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S R I A H C L A C I S U or M Generat d n a B Random

Institute Stockyard


Activity Book

Above: Mike Omens painting portrait of Michael Piazza on Chair #1.

Presented in collaboration with Chicago cultural and neighborhood organizations, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Chicago Office of Tourism and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities, Bureau of Tourism.

Welcome to the Musical Chairs project

GENESIS: The genesis for the Musical Chairs came about through a series of conversations between Jim Duignan and Faiz Razi about developing some instrumental music for a public chair piece in honor of Michael Piazza entitled ‘requiem’. The piece, using Department of Correction transport seating fabricated in Chicago, would be unofficially stationed in Columbus Park on Chicago’s far west side. This was the site of the Urbs in Horto project Duignan and Piazza did in 2003. Listening to the music, the potential pedagogical applications and sonic innovations Faiz developed with his friend John Goodwin became clear and distinctly his own-a new work emerged. This orchestration weighed in with its own potentials and the conversations immediately recognized a new direction that could begin to explore music education, music pedagogy and music production in Chicago. This piece is called Musical Chairs.

The Purpose of this booklet: 1) 2) 3)

Introduce our sound/art installation, Musical Chairs Explain who we are and how MC fits into our larger philosophies about teaching and learning Provide an activity book that promotes creative living and dialogue around things we care about

our philosophy

Nobody cares about your stupid art project We get this. Nobody really does care. Maybe some small niche of people will care, but they probably will never care as much as you do. The purpose of creating is done for the creator’s sake. Everyone should create. You shouldn’t make art to get praise, money or fame. You should just do it to keep the creative spirit alive.

Why you should make art

1. Because you enjoy it Enough said.

2. Because it is good for your brain Just like an athlete can engage in lifting weights, aerobic activity, and other exercises to improve the body, the mind thrives on creative activities, puzzle solving, playing music and other challenging work. Exposing your brain to more experiences and stimuli strengthens neural pathways, creating more connections, causing your brain to work better.

the happy brain

education as a medium

We are a collective of teachers who are interested in creating interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum. We also happen to be artists and musicians. Our medium is education. We use the same process to create curriculum as we do art. We are interested in new, experimental, interdisciplinary, creative ways of teaching and learning. develop a life curriculum

The Renaissance Model as interdisciplinary curriculum. Sometimes it’s hard to justify spending your time drawing, playing music or doing other frivolous activities. One reason you should create is simply because it makes you a more creative person in whatever it is that you’re doing. Each type of creative engaging activity will inform and enhance each other. Your reading will enhance your drawing, your painting will enhance your music. When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs upsets, enlightens and opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it and shows there are still more possible pages. -Robert Henri The Art Spirit (1893)

FREE LESSON PLAN copy / use / distribute

a questionnaire

This questionnaire was posed to potential contributors for this project to help assess their skills and their goals and to get to know more about them. We think it’s a good questionnaire for anyone, so we included it. If you’d like to share your responses please email them to What are the two things that you would most like to do in your life?

Music/Art are free, so what are you going to do about it? What are the two best sounds you have made? With what two political, social, spiritual movements do you most identify? What two things would you love to learn how to do?

What are your two most honed skill sets?

S T O C K YA R D I N S T I T U T E more at

WHAT: What is Musical Chairs? Musical Chairs is a community recording sound/art installation. It’s shorthand for two prison bus chairs with two headphones with two simultaneous sound sources playing shuffled one minute pieces of instrumental music. Random Band Generator Each iPod feeds one song into the mixer which separates the individual songs into the left and right earpieces of the headphones. The music is not played in a linear fashion, but instead, the one minute pieces are shuffled at random, resulting in an ever-changing combination of musical pieces. The shuffled nature of the music creates thousands of different possible combinations, which vary in style, tempo, and genre. Since it is an experimental piece, it could create something that sounds terrible, something beautiful, or anything in between. Not knowing what the music is going to sound like at any given moment is part of the appeal. It’s a collaborative sound piece that is designed to grow with every added minute of music. chairs are equipped with hidden technology

