The idea of having to create the musical soundtrack for not just one but eight separate episodes of a documentary, fit them into themes and footage, and also be able to afford it all was one of the more daunting obstacles I thought I would have to face. As it turned out, it wasn't that bad; sometimes I didn't use much music at all, while other times I flooded the audio track with it. And ultimately, I used about 60 different pieces of music from a wide spectrum of artists.

The secret sauce, of course, was Creative Commons music, which gave me a wide variety of musical types and styles to try out against the footage, without worrying about licensing fees, rights, festival clearances, and a lot of the other baggage that can accompany going down the road of "buying" music.

Part of the license let me remix, match, and combine pieces of music as I saw fit, and as a result, some of the songs below sound very different in the final soundtrack. I rarely used voices (cutting around them) and in a few cases, I would take a 10 or 20-second piece of a song and loop and modify it to turn it into a 2 or 3 minute background song. In fact, to be absolutely sure I was crediting all artists I used, I went back to the actual saved video editing files and pulled out the references to the exact MP3 and OGG files. So they're all in there, and present and accounted for.


Two artists dominate throughout all of the documentary. Paul Slocum, called "Treewave", and Russell Purdy, known as "Sleepy Rabbit" and "Lusuido". These two bands created songs that I thought captured perfectly what I was going for in terms of tone. Treewave creates very warm-sounding songs using 8-bit computer equipment (including a really cool dot-matrix printer that has a hacked ROM) while Sleepy Rabbit very simply casts musical shadows over long, sad songs that harken to a different place.

For BAUD, I ended up using a mere two songs by Treewave, both basically variations of the same musical phrase, done by the printer. I cut into them at a few points in the episode to bridge between sequences, or to go under title cards. I intentionally gave the first episode a sparse soundtrack, simply because I wanted the history to speak for itself, and not have it feel like I had to jazz it in any way.

Probably the most jarring aspect of the Morning Coffee Hymn is that you get to hear the singing of the other half of Treewave, Lauren Gray. Her vocals are also haunting and distant, but like I indicated in the introduction, I avoided putting vocals into the soundtrack because my documentary is so dependent on people talking. That doesn't mean she's not worth listening to; she definitely is. I should also note that in fact Treewave's music is not licensed Creative Commons, like most of the rest of the music. I pay him a royalty for every copy of the DVD set that's sold. None of the other artists have this deal, and it's because his theme song is so prevalent everywhere, and because I wanted this particular artist to see funds, and also his limitations on the use of the music were so refreshingly few, I also wanted him rewarded.

TreewaveCigarettes and Coffee IntroductionLOCAL COPY
TreewaveMorning Coffee HymnLOCAL COPY


SYSOPS AND USERS has but one song, again by Treewave. Called "May Banners", it's a complicated, layered, and beautiful piece of work, getting immediate attention with its odd opening, and continued shifts throughout the song. I use it over the opening and closing credits, and again Lauren Gray is screwed out of making an appearance in the documentary.

The vast majority of SYSOPS AND USERS are intensely (and I do mean intensely) intercut interviews, sometimes with just a word or two from each person coming together to form ideas and concepts. Dozens of people are in this episode, and so I thought that adding music would be distracting, since the conversation (intentionally) jumps around like a message board, with so many different voices, you spend a lot of time keeping your ear tuned to the changing words, and the last thing you need to be doing is pulling voices out of music as well. I wavered every once in a while during editing (maybe I need a song here, maybe I should cut away to a sequence with music) but I stayed firm and kept it quiet except for the credits.

TreewaveMay BannersLOCAL COPY


Intentionally, and ironically, the MAKE IT PAY episode is the most "commercial" looking of all the episodes. It goes into the story of the BBS Industry, the characters behind it, and the conflicts between the hobbyists and the business-makers. There was a real tension there and I tried to capture some of that, without it descending into a cesspool of un-backed accusations and declarations like some documentaries will do. A book would be better suited for discussing intrigue, backstabbing and politics; I do not think I will be the one writing such a book.

Copacetix' song "Tonya" ended up being "Jack Rickard's Theme". It just seemed to work as a piece with his story and people discussing his personality. Luke Palmer's piano pieces were a lifesaver in this and FIDONET for getting across a nice sense of class to some of the sequences; I use two movements (Adagio and Rubato) of his Piano Sonata Number 2. Sleepy Rabbit, as I indicated above, brings in a few songs of sadness and thinking that I ended up using during discussions of discontent and the like.

The bend of the music is somewhat acoustic, with a little sense of electronica that I hope doesn't overpower what's being said.

