Constrained Diversity

Last year my thoughts rambled to the idea of ‘constrained diversity’ – that is, when given certain parameters and boundaries that dictate an outcome (to some degree), how do things differ and contrast in the remaining ‘free’ space?

To explore the idea a little further, I decided to undertake an experiment and see what the results yielded. Over a year later – I must profess it was a combination of waiting for others and personal slackness – I can now present the outcomes at hand. I had wanted a broader experiment but was limited in the number of people who were able and willing to contribute.

The experiment

‘Provide people with the lyrics and chords of a song they’ve never heard and ask them to perform and record it’

The rationale

We’ve all learnt songs from sheet music and use the combination of chords/timing/lyrics and memory of how the original is performed to re-enact it or cover it. But what happens if you have no ‘memory’ of how the original sounds? What is the end-point?

The example

One of my songs distributed to 4 friends under the moniker ‘Coffee and Covers’ in the following form. Ryan was unable to participate in the end due to a lack of home recording equipment. Tess Beyer and Eadie Newman, and Kristen Calle completed a version each and sent it back to be compared with my version.

The outcome


The aside

To those musical pedants reading, I must confess that’s it did not turn out to be a simple one-for-one exercise in all regards. Kristen, being the awesome and kooky musician he is used an alternate guitar tuning which change the chords a bit. In his words:

“My version is played in some weird open tuning I have never used before. I think it was C,A,D,G,C,E. Anyway, it’s [stuffed] so I though I was playing some Am variation, but I think it was closer to a C. So hate away at me if you will, but the verse chord progression actually sounds more like C, F, C(ish), Am, G. So, yeah. Sorry about that.”

As you can tell by my response, I wasn’t too phased 😉

“Fucking Love it!!! […] Thanks again for having a crack… you’ve also earnt my girlfriend’s
full respect for doing all this for a friend of a friend!”

Also, Tess and Eadie struggled with an unknown source of high-pitched whining. While I did some post-submission EQ, it still persists and the resultant track makes it sound a little like the girls are underwater.

The thanks

I love both tracks and massive thanks go out to Kristen, Tess, Eadie and Brigitte (for use of her PC). Also, a big thanks to Bec Dickson who put me in touch with Kristen and Ryan G Johnson for doing his darndest to take part. (I have heard Ryano’s version over Skype and we may be able to get it up one day). Lastly, huge apologies to Kristen and the girls for taking so long in getting this up.

If anyone’s keen to do something similar (or diverse) in the future give me a hoy!


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