“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is, of course, already long and repetitive, such that when in recent years I’ve sung even the first few notes of it at “Ave Maria” speed, I’ve been greeted with satisfying moans of agony. This year I decided that the thing must be put to tape, with each verse slower than the last. The whole thing now runs to around 75 minutes.
To make this pleasingly bearable, even if an exercise in Zen-like patience, I crowd-sourced the backing arrangements for the verses among musician-fans of The Partially Examined Life podcast, plus a few special guests, including Camper van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel (who arranged and performed verse 11 and plays solos on guitar, lap steel, and violin in the verse 12 group jam) and New York comedian Adam Sank (who adds a naughty monologue to verse 12).
Here’s a quick guide to help you keep your bearings during this strange trip:
-Verses 1 and 2 are my effort, to establish the concept for the album: ignore the melody to set any beat at any tempo you want and throw down a bunch of tracks without second-guessing yourself or redoing anything.
-Verse 3 is Swedish prog-keyboardist/guitarist Daniel Gustafsson, sporting a baroque ensemble.
-Verse 4 is Jason Durso and Shannon Farrell providing some staid beauty while a narrator spouts some epigrams about our experience of time.
-Verse 5 is a disco monstrosity by a being who wants to be known only as Wilson.
-Verses 6 and 7 are electronic, textured pieces by Maxx Bartko and Belgian musician Timo Carlier respectively. Comedian Alex Fossella (@afossella) provides some brief narration in the vein of True Detective.
-Verse 8 is a collage of atmospheric sounds and acoustic instruments by Kenn Busch and Jenny Green, while Verse 9 turns into a tuneful acoustic folk song featuring UK singer Al Baker.
-On returning in verse 10, Daniel Gustafsson establishes a death-metal purgatory, which morphs in Jonathan Segel’s verse 11 into an endless nightmare landscape.
-Verse 12 is over 25 minutes alone, with a jazz fusion vibe a la Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and contributions from Kylae Jordan (sax), Rei Tangko (piano), Gustafsson, Segel, Wilson, Carlier, Greg Thornburg, and Sank, over my bass and drums.
An early commenter on the Partially Examined Life site where the “song” was posted (as an exemplar in support of a discussion on Edmund Burke’s ideas about aesethetic judgments of the sublime), said that it’s “kind of what I would expect a Pink Floyd Christmas album to sound like.”
Can you live through the 12 days? What will your mind look like on the other side?
A free, audio-only mp3 version of the song can be found here.
Mark Linsenmayer is a musician who releases his work free to the public. He also hosts the Partially Examined Life philosophy podcast and blog, which you can access via iTunes or the PEL web site.