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Calendar Songs: A delicate Creative Commons-Project

The CC Mixter Remix-Project by Calendar Girl | Tamara Barnett-Herrin - better known as calendar girl - started a fantastic project back in October 2006. The idea was simple: Write each month a song and release the original material under a creative commons licence. Than ask other producers and musicians to remix the songs. Now one and a half year laters Calendar Girl looks back on the results: more than 300 remixes! And like she promised she publishes a record with 12 fantastic songs. A story on how to use the web to interact with other musicians worldwide.

Calendar Girl - "May" (MP3)

“I write one song a month. You remix and feedback. We make a record.”

When and how did you get your idea of your Calendar Songs-Project?

I'd been writing demos in my bedroom for a couple of years, but I kept finding myself very frustrated by the process of never having anything "finished". And I felt I was working in a vacum. I could play my music to friends and family but getting it "out there" - whatever that means - felt so impossible.

I never want music to become a chore, or to find myself complaining about making music, how hard it is, etc., etc. It became clear to me that this process of making demos can also at the same time make you very bitter! So I tried to think of a way for my music to find another route into the ether...

And obviously putting it online was the best solution. But of course, MySpace isn't everything... So I kind of fashioned the idea of writing new songs for a website, where I could draw people in by inviting them to remix my songs. I wanted the site to have the air of a challenge to it, something where you could come back to check up on my progress, so I challenged myself to write a new songs each month that had to be inspired by that month.

That way I gave people a reason to come back to the site after their first visit, like "I wonder if she made it this month...". It all went online in October 2006. It took about two months to put it together from when I had the idea.

If you speak in terms of music-engineering, there is a saying "Garbage in, Garbage out!". It means, if you record music badly, you can't do anything to make it sound better. What kind of equipment did you use to produce your songs? Are they all recorded at home?

I'm not sure I agree with that saying. I would rather listen to a bad recording of a good song than an amazing recording of a terrible song. And I put all my faith in people having the same attitude as me, because I know I can't make the most perfect recordings.

I record at home into Garage Band, I'm terribly lazy, I haven't even made soundproofing! All the A Cappellas sound like my bedroom! But I made a decision to it this way - to really concentrate on writing instead of spending all my time getting the best equipment and teaching myself how to master it. Maybe I'm a bit of a purist but I like things that sound like what they are.

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About the Author

Phlow-Author Moritz »mo.« Sauer This article was written on 16.May 2008 by Moritz »mo.« Sauer.

Moritz »mo.« Sauer is the founder of Phlow-Magazine.com and a true music lover. As a participant and journalist of the free music movement he joined several Netaudio parties in Europe including Netaudio Nürnberg, Netaudio Barcelona, Netaudio London or Netaudio Bern.

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16 comments

  • This idea is very good but is not so new, back years ago, many scene websites tried to set that up, the events were not much followed then and I strongly believe such projects are being followed because a record is promised at the end...

    Maybe i'm a bad mouth about it, but this is how I feel it.

    Anyway, very nice idea, music making should be more about sharing experiences.

    Gravatar of kaneel kaneel said on
    16. May 2008 at 12:39 pm
    Link #1

  • "may apeskinny mix" sounds so damn familiar to me, the way the jazzy bridge resolves into this highly melodic chorus... familiar like heard on the radio. is it possible? sweet one.

    Gravatar of sven swift sven swift said on
    16. May 2008 at 1:04 pm
    Link #2

  • Kaneel, I think that you're right that the idea of a collaborative remix to a 'pella is not new. I think that it's an idea almost as old as remix culture itself.

    What makes this project fun is not that it is some "brave new experiment", as Heaven knows no techno beat is ever quite new under the sun, and the keyboard still has 88 keys, barring electronic alteration.

    What makes this project so much fun is that it's approached with a simple collaborative joy. Perhaps it's not so much the idea of the project, but the way this project happens with a sense of verve and fun.

    I've done a few remixes for this one. Getting on a record? Furthest thing from my mind. I'm perfectly happy net-releasing into the Creative Commons. Having fun? Now, that's more like it.

    I am with you 100 percent on one point, Kaneel, and probably not so far off on others--I totally agree with you when you say that music making should be more about sharing experiences. That's what makes "free music", whether we mean it in the sense of "free culture", "free music", "free bear", "free jazz" or "freedom" so exciting.

    Tamara's one of a number of people trying to find that sweet spot between completely free and participatory and
    the bad old paradigm. I salute her in the effort--and I'll add my odd remixes with no hope of fame, fashion or financial reward. I play because it helps set me free.

    Gravatar of gurdonark gurdonark said on
    17. May 2008 at 7:54 am
    Link #3

  • Got you well!
    But there always are exceptions to the rules :ppp

    Gravatar of kaneel kaneel said on
    17. May 2008 at 12:48 pm
    Link #4

  • I'm "d'accord" with both of you. What is amazing to me, is how clever Tamara used the "tools" (communities, website, myspace) and combined them with her talent.

