"Come Clean" is the song that first brought together the various concepts being explored under the name Heads. It began with an idea to recontextualize a sample-based hip-hop song into the jazz head format, flipping the sample back in on itself. Through the analysis of the source, the hip-hop song using the sample and a Heads version of the song, it was hypothesized that the results would illustrate how each continues the artistic conversation, while maintaining their own musical uniqueness.
I pondered the idea conceptually for a while but drew a blank as to what song to use as the subject for this experiment. Then while walking through the forest one day, listening to Jeru the Damaja's The Sun Rises in the East album, I came to a section of forest that had been recently clear cut. Clear cutting is a practice in which whole sections of forest are logged for timber. Walking through the ripped up earth with limbs and roots sticking lifelessly out of the ground, something clicked between the landscape and the haunting sample backed by DJ Premier's hard hitting drums.
I found myself inspired to somehow bring the two worlds together. My feet, which had walked the same streets as Jeru and Premier, felt a resonance as they hiked through the lost forest, struggling to cope in a world moving faster than life itself. The phrase "Come Clean" took on a new meaning; I had my inspiration.
This installation is broken up into five parts:
We begin by looking at the source material of our experiment, exploring the original context of both the song and the sample which is extracted from it.
Next we turn to the sample-based production which uses The Source, exploring how the sample is used within the song and what has been added to it to complete the work.
Here we see how The Sample is then turned into a jazz head, and explore how that is expanded upon to create a new version of the song.
This takes the experiment one step furhter, using The Head version of the song as the sound palate in a live sample-based production. This includes a video of the performance of this version.
The final part of this installation gives the user a chance to participate by using the generative art engine from The Performance, to create their own works, which will be included in the final video produced for The Heads version of the song.
Continue to The Source
The jazz drummer Shelly Manne made a name for himself in the west coast jazz scene of the 1950's and 60's both as a band leader and playing with names like Art Pepper, Benny Carter and Bill Evans. By the 1970's however the jazz scene had changed dramatically. Where the West Coast sound of jazz can be seen as a predecessor to the freer. avant-garde jazz movement which followed it, the transition between the two wasn't always smooth. In 1972 Manne released his own foray into the avant field titled Mannekind
The song "Infinity" is the last track on Mannekind. It features Manne performing a short fourty second solo on a wooden percussion instrument of the balaphone family. The balaphone is a pitched wooden percussion considered the predecessor to the xylophone. A major difference between the two is that the tuning of the balaphone is far less precise. As such each instrument is a unique scale in and of itself. It is quite common for the balaphone player, particularly when it is the lead instrument, to call out the scale with singular hits, as Manne does on "Infinity" before going into a polyphonic and poly-rhythmic solo.
If you have heard the song which samples "Infinity", while familiarity with the original is almost immediate, it fades quickly as the song moves past the opening hits. Manne's performance is a percussive solo where the time signature is free, much different from the sampled version's steady 4/4 time signature. The opening phrase itself does not appear anywhere else in the song, and as such it would be difficult to considered it a major motif of the work.
In a case like this, where a song isn't a composition, how do you identify what is the song? There is no melody or rhythmic pattern which can be identified as encompassing the song. The closest one could come would be the scale, but that is related more to the instrument than the song. Isolating sections of the recording, it would be impossible to qualify any portion as identifiably being a song. As such, the full fourty seconds of performance is required to capture the essence of Manne's creation.
Continue to The Sample
"Come Clean" was the debut single from Jeru the Damaja after a standout appearance on the song "I'm the Man" from the Gangstarr album Daily Operation. Produced by Gangstarr member DJ Premier, "Come Clean" almost instantly became a classic, not just as a song for Jeru, but as a trademark song for DJ Premier. One of the primary reasons for this is the hypnotic use of the sample.
Notation of the sample selection.
For the song, DJ Premier isolated the opening seven notes of "Infinity" and transformed them into a two bar loop. As simple as this seems, it uniquely takes the sample out of the context of the source. One of the reasons the original sample sounds awkward to those who have heard "Come Clean" first, is that the time count which they expect, simply isn't there in the original version. Premier forces the sample into a standard 4/4 time signature, where The Source left things far more ambiguous. In fact, on the second repetition of the sample, Premier repeats the seventh note to extend it into an eight note phrase. As the song progresses, he alternates between using the full seven notes, dropping out the fifth and sixth notes while repeating the seventh, and using the full seven with the seventh note repeated.
Notation with the fifth and sixth notes dropped and seventh repeated.
Another point of departure from the source, is the use of the sample as a melody. Where in The Source the phrase is used to call out the scale, as a sample it has shifted to become a melodic motif, complete with repetition. It is the repetition of this motif, through sampling, even in its variations, that makes both songs now recognizable.
Notation of the sample with the seventh note repeated, aka The Head.
Continue to The Head
The Heads version of "Come Clean" continues the conversation where DJ Premier leaves off. Premier answers the question, what if we take the opening scale of Manne's "Infinity" and turn it into a two bar motif? The Heads version poses the question, what if we take that motif and use it as a head?
The head of a song can be many things, a rhythmic hit, a melody or even a scale. For the Heads version of "Come Clean" it is in fact all of these, including a scale, a direct reference back to the source where the phrase calls out the scale of the instrument. Yet, even with this reference the head used here is derrived from the sample not the source, because it uses the full seven notes of the original phrase with the repeated seventh for an eight note motif (see Figure 3 in The Sample).
What one does with the head is what makes it unique in musical structures. Rather than building the head into an arranged song, the head is used as a guide for an improvisation. Players come together to play the head, then branch out from it using the pitches, rhythms, harmonies and other elements from the head to create new phrases which are traded in the open sections of the song, before returning back to the head. These open changes can be completely free or, as in this case, written changes with room for improvisation.
The first open section of the "Come Clean"
For the Heads version of "Come Clean" the primary head serves as the main hit, and there are two open sections. The first open section is a short one bar phrase built using three pitches from the primary head. The second open section spans two bars using pitches from the primary head, to create a more driving "Mission Impossible" feel. Both carry elements of the rhythmic mode of the primary head, and in their simplicity both leave the sections wide open for improvisational interpretation.
The second open section of the "Come Clean"
While the primary head is recognizably tied to its two primary influences, the open sections bare little resemblance to them at all. When one takes into account the fact that the primary head is less than 10% of the completed song, it is clear that the heads version, while a derivative, is also an original composition.
Continue to The Performance
"CC#06212009" takes the conversation one step further. Where the Heads version flipped the sample back in on itself, "CC#06212009" flips the Heads version back in on itself. For "CC#06212009", parts of the Heads version were sampled and utilized as the primary elements for a live performance. This performance was done using three of the Heads Instruments - nsMpLR, scrtch, and vcmdlr, with the live fx cntrllr. Within it, the head remains the same, but the open sections are again re-contextualized.
In addition to the musical performance, each of the instruments were connected to a generative art engine, which translated the musical gestures into artistic ones. The art that was created during the performance of "CC#06212009" is the artwork used for the cover of the single. In the video below you will see the live performance of the song and the live creation of the art.
Continue to The InterARTive
As explained in The Performance, a generative art engine was built into the Heads Instruments. This allowed all of the musical gestures of the live performance to be rendered as artistic gestures. The result of this is the piece of artwork used for the cover image of the "Come Clean" single.
The final part of the "Come Clean" experience will be a music video for the Heads version of the song. This video will be created utilizing user created artwork created with the same engine found in The Performance. To create your own work of art to be included in the final video, follow the instructions below. As a bonus for participating you will recieve a poster-sized image of your art, and a special preview sampler of the Heads Project.