*see following page for in-depth description of ‘how it works’

A Mathematical Soultion to an Artistic Problem:



Currently, there are 80 pieces of instrumental music that are one minute in length. The music was written and recorded individually by F. Razi, J. Goodwin, D. Monypeny, C. Herbert, B. McNally, D. Diver, J. Boombats, Bambouche of the Vanguard Squad, M. 2ndEd, P. Bassdriver, Z. Hench, Oaxacan, and A. Ineson.

melody & rhythm



are separated on the iPods to avoid dissonance. if two melodic pieces are played at the same time, keys will come into conflict. However, with the music separated this way, the odds of aesthetically pleasing sounds are increased.

simultaneous play


what you hear The chairs play one of a thousandplus musical combinations on the dual iPods. Each track starts and ends with the same gong tone to smooth transitions from track to track, as well as to indicate the new band. the two headphone sets allow two people to hear the same combinations at the same time.

why simultaneous play? what was originally a randomly arranged single song became a random band generator by pairing two randomly submitted songs together. simultaneous play of these pieces creates a new band every passing minute.

HOW IT APPLIES: Shared Experience

Social Barrier Breakdown

when riding the bus/train, you often sit next to somebody that you don’t know. Because of proximity, you can share an experience, no matter how insignificant it may seem. In the chairs, both listeners share the experience of hearing a newlycreated band. the odds of that band ever being generated again, especially with the same two people sitting in them, are slim to none.

with the randomization of the music, the lines between amateur and professional artist are blurred. A seasoned musician’s melody could may be paired with a kid playing the buckets. It doesn’t matter. Don’t we all have something to contribute no matter how ‘good’ it is? Isn’t it the experimentation of things that leads to greater, unexplored possibilities?

HOW IT GROWS: the equation: what happens when you add 1 minute of music?

The original 50 pieces had 900 possible combinations. However, when you add one minute of new music to the shuffle, you’re not just making the combinations equal 901. Instead, you’re adding another dozen or so possible combinations to the shuffle, because it can now be paired with any other one minute piece in the system. It grows exponentially. Currently, v.2 has 2,560 combinations with the addition of 30 more pieces.



50 X 18 = 900 (m+r) X (r) = total



80 X 32 = 2,560 (m+r) X (r) = total

The whole point of musical chairs is to take different pieces of music, whose only relation is that they are all the same length and put them together to see what happens. Genre, tempo, key and all other stylistic elements are irrelevant, as this is an experiment. It is experimental music. Sometimes it just sounds like a bad band practice, and other times, it’s serendipitously sexy. In the spirit of that, we will elaborate on the rules (see rules page) to give you a clearer picture of how to handle your submission. The rules will give you the structure you need to free yourself from any musical rut or foible.

Community Music For Musicians

the Biggest Band in the World

Eventually, we’d like to get all the oneminute donated submissions into an online database so anyone can borrow, mix, create layers, etc. If you need some back-up drums, you could download them for free. You could actually play music with someone that you don’t know. It could open a dialogue between two random artists. That aside, can you imagine what a database full of free music could do for hip hop?

Muscial Chairs has the potential to create the biggest band in the world by sheer volume. Is it a band? We think so. Not all bands create their music in the same room or at the same time; think of session musicians and cross-country collaborators. Currently there are more members than a small orchestra. We hope to add hundreds more. This is an open invitation to contribute music for the project.

