How To Build A Headless Band: Architecting Chaos
matthew chaim
0x5090
CHAOS
0x534C
April 28th, 2022

Camp Chaos is an 8-week experiment at the edges of music + the new internet.

80 human beings from all over the world have converged on the Songcamp Discord and committed to 8 weeks of collective creation. Of these 80 individuals: there are 45 musicians, 9 visual artists, 6 engineers, 5 radio producers, 3 economists, 2 lore masters and 7 operatives gluing it all together.

The result: a headless band called Chaos, accompanied by a music nft project like you’ve never seen before.

This camp utilizes containers of time and space to create a sense of orientation for the artists involved — such that all 80 of these creative people know what they are doing (scope), when they are doing it (time), with whom they are doing it (teams), and what they receive for doing it (value).

The following essay walks through the first 3 of these containers (scope, time and teams), and explore how they’ve been designed to coalesce this chaotic experience into an innovative, resonant and deeply beautiful outcome. (Our next essay will zoom in on that final integral piece: value flow.)

But first, a bit more context on the project:

Chaos was dreamed up by Songcamp, a web3 laboratory experimenting at the edges of music + the new internet. Songcamp exists as a space for musicians + artists of all kinds to create experiments together from a shared place of curiosity, open-mindedness and a desire for deeper relationships with their art and the value thereof.

Camp Chaos is the 3rd camp, aka cohorted experiment, born out of Songcamp. These camps are akin to a songwriting camp smushed together with a web3 hackathon. Because of the sheer size and scope of these camps, they are run at a cadence of 2 per year. In 2021 — Songcamp’s first year in existence — we ran Camp Genesis and Camp Elektra.

Each explored the nascent universe of music + web3 in different ways. You can dive deeper into our first two camps here.

While Camps 1 + 2 were both ambitious undertakings, the scope of Camp Chaos is even larger. Each of the previous two camps resulted in 3 songs released as 1-of-1 NFTs. This camp will result in 45 songs, which will be released as an NFT collection containing over 20,000 unique editions.

Let’s jump into how this is going down.

Scope

The goal for this camp is to create a music NFT collection of 5000 Packs, which, when opened, will produce 20,000 music NFTs. Here’s how that works:

Upon release, there will be 5000 Packs available for mint. Each Pack is an NFT that contains 4 music NFTs — much like a pack of Pokémon cards that contains several Pokémon cards.

Each pack NFT contains 4 music NFTs.
Each pack NFT contains 4 music NFTs.

After minting a Pack, the collector has the choice to either keep their pack closed (and thus in ~ mint condition ~) or open their pack. Opening the pack will reveal the 4 music NFTs inside. Behind the scenes, hitting the Open Pack button actually burns the Pack token then automatically mints 4 new song tokens. The 4 songs you’ll receive are determined by a randomizing function that runs at the time of opening your pack.

If and when all 5000 Packs are opened, the resulting music NFT collection will have 20,000 unique editions.

Wait, does that mean there are 20,000 different songs in this project?!

Ah excellent question. No, the actual number of unique songs being created in Camp Chaos is 45. These 45 songs will all be pressed into hundreds of nft editions each, with some songs being rarer to mint than others.

The cover artwork, however, will be composed of multiple generative visual layers, each with varying rarity traits. This means that the cover artwork will be unique for every single edition.

45 unique songs will be edition-ed out into 20k NFTs — each with unique cover artwork.
45 unique songs will be edition-ed out into 20k NFTs — each with unique cover artwork.

Oh, got it. So how is all this art being made?

Ah yes, let’s get into that.

Teams

The crux of this camp is to create a headless band called Chaos — in which the network of 80 individuals begins to function increasingly like a cohesive unit of one.

The camp has been designed such that we collectively lean into the notion of all creating one big project together, rather than the individualistic connection to the pieces of distinct art we each make. To do this, teams have been built such that the lines of who created what increasingly blur throughout camp.

There are 7 teams within Camp Chaos: Music, Visual, Build, Radio, Lore, Economics and Operations.

Chaos Music

45 musicians were curated into this camp by the Curation Team, which was comprised of 6 camp alumni.

On Day 1, the musicians were split into 15 teams of 3.

These newly formed bands each had 2 weeks to create and finish a song. After week 1, they each delivered a demo which we listened to on our weekly camp-wide call. The following week, the final mixes were delivered and mastered.

To create a more intimate setting for these teams to work alongside each other and share works in progress, the 15 bands were broken down into 3 Houses of 5 bands each.

3 Houses, each with 4 Bands + 1 Alchemy Team.
3 Houses, each with 4 Bands + 1 Alchemy Team.

As you can see, each House contains 5 teams: 4 Bands and 1 Alchemy team.