By far my favorite piece I used for this episode was Curt Cloninger's "Post Righteousness", which is part of a musical project he created where he took revivalist recordings and put them to music. I don't use the revivalist recording parts, but his soundtracks to them are a nice mix of tribal drum beating and a coffee-house jam. It really worked for me.

Catalpa CatalpaMummyLOCAL COPY
CopacetixTonyaLOCAL COPY
Curt CloningerPost RighteousnessLOCAL COPY
Drama Mean for the Gift Id ChildAs a Child Through Time and SpaceLOCAL COPY
Hijiyama ProjectMorning SunLOCAL COPY
Luke PalmerPiano Sonata No 2 - AdagioLOCAL COPY
Luke PalmerPiano Sonata No 2 - RubatoLOCAL COPY
Manolo CampSeductive TalesLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitDomegreensLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitKimono Boy LeadsLOCAL COPY
Space MonkeyThis Goes OutLOCAL COPY


Throughout most of the production, I had a mailing list of friends and respected figures who could give me input and advice instead of living within my own head. This enabled me to make some decisions that saved me time and money, while making others that added quality and variety.

After the release of my first trailer, one of my advisors said "I hope you're just not going to fall into using techno music for all of the episodes." I hadn't given it much thought either way (editing was still in the preliminary stage) but after he got me thinking about it, I decided he was very right. So, the FIDONET is primarily acoustic guitar music.

This was fun and challenging, and ultimately worth the effort. But in the case of the music I used, it tended to have people singing (since most single-guitar songs tend to have a person who's trying to get a message across, so they sing along). Hence, I had to cut around them. And therefore, the songs below, in some cases, are very nearly unrecognizable in their form on the episode. In some cases, three different songs were blended together to create one.

The song "Amelio" by Copacetix really sets the tone for the work; it's the one that plays the first time you see Tom Jennings. It was the first one I edited in, and I thought "wow, that really does change the tone". And I really liked the tone.

Kid Cholera's "Ambien" is the opening and closing credits music (in greatly re-arranged form) and also does a great job. It shows up halfway as well, and I don't think the documentary showcases what a neat piece of music it is.

CopacetixAmelioLOCAL COPY
ElysisNeuronal DivingLOCAL COPY
Howard Owen10k milesLOCAL COPY
Kid CholeraAmbienLOCAL COPY
Luke PalmerPiano Sonata No 2 - RubatoLOCAL COPY
Noize UnitzBored KrishnaLOCAL COPY
Ricardo SweattBroadcastLOCAL COPY
Ricardo SweattUna Senora de El SalvadorLOCAL COPY
Sea OrgI am Very OptimisticLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitOverloadLOCAL COPY
The Wedding SoundtrackPerfect SundayLOCAL COPY
The Wedding SoundtrackSing Along Before You DrownLOCAL COPY
The Wedding SoundtrackVolvoLOCAL COPY


For all the discussion and choices to go with acoustic pieces on Fidonet, I decided that techno and "chip music" was the way to go for the music in ARTSCENE. I used a number of artists to punctuate certain sequences, although of course I fell back on Sleepy Rabbit as the workhouse for a lot of the film. A lot of people who release music for the sake of it tend to go into a certain "feel" through a lot of the pieces, and Sleepy Rabbit jumps around a lot, giving me a lot of flexibility to fit it into scenes.

"Chip Music", by the way, is a genre of computer music that goes out of its way to use pure sine waves and "computer" sounds, so that it has a very retro feel. (Although the artists are so good in many cases that you can't even tell.)

Snoopdroop's piece "You're a Hero on Level Zero" shows up during the definition of "PD Scene", and is unique among all the songs in the documentary, being created entirely on a Nintendo Gameboy.

ChromagShock Therapy #23LOCAL COPY
Hijiyama Project34 DegreesLOCAL COPY
Hijiyama ProjectEvery Second SecondLOCAL COPY
Hijiyama ProjectMorning SunLOCAL COPY
NagzMay I Own You?LOCAL COPY
NagzWorms in Sineland!!!LOCAL COPY
Punda WebberLa Cena Dei MaialiLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitBee Sting SlowLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitCreams of NeatLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitKimono Boy LeadsLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitSadLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitSteal ThingsLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitYour Vandal HandsLOCAL COPY
SnoopDroopYou're a Hero on Level ZeroLOCAL COPY


Even though it might be expect that there would be electronica and techno all over an episode that's ostensibly about "hacking", in actual fact it goes all over the place.

