MAZE and the Piano Storybook

A while ago, Vincent and I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign called the Piano Storybook, started by a guy who goes by Shnabubula, a name I seem unable to type without whispering it quietly to myself. (Try it: Shnabubula. Shnabubula. You won’t be able to stop.) The idea was that 100 people would each send an image or series of images to him, and he would improvise 100 piano songs inspired by the images.

Vincent sent Shnabubula a copy of MAZE and asked him to “improvise a song based on the images from the series of rooms you choose to move through.  While it’s hypothetically possible to wander around the Maze indefinitely, unless you’re deliberately going in circles it won’t take long before your journey comes to an end.”

Supporters of the Piano Storybook had the option to request what kind of song they wanted (in terms of tempo, melodic style, etc) and Vincent made this request, after giving Shnabubula time to experience the book: “Ok, so by now I trust you’ve made your way to Room 24, to spend eternity in the infinite blackness with the Looney Tunes eyeballs. My specific request relates only to the end of the song, which reflects your experience ending up in this room. I’m a big fan of long songs with endings that just repeat over and over and over, much longer than intuition tells you they should. Hey Jude-type endings. The thing is, those are almost always jubilant songs with joyous music that slowly fades away. Here, I would like it if your improvisation ended with a more grim and menacing line, one that repeats an absurd number of times, and that grows in intensity and volume as it progresses instead of diminishing. How you actually end the song I don’t really know, but I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”

Meanwhile, I sent in a hastily-thrown-together composite image of faces of MazeCasters and screenshots from the Abyss, together with a sappy but heartfelt letter with a description of the community and how it has evolved, and also how important it has been to me over the past few years.

Here’s what we got from Shnabubula:

“Vincent, I tried to follow the instructions in your text-file as closely as possible, it was quite a fascinating suggestion and one that I fully embraced.

“For your song, Sara, I decided to take a slightly meta-approach to the interpretation of your story in finding the Maze community, and turn it into a larger narrative arc relating to the Maze itself. I imagined a single person, lost in the Abyss for eternity, that is the end point of Vincent’s song, and then yours is a kind of sequel with that same person, first in a position of isolation, eventually within that darkness finds this community. There are still the undertones of darkness on the fringes and there is even a specific moment meant to represent when people had become disillusioned with some of the solutions.  At 15:19 of the video I’m sending you two, the motif from Vincent’s Abyss ‘Hey Jude’ finale is briefly recalled to represent that, but then it leads to the final portion which is still, this beautiful community forming around this strange mysterious thing.”

The full Piano Storybook will be released soon, but meanwhile Shnabubula gave me permission to share this video he made with the two MAZE songs. Hope you enjoy!

Teaser: There’s more to this story. Inspired by his experience with MAZE, Shnabubula created a musical puzzle! Details to come with the public release.