America is broken and abandoned. Relics from humankind's brief stay are slowly being reclaimed by nature, and one damning question lingers: What happened here? In Pieces, Buffalo electronic musician and composer Spruke will tell you—one piece at a time. Pieces is an album that is individually rerecorded from scratch for individual backers, creating unique copies, each with their own music and story fragments.
Spruke's previous Kickstarted ambient music album Music To Die Alone In Space To featured the same album being rerecorded 310 times with unique variations for every backer. On Pieces, he will expand on this concept by adding an innovative new system of distributed storytelling.
Cassettes. Handheld recorders. Radio broadcasts. Voicemails. When Americans saw their country dissolve around them, they left all of these and more lying everywhere, and you'll hear fragments of them as you move through a unique copy of the album... but never the whole story.
There are dozens of recordings, some with twenty or more minutes of source material, that only appear in short, glitched segments on each individual copy. Perhaps Listener A's copy has twenty seconds of a cassette recording in which a fight can be heard, but Listener B's copy has the next twenty seconds in which you can hear an apology... or screams. Backers will have to work together, pool their knowledge, take notes, and string together copies to reverse-engineer the answers to these pressing questions: What happened to America? What happened to the people? Whose stories are we hearing?
The Music: Bleak, Apocalyptic, Unforgiving
The music itself, just like the dialogue and storytelling, is randomly generated on every copy from indeterminate pattern generations. Rather than "write music", there's an engine of algorithms Spruke puts into all the tracks. Some are "stable" tracks that only vary lightly, providing room for "wild" tracks to discover any number of unforeseen amazing patterns. Everything, at some point, is up for variation and randomization throughout the album. Chord progressions, rhythm sections, drum sounds, reverb and delay spaces, mixing placement, bass riffs, and even what kinds of amps are on a guitar are all continually tweaked while each copy of the album is exported.
Oh, and this time, it's available on vinyl. That's right. We are partnering with Meep Records, a single-run lathe-cut vinyl manufacturer, to make it possible for the first time to own literally the only copy of an album in existence. The unique copies of Pieces fit on a double LP, and Meep has a machine that can cut a specific vinyl once without having to press a master plate. So, we aren't talking, oh, hard-to-find vinyls that are a collector's item... we're talking about having a vinyl on your shelf that is the only copy in the world of that record.
The Album Within An Album
When America falls, the musicians of the time period don't sit around and let it happen. These albums contain fragments of the music of this alternate future. They appear in fits and starts between other tracks; ten seconds as a lead-in to a piano piece, or a thirty-second interlude between two tracks, or maybe fifteen seconds of radio static between ambient passages where you can hear a radio station almost tuning into this song but not quite finding it. I've hired hip-hop artists, barbershop quartets, folk singers, grrl garage punk, country singers, and more from this hypothetical future that may never come to pass, to come back in time and put their songs in tiny pieces on this album.
Imagine, in the middle of a moving ambient passage, hearing tiny strains of what feels like a pop or classic rock song you should know, but have never heard, and will never come to hear. A verse sounds good, and maybe you can learn the rest of the song from another recording. Or maybe this is all you get. This is the album within an album: an album's worth of original tracks recorded only to live as pieces within the context of this album.
The album-within-an-album songs will be guarded and never released in unmangled, whole format for the duration of the Kickstarter's fulfillment. At the completion of fulfillment, when all unique copies have been shipped out and people have had time to fall in love with the fragmented hints of the tracks, it will be released for real, and backers at the $25 tier and above will receive the album within an album for download.
Pieces already has all the amazing examples of gorgeous art you've seen above, and once it funds, the goal is to have twenty or more. Art director Jeff Good has teamed up with featured artist Martyn Knapton and dozens of other artists to create an immersive and cohesive art experience that pulls the viewer into the experience of the end of America.
Jeff has made sure a wide variety of styles are represented throughout the art, and pieces span the artistic spectrum from photorealistic image manipulation to gorgeous, lush watercolor.
Backers at the $25 tier and above will receive all the arts in high-res 3600x3600 jpg and/or png. At higher tiers, you can enjoy them in print, in a lustrous art book: Pieces (Of Paper).
Pieces will be released under standard copyright, but will never be filed for any form of Content ID or copyright match database. Obtaining releases from so many people precluded us from releasing it under any kind of Creative Commons license, but Spruke has every intention for you to be able to stream your unique copy, put it on YouTube, distribute your unique copy to others, and so on. The standard copyright license is intended only to protect our contributors from downright malicious usage of their content. All other rights regarding Pieces are reserved. This means that, for example, you would not be able to take elements of your unique copy and use them in new works, or use your unique copy in association with or to promote any racist, sexist, homophobic, or other objectionable causes.
There is an explicit commitment to diversity in the representation of this album. There are more than three dozen total individuals involved in the creation of all the art, stories, voice dialogue, world-building, code-hiding, and instrument-playing, which creates an excellent opportunity to ensure that the voices of many different kinds of Americans are heard.
- Bill "Spruke" Boulden: That's me! I'm Spruke, and I'm overseeing everything and doing all the music and writing all the programs that make the synthesizers decide to invent new patterns of beeps for booping and boops for beeping. I'm a lot of everything. I have degrees in Computer Science and Music Composition, which, well, natch, here we are.
- Natasha Lewis Harrington: Natasha cowrote the monologue for Music to Die Alone in Space To, and is working with me on the overall vision as well as writing individual monologues. She is an autistic activist with a doctorate in clinical psychology and an interest in confronting all kinds of oppression.