An Invitation:

You Are Invited

I worked on a lot of the first musical chairs tracks with John Goodwin, and we quickly found that the limitations of the concept (most tracks are minimal, and all of them are short) make this a really excellent songwriting tool. You have a minute to get the idea across, and then you’re done. the gong rings. next idea. it’s a mix of improvisation, songwriting and quick-reflex four-tracking. It got me to thinking about my fine and talented friends. At some point in time, I’ve listened to something they’d written, or sang, or played, or said, and I’ve thought that I’d like to play music with them. So I invited them to record some rounds of music. Through the system of the chairs, I would be able to play with some of my favourite musicians in the world. This was a little exciting. this invitation is now open to you. so, hey. do you want to play some music? It doesn’t have to be big or lavish. you can contribute to as much or as little as you’d like, you could send me a single one-minute piece, and that’d be awesome. or not at all. some of the tracks we’ve recorded are just silence, so the headphones occasionally turn themselves off. If not, read no further. This is really informal, and you don’t even have to write back if you’re not into it. Salut, all the same, friends. You’re in? Have a seat.

I don’t want to cramp your style with rules, but here are some simple guidelines: 1) each piece is about one minute and a ‘gong’ sounds at the beginning and end of each track to smooth the transitions. 2) no lyrics, though I’d really love to hear your voices. I really would. stack ‘em up, like ABBA. 3) No recognizable samples. 4) Finalized tracks are grouped into either ‘melody’ or ‘rhythm’. 5) you can send music to me in mp3 format. Other than that, feel free. drum beats, guitar strums, synth squiggles, ooohs and aaaahhhs, strings, beat boxes, bass lines, guiro scrapes, drones, tones, leads, ambience, harmoniums, bass, whatever! I’d be happy to make suggestions if you’re stumped about what to write. Naturally, anything you write is yours. When we install the chairs, present them, etc., you will receive credit on the info card/etc that we give out (same goes for subsequent related events, etc.). feel free to shoot me questions about anything. Thanks, Faiz Razi Stockyard Institute


the rules elaborated: these are the same ones from earlier, but they have been elaborated on for your info. 1) each piece is about one minute, and a gong tone sounds at the beginning and end of each track. some of you will be able to do the editing at home, instead of having me do it. I appreciate it, and you’ll get a mixing credit where applicable. To do that, you will need the .wav file, which can be provided. The gong tone does a couple of things:-it lets you know when the minute is up-it allows all the tracks to begin and end the same way. -the gong tone is seamless (as in, if you play two tracks back to back, you’ll just get a single tone)-this helps in writing the music, since you don’t really have to figure out how to start or end your piece.-it allows us to calibrate all the tracks to the same length-when the chairs are running, having two sets of gongs coming from each speaker blurs the differences in the tracks.-it also lets us know how far the 2 players are getting out of sync-it reminds me of the gong show, but it is actually the sound of a big muff-ed Roland Juno 6 synth.-the gong was John Goodwin’s incredible, yet elegantly simple idea and it is also him playing the tone. 2) no lyrics, though I’d really love to hear your voices. I really would. Stack ‘em up, like ABBA.-the whole act of musicians playing well together hinges on how well they listen to each other.-the human voice is such an expressive and powerful tool that language and rhetoric often get in the way. -Removing words from the equation will hopefully encourage people to listen more-Think of listening to a song in a language you don’t speak. have those voices caused you to feel elated, or sad or any other emotion? Chances are, yes. Yes they have. 3) no recognizable samples however, please feel free to use the technology at your disposal to take a sample, blenderize it, reconstitute it and make it something else. found sound, and field recordings are encouraged. for example, would you listen to one minute of live whale sounds mixed with an overloaded drum beat? I sure would. Even if just for a minute. trains clanking, the washing machine on spin, a transformer circuit bursting to life, doppler siren sound as an ambulance races by, etc. can all be used to effect. stack some crickets for a rhythm track, use a frog creak as a bass drum. the possibilities of textures and sounds are literally endless. down the line, after the website is developed, I’m looking to turn this thing out to the public, and allow people to upload 1 minute of music at a time. Ideally, I’d like this thing to grow, and one of the rules would be that any music uploaded would be considered a free, fair-use sample for others to do with what they please. Much more on this later., but for now, imagine what a database of free 1 minute samples could do to hip-hop. I will not assume that the tracks you are sending me for the installations are free-fair use, and will not distribute them to the public. I may however be interested in sending things you’ve done to other people in this small group of contributors. that we’ll handle on a case-by-case basis, and I’ll make sure that you feel comfortable with what is being done with your work. please let me know if you have any concerns. 4) finalized tracks are grouped into either melody or rhythm ‘melody’ tracks are usually those that have more substantial ‘song’ type parts. ‘rhythm’ tracks can include melodic elements, but would mostly be considered decorative. -all of the melody and rhythm tracks are on the 1st ipod -only the rhythm tracks are on the 2nd ipod. you’ll never get two competing melodies, but you will get two rhythms matched up, which creates syncopation between the two sound sources, and also acts as a musical transition, since there is no melodic part present. -some of the rhythm tracks are left intentionally blank (with just the gong tone), so occasionally, the headphones will turn themselves off for a minute. -use of silence in your pieces can create excellent dynamics in the actual sound field when the headphones are going. 5) send music to me in mp3 format ( labeling the tracks: for right now, in the name of the track, you should include: 1) the code letter for the type of track it is: (“r” or “m”) 2) the instruments used in descending order of importance (if the drums are most important, put them first) 3) the name you would like to contribute under (your real name or a fake name), you can have a fake name and still be credited under a real name, fwiw. 4) with dots in between so if I turned in a piece of music, the file name would look like this: m.bass.drum.keys.kerble.mp3 or: r.kick.clap.synth. kerble.mp3 this will let us keep all of the files organized by type, and it will also let us organize them by instrumentation and composer. eventually, on the website, I’d like the database of sounds to be very searchable, and these tags will help if we just all have the same notation for files right off the bat. note that there is no ‘genre’ tag. I will never ask for one, but you could use one if you’d like (e.g. m.spanishguitar.indiantabla.voice.kerble.mp3). it will just create more variety in the database down the line, and it will allow for the mixing of genres which could result in terrible, terrific or just plain tepid results.

WHY: Why do people make Experimental Music? Part of growing as an artist comes from constantly trying new things. Imagine yourself as a digital photographer. You may take 1,000 photographs of the same thing, with slightly different variations. Out of those 1,000 you may only find a small handful that appeal to you. Similary, the experimental sound aspect of the chairs operates the same way. Try finding two songs that are the same length and start them at the same time. What does it do? Does it sound good? Does it sound terrible? Visualization and ExplorationWhen planning a new piece of work, it is easy to fantasize about where a given project could lead, but in reality, the unexpected things learned through the act of creating are often more rewarding than simply achieving some arbitrarily set goals. This project was not initially designed to be a random band generator. That was merely the end result of trying to resolve several aesthetic decisions. Creation and InventionThe first was the desire to create something dynamic and hopefully new for a sound installation. As opposed to having a recording of a single piece of music played linearly on a loop, we fragmented the composition into small segments of the same length and shuffled them against each other to create a single, endlessly changing piece of music. Collaboration and PlayIt’s fun to play music with other people. It’s often hard to find the time to do that. Being able to play music with others through the Chairs’ system was an appealing solution. More importantly, it was no longer the song that was changing every minute, but the band. For example, if Dazey Diver’s piece of music gets paired with hench’s piece of music, the original composers are no longer in the picture, and hench and DD now have a two man band that lasts for a minute. The gong rings, and the players switch over. The system can sustain itself without our contribution, we’re just using the framework we created to facilitate our friends playing music with each other in a sort of sonic blind date. It was thrilling when it came to us. Juxtaposition and InventionPlacing two different ideas next to each other often makes new ideas. Since the musical pieces are always interacting with each other, the more music that is added the less we know about what the chairs are going to do. With Musical Chairs, we are experimenting with all different types and styles of music to hopefully create something we haven’t heard before, or wouldn’t think to match up. It becomes an experiment of mixing music of different genres, styles, tempos and moods to see if it creates something that is aesthetically appealing by pure luck.

