18 Oct 2023, 2:06pm


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  • On The Shoulders Of Giants: The Isaac Newton Project

    This musical initiative aims to engage the artistry and creativity of all the participants in nurturing an “ecosystem” of versions of the song material. Imagine a song that’s hundreds of years old, and which has spread throughout the world as cultures expand, travel, grow. There would be hundreds of different versions, each representing different musical values and cultural priorities.

    The Isaac Newton Project aspires to this level of diversity and variety.

    Here’s how it works.

    The original song material is a simple melodic setting of a quotation from Sir Isaac Newton. The great scientist’s words are:

    “I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself I seem like a boy playing on the seashore; diverting myself, now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

    (As Sir Isaac’s collaborator, I changed “boy” to “child” in the interest of greater inclusivity.)

    Here is a little video of me singing the three basic parts of the song:

    Introduction to the song material

    Here is a version of “Shoulders of Giants” built around the backing tracks recorded in July 2023. During that session several vocalists and a saxophonist were present to record their versions of the material (thus allowing me to create preliminary mixes as a proof of concept). In this version, the A section is taken at 110 bpm, the B section at 195 bpm, and the C section at 60 bpm. Featured vocalists in the A section are Zion Dyson and Deeptha Ganesh, in the B section is Warren Senders, and in the C section is Sunniva Brynnel (whose harmonized antiphony was recorded in Sweden).


    Brian Shankar Adler

    Seshie Adzekpo — Ghana

    Chihiro Asano

    Andrew Barr

    Brad Barr

    Jason Belcher

    Samm Bennett

    Sunniva Brynnel

    Adrian Chabla

    Zoe Christiansen

    Anaar Desai-Stephens

    Jonathan Dimond

    Zion Dyson — Boston, MA, USA — vocals on various tracks

    Maria Ferrante

    Rob Flax

    Deeptha Ganesh — Boston, MA, USA — Vocals on various tracks

    Russ Gershon

    Steve Gorn

    Jordan Hadrill

    Donald Heller

    Leslie Helpert — Barcelona, Spain

    Jodi Hitzhusen

    Bill Homans “Watermelon Slim”

    Ian Howell

    Lily Honigberg

    Heather Dea Jennings

    Apoorva Deshpande

    Lysander Jaffe

    Kailas Joshi — Pune, India —

    Max Kennedy

    Chaitanya Kunte — Pune, India —

    Utsav Lal — Brooklyn, NY — Piano parts on all backing tracks

    Emiliano Lopez

    Tom Macdonald — Boston, MA, USA — Drumset parts on all backing tracks

    Heather Masse

    Zach Meyer — Saxophone improvisations on various tracks

    Sophie Michaux

    Josh Mizruchi

    Nick Morrison

    Stephanie Munoz

    Samarth Nagarkar

    Ranjani Ramachandran

    Mukta Raste — Mumbai, India —

    Mac Ritchie — Carlisle, MA, USA — Oud and percussion parts on all tracks

    Mike Rivard — Boston, MA, USA — Electric bass parts on all tracks

    Gina Sala — Portland, OR, USA —

    Rudi Seitz — Boston, MA

    Warren Senders — Medford, MA, USA — Composer, facilitator. Vocal, guitar, and percussion parts on various tracks.

    Vijaya Sundaram — Medford, MA, USA — Vocal and guitar parts on various tracks

    Sharada Sundaram-Senders — Medford, MA, USA — vocals on various tracks

    Isaac Taylor

    Willy Schwarz — Bremen, Germany — 2 santoor parts (A section, 115 bpm), 2 bowed psaltery parts (B section, 180 bpm), 2 accordion parts (C section, 60 bpm) and 1 dousso’n’goni part (C section, 60 bpm)

    Anupam Shobhakar

    Benjy & Heather Wertheimer

    Dee Wood

    Mona Yamazaki Sangesland

    These artists will record their own versions of the song material, backing/accompaniment parts, or various improvisations. These can be done with the backing tracks I recorded at Wellspring Sound in May 2023 — but alternative versions are welcome and desired! The goal is to compile a “library” of widely diverse renditions of the core material.

    If you are interested in participating, please leave your email address in the comments and I will send you a download link for the sound files.

    The second phase of the project is to combine and recombine these submissions. Anyone with audio editing software (GarageBand, ProTools, Logic) can create their own remixes of the material, and all of these will be featured on this page.