- Jeff Good: Jeff is the art director of the project and has been responsible for soliciting all the amazing artwork you see throughout this project, assists in managing finances, and will oversee QA during fulfillment.
- Mikey Neumann: Mikey is a former Chief Creative Champion at Gearbox Software, turned entertainer through the Movies with Mikey media series. He is contributing voice acting.
- Laura Bailey: Laura is a voice actress best known as Trunks, Lust, Jaina, Rise, and Chun-Li. On Pieces, she portrays the President of the United States.
- Patrick Chapin: Patrick is a game designer at Direwolf Digital and a 2012 inductee into the Magic: The Gathering Hall Of Fame. He has been a frequent collaborator of Spruke's for nearly a decade. He contributes both creative writing and voice acting.
- Marty Knapton: Marty is a graphic designer who is doing numerous artworks and assisting Jeff Good as art director.
- Ryan Kairalla: Ryan is an entertainment lawyer from Miami who is working hard to ensure for us that a project this weird and unique can exist in a legal sense. He's also contributing creative writing and voice acting.
- Darcie Little Badger: Darcie is a Lipan Apache author from Texas who is contributing multiple passages and some voice performance as well.
- Terence Wiggins: Terence "TheBlackNerd" Wiggins is a writer and journalist from Virginia who writes about gaming, depression, and his best friend Samson. He's contributing writing and voice acting.
- Evan Lamb: Evan Lamb is a guitarist from Texas. He is contributing the electric guitar source material from which the Nondeterministic Blues Track will be algorithmically generated on each copy.
- Elisa Melendez: Elisa is a sociologist and musician from Texas. She is contributing a passage and voice acting, and the source vocal material from which the Nondeterministic Blues Track will be algorithmically generated on each copy.
- Geoff Boulden: Geoff is Spruke's father, yes, but he brings some really cool skills to this project. Spruke grew up admiring his talented father and two very different skills of Geoff's are going to work on this album: he is providing the slap bass guitar source material from which the Nondeterministic Funk Track will be algorithmically generated on each copy, and he is translating several passages into morse code and performing them on his old Ham Radio equipment.
- Taurus Savant: Taurus is an R&B musician from Rochester, NY, contributing the source material from which the Nondeterministic Rap Track will be algorithmically generated on each copy.
- Chris Sabat: Chris is best known as the voice of Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z and over six hundred other characters from TV and video games. He's contributing some brilliant voice acting to the tapes.
- Sarah Kaiser: Sarah is a classically trained musician, skilled in marimba, guitar, and ukelele. She is contributing a folksy, Dylan- or Ochs- inspired protest song to the album within an album.
- The Bloodies: The Bloodies are Bloody Holly (vox), Oxblood (guitar), Brian Bloody (drums), and KimDracula (bass). They're a punk band from Minneapolis contributing protest grrl punk in the vein of the Clash to the album within an album.
- Cory "Hübris" Huber: Hübris is a musician from Canada. He writes about technology through storytelling. In this project he contributes a hip-hop track to the album within an album.
- Billy: Billy is a musician, actor, author, director, and writer from Waldorf. Normally found rapping or working on television, on this project he lays down a fire flow for the album within an album.
- Lauren Orsini: Lauren is a journalist, blogger, and freelance designer from the D.C. area. She's contributing writing and voice-acting on a passage from the front lines of our nation's capitol.
- Adam Benjamin: Adam is a Berklee College of Music graduate and professional musician residing in Los Angeles. He is a believer of the recent emo/hard-rock revival, and is contributing a modern rock track to the album within an album that should please enthusiasts.
- Colony: Colony is a Trinidadian producer of CDM (Caribbean Dance Music), dubstep, hardcore emo, and cinematic music. He is contributing a gorgeous symphonic track to the album within an album.
- Brina Palencia: Brina is an actress and director best known for her work on One Piece, The Walking Dead, and Borderlands. She's writing and voice-acting a passage on Pieces.
- Daniel Graves: Daniel is an industrial-turned-synthpop musician from L.A. best known as the frontman of Aesthetic Perfection. On Pieces, he's writing and voicing a tape, and contributing an original Aesthetic Perfection song to the album within an album.
- Sydette Harry: Sydette describes herself as "a child at the edge of the ocean who calls herself @Blackamazon because she is tall and black like soil underwater". She's a social justice blogger and Mozilla editor who is writing and voice acting a tape for Pieces.
- SMXF: SMXF is a Ghanaian musician, and the self-described "shyest rapper in the world" who's not shy at all about spitting rhymes. He contributes a sick jazz-styled hip hop track to the album within an album.
Risks and challenges
Most of the risks, I feel, have been cleared by completing Music To Die Alone In Space To. In my previous Kickstarter where I successfully recorded and delivered variants on an album 310 unique times, I proved that I have what it takes to create hundreds of distinct copies of the same piece of the work that are all the right amount of "same yet different". There are not very many artistic risks between me and completing this project I completely believe in.
I back up my files offsite every night, automatically. There is a risk of serious delay in the event of theft or severe equipment failure, but the progress can always be recovered.
There is a risk in terms of the unfolding of the mystery. A lot of effort has been put into making sure that there is tons to discover and easter eggs that will pay off for years afterward. But a rogue creator could always spoil everything they were given access to and ruin some stuff. Or I could, in a moment of confusion, forget what was public knowledge and what wasn't and accidentally say something. The music is all risk-free; there is some risk in the mystery, but it's low.
There is an unsurmountable risk in my personal health and well-being. In the event that I die in an untimely fashion, the project does not complete. There is nothing that can be done about that. Some people close to me have instructions for how to distribute as much as was finished if I perish. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)