This is one of the last episodes I'd edited, and by then I'd learned that you didn't need music in "theme" to match it against the visual images and what was being talked about. In fact, sometimes the contrast between someone talking really quickly about something funny while combining it with a slow dirge gives the whole thing a neat sense of weight. This happened a lot in this episode.

One sequence I really enjoyed putting together was "Morality", and I use the same song from Catalpa Catalpa, "Mummy", which appears in "Make it Pay", but where in the other it's an underpinning for people talking with pride about the BBS industry, here it's people talking about Morality, while this song slowly builds up, menancingly, until it nearly drowns them out.

The star of the soundtrack for this episode is far and away "Oak Arena" by Catalpa Catalpa; it's a dreamy, drifting song of which I can only use some parts because so much of it has the sound of seems to be a restaurant going on in the background. But the other parts of it are fantastic, and it shows up in at least three parts, including the credit sequence.

I paid a flat fee for the usage of "Spreadsheet" by Upbeat Depression, and I ended up using only a little of it (for the opening title sequence). That'll show me to "invest" months and months before I start editing. What I liked about it was the use of a dot matrix printer as the melody for a good portion of it, and so that got in.

Catalpa CatalpaMummyLOCAL COPY
Catalpa CatalpaOak ArenaLOCAL COPY
Kid CholeraCathaedralbysmalLOCAL COPY
LusiudoFrequentLOCAL COPY
LusiudoSpreading Through the CityLOCAL COPY
M RenkemaMellow TrackLOCAL COPY
M RenkemaTell Me SomethingLOCAL COPY
M RenkemaVictoria and the MonkeyLOCAL COPY
Punda WebberLa Cena Dei MaialiLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitGive Back to the World (Pre)LOCAL COPY
Suono VivaceNot From ConcentrateLOCAL COPY
Upbeat DepressionSpreadsheetLOCAL COPY


The final episode with music. "Compression" has no music whatsoever; I tried a little and it felt really horrible and cheap, so I left it with just its (powerful) words. In the case of NO CARRIER, there's probably a little sense of chintz with it, but I thought that completely avoiding music would be silly in its own right.

Here we see the full power of Sleepy Rabbit; the episode has 11 of his songs, including 7 of them under his other name, "Lusiudo". I don't entirely hear a difference between the two names he uses; they're both great to me. So I layer and attach the music to various scenes, with sweeping sad chords and distant noise over the people talking about the BBS's dial-up era fading to a close.

People looking for one song that represents the feel of this episode need look no further than "Sell Out", the title of which isn't meaningful for this subject matter, but the tone of which captures the sense of something gone but not forgotten with perfection. Again, it's not likely people would think all the music in this episode was made by one person, and especially one who didn't see one frame of footage, but that's very much the case here.

LusiudoAmbient GarbageLOCAL COPY
LusiudoCactus GirlLOCAL COPY
LusiudoFrequentLOCAL COPY
LusiudoListlessLOCAL COPY
LusiudoSpreading Through the CityLOCAL COPY
LusiudoSubject of a NapLOCAL COPY
LusiudoHouse That I BuiltLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitCast of LandLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitRestLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitSadLOCAL COPY
Sleepy RabbitSell OutLOCAL COPY


There are many different ways to edit in background music into a film; obviously a more artistic work that works as a single piece tends to have custom, distinct music added to it over time, or where there is a lot of collaboration. In my case, my films stood as music-free until nearly the end of editing, because I didn't want to use music as a crutch to get around problems inherent in the work. I wanted these episodes to be as watchable as possible without adding some catchy song to make it tolerable. Once I did add them, it was initially very jarring to hear the works with music, which is why some have almost none. I tried, with SYSOPS AND USERS, for example, to add a background throughout the episode but thought it just confused things. And as I said above, COMPRESSION was fine with no frills whatsoever.

At no time did I ever consider using "commercial" music for these episodes. (I did enter negotiations for a song to play over the menu, but predictably those fell through after about a year.) Instead, I always knew I wanted unusual and unknown groups to work with, so I wasn't "feeding" off the fame of the song. I never liked doing that, and don't expect I ever will in future works.

I should also mention, as I do on the DVD, that a vast majority of these artists were found on a website called OPSOUND, which is the Open Sound Pool. They have gone out of their way to make it easy to find musicians who are licensing their art under Creative Commons Attribute-Sharealike, and so a vast majority of my work was done for me. Except, of course, listening to every piece to see if I could use it, and that's pretty good work if you can get it.

If you like the work these artists have done, communicate with them, download their other works, and enjoy their contributions to the world.