For this month's Revitalize Music Contest, artists from Lisbon to Austin dug through public domain songs, got inspired, and submitted their creations to our contest repository. Our talented judges from the music, radio, and public domain worlds loved hearing the wide range of incredible entries, but eventually had to select a winning song.
OUR WINNER IS CROWN THE INVISIBLE
Crown the Invisible created an incredible power pop rendition of the 1911 revenge anthem "The Spaniard That Blighted My Life" by Billy Merson. The song tells the story of a man whose girl is charmed away by a Spanish bullfighter.
'Twas at the bull fight where we met him
We'd been watching his daring display
And while I went out for some nuts and a programme
The dirty dog stole her away
The winning band's been around for about a year, and are a blend between a studio compositional project and a raucous psychedelic act. They are all young, grizzled rock dudes who live and work in East Williamsburg warehouses, where they've been cultivating their space/stoner rock sound. They describe their band as "if Rick Wakeman played with Ride, but the songs were written by The Pretty Things while they watched Planet of the Apes and listened to Hawkwind." That is to say, they all grew up on early '90s and '60s British stuff.
When the band began working on their arrangement they describe the process as "vibe hunting." There was a lot of stomping and clapping involved, which is how they ended up deciding to keep the waltzy 3/4 time signature without over-emphasizing it. This also how they found the song's distinctive sound, a swirling whistle made by playing a hammond organ sample on a keyboard through a guitar amp.
During this process, singer CG Foisy says he kept waking up in the middle of the night with the lyrics stuck in his head. He says it's a terrible song to have in your head because, "it's cheeky, evil and weird. It's a portal into male territoriality. How men are these vindictive monkeys."
Overall, the challenge was good practice for the band. This summer CG is traveling to Beijing, where he'll play a few shows, and then spend a week traveling the silk road looking for music along the way. What he finds will eventually be adapted into song challenges for the band. Whenever he travels, CG loves to pick up a new instrument. You can even hear (kinda) one of these instruments in the winning song. It's an Indian instrument he bought in Singapore called the gopichand. It sounds part sitar, part mouth harp.
Participating in the contest speaks to the bands' interests in being part of a community through their music. Some bands get really into making an album, then going on tour, then making another album, then going on another tour, and hoping to be signed by a label. CG says, "That works well for some bands, but other bands like to take on weekly assignments, making videos and vignettes, and to have different kinds of conversations with their fans."
Crown the Invisible includes Jared Barron, CG Foisy, Steve Schwadron, with a guest appearance in this recording by Gabriel Berezin on bass. Check out their summer series Fantastic Planet, which installs different bands in different warehouses, merging live noise rock with visuals. You can also see them play live on May 9th at Don Pedro (90 Manhattan Avenue), where they might be performing their winning song.
The band will soon be given the "Friday" treatment by music video producer Elizabeth Skadden. She's worked with bands including Deep Time and Parquet Courts (who have a live session on the FMA). Check back later this month to see what they put together.
THIS IS THE CONTEST THAT NEVER ENDS
Even though the contest is over, we'd like to leave this as an open-ended creative challenge for everyone interested. You can submit your songs here. Keep in mind that because our contest entries have all adapted the CC0 Public Domain Declaration, they are all ripe for remixing and use in various projects.
THANK YOU TO OUR JUDGES
Our speedy judges included Edward Guo (Founding Director, IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library), April Ledbetter (Dust-to-Digital Record Company), Laura Cantrell (Singer-Songwriter), Joel Meyer (Executive Producer, WNYC's Soundcheck), Adam Green (Editor, Public Domain Review) and Ken Freedman (Station Manager, WFMU). They evaluated entries based on originality, creativity, artistic merit, adherence to the "Revitalize Music" theme, and general musical appeal.
This contest is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.