12 Interminable Days of Xmas: Hear the Longest, Trippiest Holiday Carol

“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.

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