This weekend, my friends hosted a 1920s occult party. There were tarot readings, Ouija boards, and a seance. Everyone was encouraged to attend in appropriate attire, and we sipped absinthe while movies like The Golem and Fantomas were projected on the walls.
Anne and I got our clothes from Unique Vintage and Clockwork Couture. While we were getting dressed, Anne said, “I kind of love that I’m cosplaying with my husband,” and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
I had this idea to track down some 1920s music to play during the afternoon and evening, leading up to the party, so I started by looking on Amazon. I didn’t see anything that I liked, so I checked the Google Play store, and then iTunes. Again, I couldn’t find the original recordings that I was looking for, and as I was about to give up, a voice inside my head sort of kicked me behind the eyeballs and said, “Hey, stupid, music from the 1920s is in the public domain. Go look on the Internet Archive and I bet you’ll find more original recordings than you know what to do with.”
People, you should always listen to the voices in your head, because they know things. They know things that you don’t know. THEY KNOW THINGS THAT THE OTHERS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW AND GREAT CTHU–
Sorry. I got a little carried away, there.
So I went to the Internet Archive, and I found a treasure trove of incredible recordings.
Here are a few of them:
I grabbed them all, because that’s what you can legally and ethically do with the Internet Archive, and I made playlists that I shuffled through our Sonos to fill our house with the sounds of the Roaring Twenties. By the time we left for the party, I was ready to hop in a plane with Lucky Lindy and fly to New York to watch Murder’s Row in action.
So the party was fantastic, and everyone there looked incredible, but that’s not what I set out to write about this morning. What I wanted to write about was this thing I made, using free (as in speech and beer) tools, to create something where something wasn’t before.
Within one of the collections I downloaded, there was a jaunty little tune called JaDa.
I enjoyed it, and I had this idea to slow it down and completely transform it into something that sounds very, very different.
Longtime readers may remember that I freaking love the ambient music of the early 1990s. Well, I loaded JaDa into a free and open source audio editing program called Audacity, and I played around with some of audacity’s effects to turn this three minute jazz tune into nearly an hour of sinister dark ambient that was directly inspired by the occult party we attended. When I finished it, I was happy with what I’d made, and I wanted to share it with the world. So I put it on SoundCloud. While I was uploading it, I saw that I could add some sort of album art. Keeping with the theme of transforming existing public domain works, using open source tools, I went back to the Internet Archive, and found a page of a 1927 seed catalog that had some bright strawberries on it. I captured part of that image, loaded it into Gimp, and applied a bunch of filters to it, until I’d turned an image of luscious strawberries into something very different, that I thought matched the mood and tone of the audio I’d created.
I’ve talked a lot in the past about how I believe this is a really great time to be a creative person, because the tools we need to make things, as well as the ability to get those things out into the world, are never farther away than our keyboards. I hope this inspires some of you to Get Excited and Make Things.