In celebration of Zaireeka’s Record Store Day vinyl re-release, Flaming Lips fans from North and Central America, Europe and Asia contributed original paintings, computer graphics and photographs to The Future Heart’s latest collaborative art project. Working with Andrew Pawley – creator of the cosmic comic series Captain Yeah! and The Children of the Moon – we visually interpreted each of Zaireeka’s songs into a series of new, original videos that stream through our unique webplayer. For the first time fans can mix in real time all four CDs from the original release into stereo as they listen.
How Does It Work?
The most basic way to view the videos and mix Zaireeka is at the page we’ve set up for this project allowing fans to hear the album without needing four CD (or record) players. There have been “defeating the purpose” mixes that condensed Zaireeka down to just one CD before, and Lips fan Joe M (aka JedE3) made a popular unofficial DVD that edited the sound to scenes from famous films. Unlike these however, our webplayer doesn’t sacrifice the ability for listeners to control their sound experience in real time as they listen. Actually, even with four CDs it’s hard to control the individual sound sources as it plays (if you are alone your limited by the two-hands-to-four-players ratio; if you are with others you either have to talk over the album, or elect a “conductor”). Of course, anyway Zaireeka is listened to can be an interesting experience – but now the relationship between the four tracks is no longer static. For the first time, a single person can control the volume levels of all four CDs as it plays. And for the first time the result can be listened with headphones. We encourage you to play with the levels as you listen. Turn one of the four levels up all the way at the start of a song and down at the end, for example. Or experiment by taking one sound source out of the mix completely, or combine just two of the tracks, or listen to one at full blast with the others turned down half way, etc. If you are extra curious, try deliberately playing the four videos out of sync with each other (though perhaps still musically in time – that is, have one video play exactly two bars behind the others, or overlap the first verse on two videos with the second verse on the others, etc). The possibilities are endless.
When Zaireeka was originally released in 1997 the band’s webmaster Drew Hird wrote a page of tips for listening to this strange new release. He explained how once you’ve acquired four CD players and figured out how to play them in sync, “next it’s time to start deliberately choosing the CDs to eliminate the vocals or certain melodies and then see what strange soundscapes you end up with. Believe me, it’s worth spending a few hours at that!”
What was special about Zaireeka wasn’t the obvious gimmick – a mix spread out amongst four CDs – but the endless listening experiences it allowed. “You could listen to it a hundred times and make it specifically different each time,” Drew concluded.
With our new webplayer and Zaireeka’s vinyl re-release, our goal is to change that to thousands of different times. For instance, you can play these videos on separate devices, such as four iPads (or any combination of web accessible sound sources – say, a desktop, a laptop, a smartphone and a tablet). You can also combine the videos (or just one of them) with the vinyl or CD versions. Or, play one of the records from the reissue through stereo speakers strategically placed around your computer while you control the other three with the webplayer. If you have access to multiple computers – calling all college kids with computer room access – try playing Zaireeka from dozens of desktops at once, each with the levels set differently.
This goes back to Drew’s original observations on the variables that can make each listen unique: “volume, tone, equalization, pan, and more in some cases. You’ve got multiple sound sources,” he wrote in 1997. This is even more the case now that we also have vinyl and web options, not just CDs. “Set the controls for no bass, lots of bass, or saturate the treble and the bass… turn it right up or right down, put the main part cd in the trashiest cd player and the texture sounds in the expensive separates hi-fi on low volume… put your speakers along two walls, surround yourself with speakers in pairs, put each left speaker together and each right together, stack speakers on top of each other from all over – get random or WHATEVER! This is a multiple sound source experimentation kit waiting for you to have fun. You have huge potential to alter the shape of the great music.”
Drew’s suggestions can now be altered to fit multiple devices. For example, 16 years ago he wrote, “try playing all the cds except number three… but put cd one in a real trashy stereo and the other two in good machines – spacious sound will ensue.” Apply this same concept today by playing “CD 2” with the actual CD on a boombox, “CD 4” on vinyl through your best speakers and “CD 1” trough trashy smartphone speakers (or some combination of 1 and 3 on crappy laptop, with the volume levels adjusted throughout via the webplayer).
For best results when using the webplayer, press “play” in the control panel then immediately click again to “pause”. Once the videos have buffered, press “play” once more to begin. Clear your browser’s cache and cookies if you have problems loading the videos in sync.
Who Did The Work?
All music and sounds heard in our videos are by The Flaming Lips. If you don’t already own a physical copy of Zaireeka, remedy that problem right now (buy on CD; info on the Record Store Day vinyl issue is here). The Future Heart conceptualized the new videos and webplayer, with Andrew Pawley collaborating on the video editing and webpage layout. Andrew’s contributions (and talents) can not be overstated. “Like” his facebook page to follow his various art projects. Special thanks also goes to computer wiz Jonathan Hernández for help with the mixer script (follow him at twitter/ion). Fans from around the world that contributed art include Joseph Kyle, Lenny, Jeremy Mayers, Hannah Belden, Christopher Roberts, Chris Oldt, Nik Garcia, Gabriela Zamora, Apol Sta Maria, Sebastian Becker, Daniel DiMarchi, Mike Kielty, Ben Stookey, Joseph Kehoe, Bob Mann and others who wish to not be listed. Check out Mr. Joseph’s music musings at The Recoup and his art at etsy. More art by Lenny is at birdmouse.ca. (If you contributed and there is a problem with you name listing – or lack thereof – do not hesitate to contact to have that corrected ASAP).