Opendoor Edition Premiere and Note from Project Director

2017 May 4 Release of Waywords and Meansigns

We’re delighted to share with you the 2017 release of Waywords and Meansigns. Our Opendoor Edition features 123 recordings spanning 19 hours and 23 minutes from 15 countries. All audio is free on this site, so check it out! You can locate specific recordings on our Artists page.

We’re also releasing Mike Watt and Adam Harvey’s recording of “Shem the Penman”, with an accompanying image from Raymond Pettibon (below), which was originally scheduled for inclusion in the 2016 second edition release. You can check out the recording here.

We hope you have fun listening to this music. We definitely enjoyed making it. As previously announced, this is our final group release but it’s also an open edition, so we invite you to record your own passage.

Raymond Pettibon, Gumby and Finnegans Wake for Waywords and Meansigns

Note from project director Derek Pyle

Occasionally people are ask me, “who are you? are you a musician? why did you start this project?”

Sometimes I make up impressive answers, but only because the truth seems to bother people: I’m just some dude, I’m not really a musician, I did this because it seemed like a fun thing to do.

I started this project as a 23-year-old kid. I had some experience with Finnegans Wake but I knew relatively little about the creative as well as academic mojo surrounding Joyce and his book.

But I had this idea and figured, hey, if somebody is into Finnegans Wake, or if they like unusual music, maybe they would dig this Waywords and Meansigns thing too.

With that attitude, I emailed a lot of people. Some of those people responded. Really badass, talented, creative people!

That vote of confidence in turn inspired me to email a whole lot more people. The thing kept growing. And I said, well hey, I’m not doing anything else with my life so why not do this? I worked the night shift in order to spend my days doing this.

Probably a big part of “my” success “promoting” this project was because I wasn’t promoting myself. I was repping something larger – a thing with room for any and all interested everybodies. (I’ll tell you a secret: no one ever got rejected from this project, no audio turned down, except one dude who mainly wanted us to pay him to make spa music. But dude, if you’re reading this now and want to get involved again, get in touch!)

I was excited by the project’s possibilities — like hey, how big can this thing get? Just to find out, how far can you take a thing?

But I realized that the bigger it gets, and the more you concern yourself about such size, the more you stress. The more I strived toward greatness, the less fun it became.

Which led me to learn something: there are many things worth pursuing in life, but I’m not sure if widespread approval  – success, greatness, whatever you want to call it – is one of them.

Waywords and Meansigns will continue – people will continue to listen to the recordings, and there’s an open invitation to submit new recordings. But I don’t have anything left to prove, not here at least. Whatever happens next will be organic. The thing has a life of it’s own.

The project is like a portal. Through this thing you could learn a whole lot about the world, if you’re willing to read the footnotes. For starters, just look at our contributors — they’ll take you through history of skateboarding, to punk rock collectives where kids play forks and knives as musical instruments. You’ll encounter echolocation, cryptograms, mysticism and piety. You’ll meet high school teachers and high school drop outs, you’ll hear microtonal colors and modified sitars and unknown legends and mysterious obscurities.

I’ll say it again. Read the footnotes. Take many detours.

I am and always have been just a small part of this thing. I answer and send a lot of emails, but that doesn’t make me the important person here. There are literally hundreds of people who dedicated a portion of their lives to this thing, and together we are Waywords and Meansigns. That collective includes fellow creators as well as our supporters and dedicated listeners.

Which is what made this project worth it. I met some really incredible people. I met some people with recognizable names, sure, but famous or not what mattered most was getting to know a lot of really passionate, wild, weird, adventurous, funny, kind people.

And I learned a lot. I learned how to write press releases and how to build a website. I learned that people sometimes respond to the weird emails you write them, so you might as well write a few. I learned that loads of people are willing to dedicate portions of their lives to labors of love. I learned that sometimes your dreams fuel you through late nights and long days. I learned what to do with the wild parts of myself – that guy who follows bands around the country and stays up all night talking, even just talking to himself, and stays up all night listening to music, the weird guy who loves deeply.

Along the way I also met a lot of people who felt their creative work was underappreciated. Like they’d spent a lifetime doing a or b or z, really wishing they’d gotten more recognition for it. Other people didn’t really care about that. They were going to make music no matter what. In either case, I tried as much as possible to make sure all our people felt appreciated for their hard work, because what everyone has done here is truly remarkable. I sent out a lot of press releases, stuff like that, hoping to achieve some measure of acknowledgement and appreciation for each and every person involved. It’s important to be recognized for the things we do.

But through my own taste of publicity and recognition, I saw that some of my assumptions were worth questioning. I had automatically assumed some cultural narrative that you should seek popularity and success, because that’s how you prove you’re “the best”. But now I’m not so sure.

The critics may bestow the title of “greatness” on some and not on others, but I just can’t bring myself to care all that much what the critics say or don’t say. To me, the best music is the stuff you make with and for the people around you, the people you love and care about and look up to.

Nothing has topped that feeling of playing in a funky living room with and for friends. Dressing up in costumes because it makes you play better, and writing silly songs about robotic futures, and sweet songs about adventures and kinship, and sorrowful songs about families and falling outs.

All the songs I’ve written change with the players playing them. The same song turns sad when that mood is there. Electric when there’s electricity, they can also be acoustic. The melodies even change, if that’s the way the singer hears it. There’s no external standard that matters more than the threads inside your heart, fuck everything else.

I think that’s the spirit of Waywords and Meansigns. We try not to set up some hierarchy, of better and best. There are as many ways to make music as there are people. Some of my friends just wave their t-shirts in the air. Others just listen really well.

As you listen to our audio, I hope you’ll pursue this spirit. Spark your own adventure – take the spirit and flip it around, spin it upside-down, mold it or smash it, go wherever you’re pulled and take a lot of detours.

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