Telephono: Write A Song, Pass It Around

David Matysiak, who started Telephono

David Matysiak, who started Telephono. Photo by Dana Damewood hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Dana Damewood

Think of it in terms of a musical chain letter. David Matysiak e-mails a sound file of a simple tune to another musician, and that musician creates a song out of it. The second musician passes it on to a third musician, who makes a new one and passes it on again. It's that old children's game telephone, transformed into a collaborative songwriting technique.

Matysiak says he started Telephono after 10 years of touring with a rock band and writing with the same group. He thought he needed to work with new people to make his music better. Being a team player, he turned to the Internet to look for collaborators. He says that working with other musicians makes him happier than sitting by himself strumming a guitar.

When the people involved with Telephono receive a song, they're free to change, as Matysiak says, "anything or everything. Or nothing at all." At the same time, he says, "I've kind of been waiting for that one song to come back where I send it out and then someone passes it on exactly how they heard it."

Matysiak tells the story of one song's growth. Called "Ain't We Super Human," it started as a two-minute guitar riff that Matysiak wrote. (At that point, the song was called "There Was No Expiration Date on the Carton of Milk That Wore My Thinning Face.") He sent it to his friend Bob Nanna, who took the riff and created a whole song from it. But the track was only 40 seconds long.

Nanna sent it to another Chicago musician, Mike Kinsella, who added some color and extended the song. Enrico Molteni, in Italy, then added some trumpet and some samples he'd made of kids playing on a beach and waves crashing.

The song has remained in Italy — perhaps moving among Italian musicians at this very moment — with no telling where it will end up.

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