Online electronic music collaboration with anonymity

I wanted to share the story of ninja forums and their online collaboration on music. Alas this is not my project or initiative, my housemate and good friend was a participant and I thought it was pretty cool, definitely worth a share.

Its role in cultural blends is an interesting one, everybody involved shares the demographic of a) being interested and capable of making electronic music/ sounds, b) has access to the internet and is a member of ninja forums. Beyond that however these people could be anything. No knowledge of age, gender, ethnicity, technical ability, class etc ect.

The project is a sort of pass the parcel of layers in a track, or tracks in an album. Someone starts and then each successive person edits and adds to the track they are sent, or another format, each person creates a section and blends it into the section they were sent as to create a continuous piece. My friends and I attempted something similar however we knew each other well and could anticipate the directions or styles the others would use, I’m not sure if social hierarchy played a part consciously but where different levels of skill are known, then the subconscious implications on how to edit the track were present. E.g. the best technical ability is equated to the best musical contribution.

Something wonderful about the anonymity of online collaboration is the possibility of letting go of that (in my opinion) reductive concept of “quality” and “authorship”. Also I think its indicative of the trend I experience as the removal of idolization of the individual and embracing the collective. Everything comes from the collective, whether this is recognized or not has tended us to overlook the power of loose, temporal, and unqualified contributions to all art and thinking. This removal of hierarchy and cultural blending go together. The idea that we (the west, the uk, the educated, etc) are more developed individually because we have been enjoying relative economic and technological hierarchy has been dying for a long while now. Anonymous collaboration and the unjaded power of music compel us to accept cultural blending as firmly established way of making better thinking.

Also worth a note that this operated outside the institutions of music, is not funded, sponsored or directed in any way at money making, and allows sampling. the link to the video and track with description and further links.

"The game was played between March and August 2011 by members of the Ninja Tune Records online community forum ( ). The idea behind the game was that the first participant would produce four bars of original music, send the finished four bars to a nominated member who would assemble the finished pierce, and then send just their fourth bar to the next player who would then develop their own four bars from that point and repeat the process. Certain rules were put in places to aid the process as outlined in the image attached to this video (or here: Listen to Cut And Run on SoundCloud here: "

Still some way to go

As a former musician (with even limited experience as a producer) I have done more than my fair share of tampering with loops and music editing software. I played the track a couple of times, and there are a few pieces missing for me to really go “wow, this GREAT!”.

I would be tempted to just tamper with the rules and see what happens. It is quite tricky to get right: you need to have rules for the overall result to sound harmonious: for example, this piece all has the same bpm, and is all in the same key. But is you have too many of them and too rigid, you probably get a pretty boring result.

Anyway, the first 8 bars by techdef and Ludvig are great, groovy and well integrated with each other. Then it loses some steam, methinks…

yes but is that the point of this?

Hey Alberto, I’m inclined to agree with you from a listening point of view, but i really think this misses the point of the post.

we have no idea how experienced the contributors are and a first time participation is bound to be somewhat intimidating. The idea that we can anonymously contribute to something with the knowledge that those more advanced in their skill are also contributing goes some way to building a community of improvement.

Breaking through that first barrier can be hard. The idea of learning something and then waiting till you feel you have the confidence and the skill level to contribute, is surely a really time consuming and not-very-human-tendencies way of working. We could all wait until we felt completely competent, but that day may never come. Surely failure is the epicenter of success, and this piece if it does not wow on an audio level, surely impresses on a communal (conceptual) one.

Also they have a page of their rules on the vimeo page.


All together now

Hi Jessy,

I read this and rememberd a presentation about a Berlin-based initiative called all together now. They had an event where a bunch of people were brought together to produce an album (including packaging an visual communication) in one day as an experiment. And it was an interesting discussion. It bring to mind a dscussion raised by Susanne Stauch about how she sees her role as a professional designer and goldsmith  in the DIY, DIT space:

I’d be interested if you see any parallels…or if they are completely different spaces in your opinion.


Hey Nadia, thanks for that link. That CYOFTURE looks really cool! Yes I definitely do see parallels, I also think the role of the artist is often going to be and should be to help bring those creative processes out in others and in groups.

“The future role of a designer will shift from the taste giving specialist for an object, to much more design a process in which things can happen.”

It is not but often has been perceived by many as beyond them to do art/ music/ design, etc but really there are just a few principals involved and with a bit of time most people could achieve the results they thought were too hard. Re learning perspective, or learning a new skill is very good for people, and unlocks a further appreciation of the processes behind things. Considering business it’s also beneficial to share skills, generating more interest in the long term. People who share music buy more music eventually and go to more gigs and such. I have a big respect for anyone who masters a skill oh a high level, but I love the aesthetics and style of the undertrained. I think it’s a great resource-combining idea, to have people learn as they help build, it reminds me a bit of wwoofing or volunteering an eco build.

fluid dynamic moving beyond!!

hey jetpacks! i love it, it is so refreshing to see hope to move beyond fixed trends of art decided for us by elite ‘artistes’. sure it’s only in infancy, but there is that potential isn’t there? must contributors at the moment are products of the defined frameworks of music and culture and repeat clichés, but this must make it more possible for the genius twists and changes to take place on a much larger scale. i think genius is much more widespread than anyone realises because it seldom gets accepted or identified by reduced-dimensional critics and producers; let the people produce and see how much more diverse it can get…

agreed!! but with tweaks

Hey! Sorry for long delay in reply I’m just completing my degree. To get the best out of art music or creativity on a personal or social level I think it’s completely necessary to remove the concept of genius. I like what you say about genius being everywhere it certainly seems very positive but it’s a shame the word has already been weighted. I think it’s the idolation of the concept of "genius’ that has done so much to see people conceptually remove themselves from the playground. Genius and authorship are both reductive concepts in the arts.

The upholding of these values removes art from the everyday, the domestic, the reality of life. On comparing women’s art work from Russia with the west jo Anna Isaac describes it “…Evolving bourgeois notions of the artist associated creativity with everything that was anti-domestic, and the Bohemian model of the free living, sexually energetic, socially alienated “genius” became the stereotype of the artist who was, by definition, male.” (Feminism and contemporary art- jo Anna isaak)

Everything is built on a framework of input, there is no escaping that, so for me the concept of ‘stealing’ ideas is null and therefore so is the concept of ‘ownership/ authorship’. Ideas time again evolve completely separately from each other with striking similarity, and tying authorship to them is a tool that helps progress the practice of art as (hyper)capitalist and therefore not community focused phenomenon. I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong conceptual project that it wasn’t possible to find an uncanny parallel with using the Internet. This is not a bad feeling as an artist it feels amazing to be so reaffirmed. In a way the experience of creativity is about connections being made.

I’ve just discovered a thing called fan fiction, which I think shows a brilliant trend, made possible or at least multiplied greatly by the Internet. Here fans of original works add to or extrapolate the stories, characters etc. Fan fiction - Wikipedia

"They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. "

This is time spent being creative on a pre-existing framework that appealed, with no thought of being graded/tested or paid, for the joy of it, honing these skills of imagination/ communication will have manifold positive outcomes for the individual and culture.

Well there is a lot happening now days and a lot to think about, it feels like this is a very accessible time for creativity, but there is probably still lots that could be done to foster this trend.