2011 Simpler Times (concept instrumental album)

This musical collaboration took place over email, half-way across the globe, over 10 months.

2011 Simpler Times - music album cover
Download/ stream at www.archive.org/details/2011SimplerTimes. Creative Commons license: Attribution 3.0

I got to know fellow ccMixter-ist, urmymuse, from following his uploads and finding that we share different but compatible tastes in electric guitar-based instrumentals. Early 2011, I asked if he’d like to collaborate on something. He was game enough to try.

Early on, we decided on the “Simpler Times” theme/ title. And that it would be released under a CC-BY license.

We had a general idea that it would be about carefree growing-up days, the overall process was really a lets-see-what-we-produce approach.

The album took shape as we emailed MP3 stems and refined the tracks. We abandoned one track that didn’t quite fit the theme. Eventually, we had seven.

After the tracks were mixed and mastered, I invited people via Twitter and Facebook to preview the album. Two online pals (Deb and Kanako) were kind enough to volunteer.

Deb’s review was extremely encouraging (thanks, Deb!):

Hi Ivan, I like it! The tracks seem unified by a common theme / sound, which changes slightly to a more upbeat sound with the final track. I found it really relaxing to listen to and the sound quality (just listening in headphones) is superb. Thanks for letting me listen. Well done to you both. Best wishes, Deb

As Kanako had retweeted my preview invitation, I presumed she would be interested too (ok, so I was desperate for an audience!).

But instead of a preview per se, I asked if she could contribute a CC-BY licensed photo for the album cover. Backstory: urmymuse retrieved a few good CCY-BY-NC ones from Flickr, but I thought to get broader CC-BY licensed ones. I knew Kanako liked to take photos and I was always keen to have as many CC-collaborators on board a project.

Like all collaborative albums, I enjoyed the process of discovery and learning a lot. There’s always, always something new.

For one, it was very interesting to read the thoughts and ideas from urmymuse. As we discussed ideas for the track, he articulated fairly lengthy (but enjoyable to read) “thought-streams” of what the track meant or reminded him.

Receiving the MP3 stems from a fellow collaborator was like opening up a present in the mail. The stems carried with them the possibility of creation. I think that’s what keeps me excited.

To urmymuse, cheers man!


“2011 Simpler Times” was mixed by Ivan Chew. Album cover by Ivan Chew, based on an original photo (CC-BY license) by Kanako Honma. All music and images licensed under a CC-BY license. Please credit: