The 24 Second Song

Five years ago, I participated in a project of Angie Lehman’s while she was a student at CCS. She asked artists to make a 24 second recording inspired by a photograph and then made graphic designs based on these songs. The songs had to be composed and recorded within one hour of viewing the photo and could only feature one percussion instrument and one melodic instrument.

Here is the photo I received:

My initial thought when I saw this photo was a racetrack for mice. (I later found out it’s a picture of National Coney Island.) This initial thought led to the idea of mice drag racing. Which led to the idea of a 24 second mouse version of “Leader of the Pack” without lyrics. I made “voice” my percussion instrument so I could add a melody and chose acoustic guitar as my instrument. Using the ol’ Cool Edit Pro, I played with voice speed and quickly recorded the following structure:
– A section, mice singing in C major (happy key) as the race is about to begin
– B section, the race happens
– C section, mice sing again in A minor (sad key) as a low voice (DEATH) joins in

Like I said, it’s only 24 seconds long and it was written/recorded in under an hour (more like 30 minutes), so take it for what it is.

The 24 Second Song

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So I sent this to Angie and she used it to make the following print piece. The top is the email exchange we had, and the bottom is the design inspired by the piece.

And there you go – homework done! Here’s a summary of the project from Angie’s portfolio site (where all six posters are displayed):

These posters were created by method of chance. I randomly took pictures by pointing the camera without looking through the viewfinder at places that were open 24/7. I then selected the 7th photo from each location and sent it to a musician.

I told each participant that they had to write a 24 second song based on the photograph. They had only one hour to write the song and the time started when they looked at the photo. After I heard each song, I created sheet music for each song, inspired by John Cage.

Each poster incorporates a line drawing from the original photograph, email conversations between me and the musicians, and the new sheet music that describes how the music sounds. I guess the next step would be to have someone new try to play the song from the sheet music.

I’m sure if someone tried to play this song from the sheet music it would sound absolutely nothing like the original piece, but it’d be fun to hear.

What’s most mindblowing to me about this whole experience in retrospect is that a quick five years later, Angie – who I barely knew at the time – is now married to my longtime friend Darin Ficorelli, and together they are parents of a baby girl. Time does some crazy awesome things.

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