possible: Special thanks goes to Natasha Lewis Harrington, who co-wrote the astronaut's soliloquy with me; Lauren Orsini, who helped me put the KS itself together; Cory Perla, who interviewed me for my Kickstarter video and had valuable advice as a professional music journalist, and my wife Sarah Kaiser, who's been hearing about this for the last eight months since before we were even married and maintained genuine excitement about it the whole time.
(Anti-) Copyright statement
For backers pledging at a tier that gives them the personal unique copy of the album, we also grant them full rights to their copy, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, as detailed here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/. If you get a personal unique copy of the album, you may stream with it, broadcast it, burn as many copies as you want of it and give or even sell them to your friends, upload it to YouTube, set a college movie project to it, whatever you want, without running afoul of content ID. The only thing you may not do is sell it through a Digital Distribution outlet under Spruke's name or any other name, so as to avoid confusing the service with the de facto canonical copy. Do whatever you want with it otherwise!
Wow! Let's take a closer look at some of these.
The first thing that was important to me is that I wanted some of the stretch goals to feature more elements of audience interaction and choosing the direction of your own album– after all, that's what Music To Die Alone In Space To is about. That's why at the $7000 mark, all current backers at that time will be polled to choose a new concept to explore for an eleventh (or twelfth) track on the album! I've built a free-association word list of nearly every single space idea I can think of plus a bunch of emotional/loneliness-related ideas, and together you'll all decide what the theme for a new track on the album will be. Will you collectively vote to make a track themed around representing a Gas Giant musically? Binary stars? The idea of absolute zero? Who knows! I don't know how I would even go interpreting some of these yet, but I will follow where you all lead!
It'll be "choose as many as you like", so don't fret about narrowing it down. Feel free to message me with MORE word-associations and I will put them on the poll if you get them to me before we cross the $7K mark!
At $8000 we're making a Canon C. This gives people who are at the "one album" tier ($10) a third choice of a preset album to take as their reward, and gives people at the $19 and custom+ tiers a whole additional copy in their rewards bundle!
And at $9000, we're blowing up the number of cover arts to choose from- from the six lovely ones you're already used to, to a whole dozen! Enjoy them all in your digital assets folder, or put them on the cover of your custom-tier copy!
And at $10,000, we do the custom-word-association-new-track tango again! The album will be up to 12 tracks, with two of them based on concepts you supplied me with!
Risks and challenges
There is not that much of a risk here. Spruke has six published albums to his name already, and has not experienced issues publishing any of them; and on this particular project, all the files are backed up to the cloud regularly to prevent computer disasters from waylaying the project. At this point, we're in a spot where our house could burn down and we could still reproduce the album.
There is an outside chance that severe health issues or the like to the creator could sideline the project after it's funded, but that would be a pretty dreadful scenario.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (22 days)