October 28, 2010

Why I put 18 songs into Creative Commons, and why you should also share

I started writing music about three years ago, mostly so I'd have cool music to use with video projects without having any copyright hassles. Before long I fell madly, obsessively in love with it, and when my old Mac recently died and I got my new one, I thought I'd take that externally-imposed milestone (and major bummer) and use it as an opportunity to review my compositions from the last three years, and choose some to retire/share with the world at large.

As of this blog post, I am endowing the following 18 songs (also found here) with a Creative Commons license, which means anyone can use my music in their own creative project, as long as they properly attribute the music to me (more info here). If you wanted to use one of my songs in a video clip of yours, you would put a credit reading "music by Elizabeth McQuern" somewhere in the clip itself, as well as in the video info/credits for anywhere the video might go online (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.). I'd also appreciate an email whenever someone uses my music - naturally, I'd be interested in seeing how others used my stuff.

Why? Why would I give away my music to just anyone at no charge?

Well, why not? I believe in sharing. I have grown up, creatively speaking, online, and have benefited tremendously from shared creative resources, from public domain video clips to free music loops to instructional YouTube clips and - yes - even old-fashioned human beings online who have helped me learn more about Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, songwriting, audio editing, you name it. Why not give back?

Think of these songs as my senior portfolio or something, my preliminary exercises while still learning. Some songs were too personal to share, some were for specific occasions, and lots of what I'd created was just initial phrases and half-finished bits. But these 18 are interesting and cool and at least usable snippets, if not complete songs (no vocals, just instruments), and I just thought it would be cool to see what happened if I put them out there, online, for anyone to use.

Some of the titles are a little weird - with the composition program I use, you name the song before you write it, and although you can easily rename the final file once the song is complete, with these I just never went back and changed them. While I started writing some of these songs with a specific use in mind, some just started out as audio doodles, so I picked random/meaningless titles without knowing exactly what these songs would turn out to be. Anyway, here they are, listed in chronological order. Download away!

#1. You'll Never See it Coming - 4/25/08 - Used in lots of Chicago Underground Comedy clips, as intro/outro music.

#2. Bright Lights Little Bitty - 4/25/08 - Used in lots of Chicago Underground Comedy clips, as intro/outro music.

#3. It's About Blue and Green - 4/30/08 - Used in lots of Chicago Underground Comedy clips, as intro/outro music.

#4. A Piffle and a Bit - 5/15/08 - Used in lots of Chicago Underground Comedy clips, as intro/outro music.

#5. Nibbles and Things - 5/22/08 - Used in lots of Chicago Underground Comedy clips, as intro/outro music.

#6. I Can Do Anything I Want - 5/28/08 - Used in lots of Chicago Underground Comedy clips, as intro/outro music. (Are we seeing a pattern here?)

#7. My Song - 8/8/08 This song title, I admit, is lame. "My Song" is literally the default title for any new song you create on GarageBand. But I like this little snippet (except for the German techno girl saying "blackout" at the end - I think it's annoying but I lost the original file so I can't easily go back in and cut that out). I like that it sounds like Batman taking K-Rock for a spin on Lower Wacker Drive, and she's giggling as they're listening to comedy podcasts and sipping Slurpees. I used this mostly for a series of clips that are no longer online, of stand-up sets of Dan Telfer, Bryan Bowden, and Andrew DeWitt at the Apollo Studio Theater.

#8. Glamorama Music - 8/28/08 - This was for a video project for the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee, which never got used, but is still a charming clip I'm proud of. I took Chicago Underground Comedy stand-up Robert Buscemi to Glamorama, and, wow, did we have a blast.

#9. A Rainy Chicago Day in September 2008 - 9/13/08 I used this on a Chicago Metblog video post. (Wow. I really did used to blog a lot, and now I hardly do it at all.)

#10. Calpurnia and Flora - 9/20/08 - I totally forget what I wrote this for. Some video that's no longer online.

#11. Quasi-Bonded Metaphor - 9/26/08 - I wrote this for a fast-paced Chicago Underground Comedy highlight reel.

#12. Lesbian Prometheus - 10/30/08 This was written specifically for this short comedy film I did with Cameron Esposito, in which she played a gay (ex-) bride of Frankenstein. The song's title is unwieldy but it reminds me of Englebert Humperdinck's "Lesbian Seagull," which makes me think of Beavis and Butthead, which makes me laugh.

#13. Clear Claire - 4/5/09 I don't think I've used this yet for anything in particular but I used a lot of unexpected textures in it and it makes me think of white witches and sparkly magical things. I was watching a lot of Six Feet Under at the time, and I love the character Claire Fisher. I was also thinking a lot about two friends of mine as I wrote this, Allison Leber and Nellie Huggins, and they're also very sparkly and magical.

#14. Receptive - 4/8/09 - Also written for a Chicago Underground Comedy highlight reel. I purposely titled this one, because at the time I was reading about how important it is to be receptive when writing music, and worry less about "making" something. Danny Elfman said composing music is like "letting yourself fall apart and come together in whatever form you need to be in" (or something like that) and it really made sense to me, even though I can't remember (or successfully Google) the exact quote.

#15. Robot Mating Dance - 6/27/09 - I think this one has only been used for some clips of Robbie Telfer's Encyclopedia Show. (I just noticed one of my photos is on their website! Cool.) It's probably the first time I wrote a complete, fully-structured song. At least, that's what I usually think when I listen to it now. I really liked the plaintive quality of the folk instrument being used in the song, a Russian stringed instrument called a balalaika. And the "Robot" part of the title is because I was watching Futurama at the time, and I love that gag about "primitive robots" (working on a 20th century automobile assembly line, dressed like cavemen and hitting metal with sticks).

#16. Chipper - 6/27/09 - This was written for this two-minute birthday bike ride clip of Chicago I made last year. That makes it sound boring, but I think both the song and the video are really pretty. I shot the bikes-eye view stuff with a mini-Gorilla pod, which is easy to wrap around my handlebars.

#17. Glitterbabies - 7/4/09 Used in these clips of the Sarcastic Squad at Berlin in Chicago, on Outworld. Some of my favorite people ever are in these videos, and naturally it's always easier to write music for people you feel strongly about. It's funny how just thinking about people as I write brings their characteristics out in the music.

#18. Kennedy - 4/17/10 I wrote this music for a very short video I did of woodturner Tim Kennedy at the Kellar Mahaney Gallery in Zionsville, Indiana. I edited the video while writing the music, so they both developed side-by-side. I liked the slight dissonance in the melody of the triangle, and how it invokes a sort of innocent enthusiasm.

So there are my songs. Help yourselves, spread the word, and think about sharing your creative resources online, too.

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