Applications: Community Recording Project- the biggest band in the world The music involved in this project is meant to be free, fair-use samples for others to play with, manipulate, mix, or just experience. Now, with the addition of each minute, the number of bands/songs can expand exponentially, eventually creating the biggest band in the world through sheer volume. As a hypothetical, imagine what a free database of samples could do for hip-hop. Art-Project Based Learning We believe that subjects in schools should not exist as separated entities. We believe more learning occurs when connections are made between subjects. We have been designing a curriculum around the Musical Chairs. It’s art-project based learning, or interdisciplinary curriculum around an art project. Included within the pages of this activity book are several simple lessons designed with this in mind. They cover recording, composition for non-composers, visual art, mathematics, and technology. They are meant to be supplemental material for teachers. There will be more to come on this idea at a later time. Band/Artist as non-profit – One thing we’d like you to consider is our model of a band /artist /filmmaker / writer /etc. as a non-profit. You have a job. It’s how you make your living. You are also artists, who take what money you make and dump it back into your creative life. Your art is your other job. It’s most likely a failing business that is hemorrhaging money. So what can you do? Save your receipts for the instruments or supplies you buy. Meet with friends/collaborators over lunch to discuss art and save the stub. When you file your taxes, you should report the meager money you make from your art and roll it into your personal budget. It can be argued that it is frivolous and selfish to treat what we create out of pure enjoyment as seriously as corporations treat their profits. However, if CEOs can write off airline tickets and expensive dinners to a government that overcharges the taxpayers for $3000 toilets installed in their buildings, we, as artists, can use the loopholes they’ve left for themselves as well. Besides, if we take our art more seriously, maybe we’ll get something better out of ourselves in the process.

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Materials: Two (2) cassette recorders w/playback speakers Two (2) blank cassettes





Record your basic track onto the first cassette deck. This is the backbone to your recording and should most likely be a rhythm or a bass track. Rewind cassette 1 when done recording.

While playing back the first cassette deck, hit record on the second cassette deck and play another part live over the first part. Experiment with volume levels to get a balance of the two sounds that appeal to you. Try a melodic line. You now have a recording of two music elements on tape 2. Rewind cassette 2 when done.



This Lesson plan is designed to provide a cheap and easy method for recording ideas, experimenting with sounds and learning about the basics of multi-track recording without requiring the purchase of expensive equipment. Since the cassette deck has become an outmoded format for recording and archiving, they can be acquired for very little at thrift stores and the like.

$4 4-track:




more at


Granted, sound quality on a set-up such as this is not the greatest, but the point is more about play and experimentation. This however, is often the first method of multi-track recording that many musicians use when starting out, and can be a fun and non-timeintensive way of getting ideas down and getting your feet wet.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat. What you record is up to you. Try different things. Harmonize with yourself, match up melodic lines, attempt complex arrangements on a simple system, listen to what it sounds like. The more times you bounce the recordings back and forth, the lower the sound quality of your final recording. However, half of the fun is seeing what happens when you give something a shot.


Playing back tape 2 while recording freshly on tape 1 will allow you to record another element to your recording. Tape 1 will now have a recording of three musical elements together.

AESTHETICS: A place to look, a place to sit, and a place to listen. Why two chairs and not one? * Two listeners can share one experience at the same time. * Represents how the technology works-two musical ideas juxtaposed to make one piece. * Represents the collaborative nature of the project Why street art? * Democratic art for public and private spaces Why Public Seating? * Part of city living-When riding on the CTA, or any other form of mass transit, your elbows may rub with the strangers sitting next to you creating an unspoken relationship. Similarly, the pieces of music are juxtaposed against each other in a happenstantial manner. * Represents the idea of community Why Prison Bus Seats? * The Freedman Seating Co. chairs make an excellent blank canvas that also work as functional art- a place to look, a place to sit, and a place to listen. *insert heavy-handed answer about prisons here: __________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________

Blank chair canvases made by:

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DIY Chair: Design your own chair

