It seems that Chicago based visual artist and folk singer, Dan MacDonald, who goes by the musical moniker Spitzer Space Telescope, isn’t interested in the traditional boundaries of space and time, and certainly can’t be constrained by style.
On December 16th, he’ll release Colonies in the Wild Frontier, a project four years in the making that contains all of his work so far as Spitzer Space Telescope, augmenting traditional conventions to create a totally new concept- the interactive music album.
Rather than releasing the music on CD, vinyl or digital mp3, MacDonald is releasing Colonies in the Wild Frontier as an App. In addition to the original Spitzer Space Telescope recording of each track, there are several alternate versions, performed by a wealth of musicians- some of whom he met through Old Lazarus’ Harp, his collective of young folk musicians in Chicago- presented in music videos meant to span visual styles from turn of the century, to the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and today. Putting his artistic talents to good use, each alternate version also contains lyrics and images, as well as more information on the artists involved.
If you’re scratching your head, check out a walk through of the project– which MacDonald aptly calls “a whole little world of music and art that you can carry in your pocket”– here.
Today, Elmore Magazine is premiering one of the alternative versions of “Corn Holler,” a song that reflects on MacDonald’s childhood in St. Johns, Michigan. MacDonald shared with us, “This version of “Corn Holler” was inspired by a video I found online of Buffy Sainte-Marie performing “Cripple Creek” on Sesame Street. I made the Pete Seeger puppet out of trash essentially: old cardboard, hot glue and a bunch of kids clothes I picked from Goodwill. The puppet is entirely greyscale as an homage to Pete during his 1965-66 TV show Rainbow Quest which was filmed in black and white. He used to wear this weird fury sweater on the show, I remember it took me a while to find one like that. You’ll also see Matt Davidson (of Spirit Family Reunion) playing fiddle. He learned the song just for this video shoot but ended up arranging it with Spirit Family Reunion, and they’ve played it at tons of shows and festivals (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGuga0RKUiw).”
The simple, almost haunting melody can easily take on different forms, whether sung in MacDonald’s own, sharp vocals or here, rooted in an earthy, plaintive twang and tight harmonies. The video is a spot on reproduction of Public Access children’s programming, the seasoned musicians creating a sweet interaction with the puppet.
MacDonald adds, “The lady who plays Mother Carter (a nod to American folk legends, the Carter Family) is played by Sue Strom, a local Chicago folk musician who I found through Craigslist.”
Once you dig into the videos, you might have trouble believing that they aren’t period pieces. Check out making-of footage here, and head to Spitzer Space Telescope’s telescope website for information on purchasing Colonies in the Wild Frontier. Watch one video version of “Corn Holler,” and hear Spitzer Space Telescope’s original take below.