Some time ago, I interviewed Ryan Walsh, the lead singer and guitarist for the indie band Hallelujah The Hills. He had just begun a project, presented by Surviving The World, that asked fans to submit their own musical interpretation of the phrase “You can escape your fate, but it’s not considered polite.” Walsh would then mix all of the submissions into a single, cohesive track, essentially creating an entirely crowdsourced composition.
He finally released the finished track earlier this week, so I sat down to hear his thoughts about the creation process, what about the project surprised him, and how he thought the world would receive it.
- I never thought this would garner me much press. It’s an artistic experiment!
- The bulk of the actual hands-on work was creating this massive sound collage using Audacity, and keeping track of which songs I had already used and which ones I still needed.
- I ended up receiving about 100 tracks. That would explain the exorbitant amount of time it took me to finish.
- I loaded the tracks onto my iPod and started playing them during car rides. I made notes about which ones were super melodic, or haunting, or ones that might make good background samples.
- In truth, there was a lot of chin scratching. Like, “What do I do with all these wildly different mini-songs?”
- I originally thought this would be more of a song-song. I had dreams of changing them to all be in the same key and making it a more straightforward thing.
- That plan quickly crumbled.
- I went back to the drawing board and began to arrange the tracks in a more showcase style. Like, “here is what people did with this.”
- To put a phrase out there in the ether and have it come back at you like this is a particularly odd feeling. It feels like I put a message in a bottle out to sea and 100 bottles came back with strange reinterpretations of my original message.
- When I finished the track, it was nothing at all like I imagined it would end up. I kind of chuckled and thought, “I’m not sure what this thing is but I’m attracted to it on some level.”
- There was uncertainty. Will this be pleasing to the contributors or worrisome? Will people who didn’t contribute enjoy this? Will it be interesting to people who don’t know the back story? Those types of questions.
- The worry was mixed with delight, though, which is always a good sign.
- I think that SoundCloud and the internet is the final destination for this piece. The internet is global and forever, so that’s not too shabby of a permanent address. Plus, it was a creation of the internet. It’s like a hall of mirrors up in this piece!
- Here’s the thing: this piece might not be a toe tapper, but I did make it for people to enjoy! Some people have different definitions of enjoyment, and I would gladly give all the original files to anyone who wants to take their own shot at it!
- If I were to try this again, I think it’d be interesting to have people do melodic “ahhhhs” and work with that. Or spoken word sentences based on certain rules and cut that all up. Or maybe even some kind of video collage.
- Right now, though, I gotta focus on recording the fourth Hallelujah The Hills album. I’m using all my skills and spirit to make it! It will be nothing like this piece, but the phrase does appear in one of the new songs.
- It’s not all about page views and hits! I just do what I love. I loved making this thing, and that’s kind of all I need.
Here is the final arrangement, which Walsh describes as similar to a “hypnotic, off-brand meditation tape one might accidentally find at a thrift store.”