A yearbook is normally a bound publication of photographs, documenting memories to look back on years down the road. But the Musical Yearbook captures memories in a different way.
This new online venture is a social media forum for people to submit recorded essays about music and the personal memories associated with them. The format is split up into four time frames: first impressions, 8th grade year, college age and the present. People can submit a story that falls within one or more of these time frames, focusing on the personal impact of a specific musician, song, album or musical experience.
These recordings are featured on the Musical Yearbook website as a series of podcasts. The point of each episode is to describe music as it evokes feelings without playing the music itself. The site also has tips for inspiration to facilitate the process of writing a story and guidelines for how to record them.
“Certain songs put you in a specific time and place,” said SF State alumnus Zachary Ryan, one of three founders of the project. “You don’t realize the strong connection you have with a musical moment until you start writing about it.”
Ryan and fellow founders Phil Lang and Brock Alter invite people of all ages, backgrounds and professions to participate in the project.
The three also work at the music company Bamm.tv filming independent musicians live performances, editing the footage and streaming it online. They started recording a series of podcasts to promote bands they had worked with or recorded in the past. The social audio platform SoundCloud featured one of these episodes, and the immediate positive reaction sparked the idea to combine music and memories.
“The first feature on SoundCloud got over 1,000 hits,” said Ryan. “We had done this podcast for several months on a bunch of different topics, and Musical Yearbook was the first one to kind of hit with everybody.”
Lang, Alter and Ryan will present the Musical Yearbook Project at the Noise Pop Culture Club, a series of panels by artists in the music, film, design, art, food and technology communities, Feb. 25.
“We have a number of Noise Pop artists who are going to participate, and that is sort of the springboard for getting the website together and getting it out to more people,” said Ryan.
Musicians Minna Choi and Annie Phillips of Magik*Magik Orchestra, Thao Nguyen of Thao With the Get Down Stay Down and Caleb Nichols of Churches are scheduled to read their personal music essays and memories at the panel. These recordings will mark the beginning of the on-going project that Lang, Alter and Ryan hope will draw in as many participants as possible.
“The motivation behind Culture Club was to get the fans and audience members to interact with artists on a creative level,” said Noise Pop marketing director Dawson Ludwig, one of the organizers of Culture Club.
The ultimate goal for the founders and the Musical Yearbook itself is for people to be able to compare their own reflections with other people’s stories.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know if it’s music recording our lives, or our memories forming with the music, but all I know is that there’s a very strong connection between the two, and it’s a connection that matters,” said Lang.