So. Most importantly, this song is great. It’s just so mad and joyful. It jumps up and down on you and tells you why creativity is awesome while you giggle and roll around on the floor. Fantastic.
How is that relevant?
But why am I blogging about it? Because at the end there’s this long kind of Whitman-y catalogue of random crap that you can bring to work to make life more creative and fun. She wouldn’t have written it either, but she wanted a lyric suggestion for one more item and tweeted about it, got a squillion suggestions, then picked and chose from those. The list isn’t just a random assortment, either. There’s some clear choice to the ordering, with ‘vibrator’ near the top to get the valuable sex-positive point in early, and ‘your missing wife’ closer to the bottom with the other surreal items (I can’t bring my missing wife to work, she’s missing). Also she makes some of them rhyme. Oh fuck it I’ll let her explain:
it’s called “ukulele anthem.” i started writing it last spring…some of you may remember a night last march/april, when i twittered from amsterdam looking for lyrics.i asked about an empowering three-syllable object that you weren’t allowed to take to work. things got OUT OF HAND, and as you can see…i ended up incorporating way too many of the suggestions into the song. i’d originally just wanted to have the lyric “flask of jack”/”etch-a-sketch”/and….a third thing. but the suggesitons were so good i was like….why not just fucking end the song with a long-ass list? it’s the first time twitter has actually gravely altered the direction of a song i was writing, and given the nature of the song…let’s just say, it was a proud moment. i am happy to finally share it with y’all.
i’m going to try to go back on twitter and credit all the people who wrote in, but there were a lot of doubles (i think more than one person suggested etch-a-sketch, for instance)…so i started a thread HERE on the shadowbox to keep track. if your suggestion is on there, post to the box. if you can link to your original tweet (or cut and paste it as an image, even better), i’ll love you. i’d love to get credit to all the people who tossed in ideas.
She just wanted the one thing. Got a million. Went with it. Because it fit the song.
I tend to think of audience collaboration from the perspective of my own pieces, and that means I think about using it as a cheap and efficient development process for music-theater. But I’m always looking for other ways to get your audience involved in making stuff without losing the fact that it’s your art.
Amanda Palmer made it work
The Whitman-y catalogue needed to sound like the voices of a horde of people shouting random things. And in the past she would have missed the opportunity to put the catalogue in, since she didn’t even think of it till Twitter chimed in. But if she’d wanted to write it herself the sensible thing would have been for Amanda to sit there alone and list a bunch of random crap until the list sounded right to her. But she got a bunch of ideas from strangers on twitter (it’s good to have a big following obviously) and actually got the voices of a horde of people shouting random things. And at the end of it she has a populist song that was written in part by some of the populous. That’s better, right?
If you do this sort of thing, it’ll still be your art, your idea. You’re still picking and choosing what actually goes in, but instead of having to fake the voice of the crowd, you can just use it for real. It’s cheap and fast too – this isn’t happening via pony express. And it gets the people who suggested stuff (as well as the people like me who look out for such things) to think the song is extra cool. Like any artistic technique it has limited use, and picking when to use it is equally as important as how you use it, but it’s a great addition to the toolbox.
So, to review:
No loss of creative control, a piece of art that is itself much better for having more people involved, and an audience of people loving the hell out of the song before it’s finished. That’s almost as awesome as the whole punk music ethos goofy ukulele on youtube thing we’re all living through right now.
And oh yeah, I went and bought a ukulele. It was more than $19.95, but it’s super cute with tiny sound holes. And now my fingers hurt.