    I think this project functioned so well, because she can sing, it's not amateurish AND MOST IMPORTANT in the music-scene driven by electronic tools (reason, ableton live, logic...) most of the (hobby)producer don't get their hands on good vocals to play around.

    Maybe that's the real benefit of producers who normally produce "only" electronic music, that they get the possibility to use good sounding vocals. "for free" :)

    Gravatar of mo. mo. said on
    17. May 2008 at 1:38 pm
    Link #5

  • An interesting point that should be developed further during the year in hope many other people like her will follow this example and provide more free content to remix.

    Gravatar of kaneel kaneel said on
    17. May 2008 at 1:45 pm
    Link #6

  • That is a great point Kaneel makes about followers. My hope is that other singers, poets, guitarists, recorder players, trombone players and other folks begin to see that free content to sample can mean lots of exposure and the chance to hear one's music taken to places as yet undreamed.

    Gravatar of gurdonark gurdonark said on
    17. May 2008 at 2:09 pm
    Link #7

  • that would be really great for producers to get their hands on some fascinating and excellent sample-material. i think this is quite an intelligent way to give something "away" for free to get something in return. :)

    Gravatar of mo. mo. said on
    17. May 2008 at 7:40 pm
    Link #8

  • One thing that makes CalendarS work so well is - or was - the wager - EVERY month! And she delivered. The consistency was like a spine on which it could grow. The promise of a target - a record - also helped. But Kaneel is wrong because the remixes still seem to be coming and coming after the 12 songs were chosen, so now I think the website itself and the variations and comparisons are part of the fun. Be there!

    Gravatar of me2 me2 said on
    17. May 2008 at 8:50 pm
    Link #9

  • Well, personally, the day I want to work with such sounds from real instruments, I would try and find some players in my city, just to be able to meet them and talk about music, ask them what I would want and still, let them improvise.

    Gravatar of kaneel kaneel said on
    18. May 2008 at 12:48 pm
    Link #10

  • Kaneel, you make a good point. I think it's great when one can find local players with whom to collaborate. There's no question that there is a kind of magic in being able to meet and talk to people about a passion like music. The great thing about a more sharing music culture is that it's not "either/or"--a new kind of music will mean not only opportunities to sample and remix on-line, but also more encouragement for people to meet and collaborate off-line. Once we leave behind the idea that music is only for "them out there" located by the corporate record industry, and make music something everyone can play and share, we open up lots of ways to collaborate. I wish you the best joy in finding the right local players--and letting them improvise with you to the most fun result.

    Gravatar of gurdonark gurdonark said on
    18. May 2008 at 8:10 pm
    Link #11

  • Well actually I'm talking about it with a bass player friends of mine and my girlfriend introduced myself to a friend of her who can play cello real well.
    Such opportunities are great when people want to work with yourself (they are quite rare, those "real instruments" players who respect people into electronic music) and if it doesn't work much... well... I'll have cool samples to chop :)

    Gravatar of kaneel kaneel said on
    18. May 2008 at 9:16 pm
    Link #12

  • [...] Ditto-Ditto - June (..à la Parisienne..!) [...]

    Gravatar of Protokoll vom 24. Mai 2008 at Trackback Protokoll vom 24. Mai 2008 at Trackback said on
    24. May 2008 at 6:12 pm
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  • [...] Ditto-Ditto - June (..à la Parisienne..!) [...]

    Gravatar of TRB 078d: Das Phlow-Magazin at Trackback TRB 078d: Das Phlow-Magazin at Trackback said on
    24. May 2008 at 9:33 pm
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  • [...] samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. One musician who used ccMixter quite cleverly is Calendar Girl. Over one year she recorded each month a song, packed the vocals on ccMixter and asked the [...]

    Gravatar of Free MP3 Pop Music Download: apeskinny remix feat. calendar girl | Phlow-Magazine – Free MP3 Music Culture Free MP3 Pop Music Download: apeskinny remix feat. calendar girl | Phlow-Magazine - Free MP3 Music Culture said on
    9. Apr 2009 at 11:47 am
    Link #15

  • [...] sucht, der muss zur Zeit noch lange graben. Einige wenige Perlen, wie zum Beispiel Calendar Girl oder Entertainment for the Braindead zeigen, dass da was geht. Eine dritte Frau, die auf Pop, [...]

    Gravatar of Zoe.Leela: Mehr Pop & Glamour in der Creative Commons-Welt | Phlow Zoe.Leela: Mehr Pop & Glamour in der Creative Commons-Welt | Phlow said on
    7. Nov 2009 at 5:48 pm
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