S T O C K YA R D I N S T I T U T E more at

zeb spraying: We asked zeb to spray our chairs for the Version 09 installation. We decided to take a few photos and jot some notes down while he gave us a lesson on the basics of spraypainting. Basic Techniques 1. lines : the basic painting element comes in many forms. 2. shapes : combining a group of lines evenly takes practice. 3. side-to-side : filling in a shape with neat layered lines of paint. improves your can control. 4. patchwork fade : a blend of different colors. of the same family. in this case it was used in the background. great for teaching as a first technique, since it doesn’t require precision, and can be taught in groups. *Remember to center youself and concentrate. *Try to hold the can upright for even spraying.

3 photos show zeb spraying an arrow. First he made an outline, then he used the side-toside line technique to fill it in. two basic spraycan caps: skinny caps - make a narrow spray line, are low-pressure and are good for detail fat caps - make a wide spray line, are high pressure and are good for filling in large areas



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basic shapes

fans rat-tail

line practice

Concept : the arabic script on the chairs is a transliteration of the word “two�.

letters adding flourishes to the letters can give their shape a 3-dimensional qualityHighlighting: a lighter colored soft spray on top of a darker letter gives it texture and added depth. Outlines: the lighter outlines around some of the edges also add depth. S T O C K YA R D I N S T I T U T E more at

Timeline: currently, v.2 has more than 2,500 different combinations, and is only going to grow. Down the road, we’d like to eventually set a site up for Musical Chairs, where people would be able to upload pieces to the shuffle. We plan to develop a player where people can hear the shuffled music online. There’s no rush to get us music. We’re going to be doing several more installations of the chairs, and there will be ample opportunities to add new music to the ipods. just something to chew on.

February, 2008 : Jim and Faiz start collaborating on project, Mike Omens paints Chair #1 of Michael Piazza

April, 2008 : Chairs sound demonstration @ Hyde Park Art Center for “Creative Move”. Chairs’ music broadcast live. Zeb teaches a “how to graffiti” lesson to a group of kids March, 2008 : May, 2008 : first initial 50 pieces 30 submissions of music written from collaborators and recorded added to shuffle June, 2008 : Chairs sound demonstration @ HPAC, Chicago

YOU can help this project grow! August, 2008 : Chairs music presented in Denmark as a part of “School for Nonproductive Learning� music pieces duplicated and distributed to 30 schools in Aarhus, Denmark to be used as part of their curriculum

April - May, 2009 : Chairs installation at Version 9, Activity Book released

May 21, 2009: Chairs are installed in the Multicultural Arts High School for Youth Summit: We Are Everywhere. Classes taught on Musical Chairs and $4 4- Track.

June-September, 2009: Chairs are installed in the Chicago Cultural Center for the Synesthetic Plan of Chicago

June 5-7, 2009: Chairs are installed at the Union Rock Yards for the First Annual PRF BBQ in conjunction with Electrical Audio Forum.


The Stockyard Institute is a collaborative artist project in Chicago founded by Jim Duignan, Associate Professor of Visual Arts Education at DePaul University. The project explores and designs ideas in and around pedagogy, learning and living in the city. The Stockyard Institute has since 1995, worked alongside DePaul University students, faculty and alumni, artist collectives, city organizations and cultural institutions in various forms of partnerships to ensure a better life for the young people they work alongside and maintain long relationships with. The Stockyard Institute focuses much of their attention towards the lives of the most underserved adolescents, building cooperative, investigative projects that draw from the young peoples’ experience. We set up the conditions to enable efforts that are guided by an ever expanding network of people, groups and spaces.

Credits: Jim Duignan: Concept, writing Faiz Razi: Concept, writing, illustrations Beth Wiedner: Production, writing, layout, design Zeb: Graffiti for Version 09 installation Brian McNally: Tech Support Music Credits: See How it Works page

Musical Chairs Random Band Generator zine  

Musical Chairs Random Band Generator zine

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