One of the best Kickstarter projects I contributed towards in 2011 (and easily the fastest to go from Kickstarter to my mailbox) was Jack Stratton’s “Funklet: Graphic notations of twenty classic funk beats.” (My full Kickstarter history is here. Looks like I’m going to be getting approximately one documentary in the mail every day in Q4 2012.)
So yes: drummers, coded music, and unwieldy and inconvenient print and recording projects, all rolled into one – there was no way I was not giving them my money. Normally, a sentence like “A funky beat is a great design” would make me want to die, but in the context of the Kickstarter pitch, I can almost not even cringe when I read it:
I want to make a book about drumming that looks good. A funky beat is a great design. Some great designers:
Herman Roscoe Ernerst III
Not long after the project was funded, I got an email with a zip file containing new recordings of 20 isolated funk beats; and shortly thereafter, the Funklet itself showed up in my Mailbox:
The best part: the writeups that accompany each beat are a perfect mix between informative, insightful, and hilarious: what could have been dry dissection and analysis is instead another key part of the package. Listening to the beats while reading the backstory and following along with the graphic notation was the closest thing to a “following along in the liner notes” experience I’ve ever had with an MP3.
If this seems awesome to you, you’re in luck! While the Funklet is now out of print, Stratton has encouraged his backers to pass around the PDF version, and a website presenting interactive versions of roughly half of the beats has been launched at Funklet.com. While the website doesn’t echo the “liner-note-iness” of the print version, it does allow you to slow the beat down to more readily pick it apart, which is nice.
A seemingly random byproduct of this whole project came in the eighth and final update message sent to the Funklet’s Kickstarter backers: several Bernard Purdie beats (including one transcribed in the Funklet) mashed up with Beatles songs, to create “The Funky Beatles” (It’s probably worth noting here that Purdie apparently overdubbed drums onto several Pete Best-era Beatles tracks for US release in 1964 – I didn’t know that). The full four-song playlist is here, but my favorite is “Little Something:”
Ok, that’s all. Its probably a safe bet that I will never use the word “Funk” this much ever, ever again.