  • Bands: Each Band is made up of 3 musicians — a Producer, a Vocalist, and a Flex (a flex being either a producer, vocalist, sound designer, instrumentalist…basically a wildcard). These groups of relative strangers are each tasked with a simple mission: create a song together in two weeks. Plain and simple. They aren’t given any sort of explicit prompt, except to simply allow whatever comes from them crashing into each other on the internet to make a thing. They also needn’t follow the individual roles given to them (ie producer, vocalist, flex). These exist only to ensure a solid distribution of skill sets across all bands, and to make sure every band has at least one producer who feels comfortable getting to a final mix in 2 weeks. Once the bands are created, the 3 musicians can collaborate together however they wish.
  • Alchemy: Alchemy teams are also made up of 3 musicians — but these musicians are called Alchemists, and are playing a slightly different role. The Alchemists are made up of alumni from previous camps, as well as non-alumni who have been embedded in the Songcamp community for some time. Their mission is to create a song together in 2 weeks, but they are given a prompt — each Alchemy team is to create a song that pulls from the sounds of their House. This means that, while the Bands create using whatever they want as inspiration, the Alchemists create using the music from the Bands in their House as inspiration. As Bands create ideas, demos, and scratch recordings, they add these audio files into a shared band folder. Alchemists are given explicit permission to jump into those folders, pull from them and be inspired from what their House’s bands are creating.
  • Guides: Each House also has 2 Guides. The Guides are camp alumni who help steward along their respective Houses, leading their weekly calls and listening sessions, and ensuring all is running smoothly.

Chaos Visual

The Visual team is made up of 9 incredibly talented illustrators and graphic designers.

Their flagship mission is to create the visual layers that will become the generative cover artwork for all 20,000 music NFTs.

Each artist is taking on a different aspect of this, be it illustrations, graphic design layout, even watercolor and oil painting (yes, like on a real canvas!). In the end, these layers will be algorithmically paired together at the time of pack opening to create entirely unique cover artwork per nft. We will get into the exact science of how this is all going down in a future post that zooms in on how the NFTs work.

Beyond this, the Visual team is also creating the living and breathing brand for Chaos throughout camp. This includes branding assets such as logos, type, social headers and profile images, and the static and motion visuals across all our essays, tweets, podcast episodes and website.

Chaos Build

While we did a bit of frontend work in camp 2, this is the first camp in which we have a full-stack dev team. It is also the first time we are building custom NFT contracts and touching Solidity in-camp.

The dev team is split up into 4 main initiatives: NFT Contracts, 0xSplit Smart Contracts, Frontend UI and Web Design.

The NFT devs are creating custom contracts for this collection, with custom functionality including the pack opening mechanism.

The split smart contracts are being developed in-camp by 0xSplits. The team is building a custom module that sits atop their already existing protocol to give us the functionality of Liquid Splits (more on this in a subsequent essay).

The front end squad is designing and building an exciting and innovative UI for our website at chaos.build — which will also act as our minting application. This will include the function and experience of opening a Pack, tracking your chaos NFT inventory, and listening to all the music created in camp.

Chaos Radio

We’ve spoken previously about Immersive Digital Theatre — a genre of art we like to think is front and center in this burgeoning web3 creator space. The very process of creation is so often the most exciting part. In a globally-distributed, highly-collaborative, 100%-online project such as Camp Chaos, we have the opportunity to capture and document the process in its entirety.

Hence, we’ve given birth to Chaos Radio — a co-created podcast telling the story of Camp Chaos as it happens.

The Radio team is collecting audio from discord voice chats, zoom calls, voice memos and interviews to create a rich and insightful look into the ongoings of this experiment in real-time.

You can listen to all released episodes here.

Chaos Lore

Lore is the cross-functional team putting together and publishing all forms of content including essays (like this one!), teasers, social posts, emails and the like.

They are also responsible for cultivating ambience in how Camp Chaos is experienced by it’s members, and communicating shifts in energy and intention camp-wide.

If you want to stay up to date on all Chaos lore, make sure you're subscribed via chaos.build.

Chaos Economics

The economics team is designing and executing the plan as it relates to Value Flow: the paths to revenue and ownership for this entire network of 80.

In true experimental fashion, the methods of dynamically splitting the proceeds of this project are quite unorthodox. We will be walking through the full details of how value is flowing through this camp in the next technical essay we publish here.

Chaos Operations

The glue that holds it all together. The operations team is made up of Stewards and Guides from each team mentioned above.

Many of these individuals assisted in the camp’s design, curation, and continue to facilitate while it is in execution mode.

There are a lot of moving parts to a project of this size — the operators use syncs at the end of each week, along with asynchronous updates via Notion + Discord to collectively stay on top of this mothership as it travels through space.

Time

The camp runs for 8 weeks in total, with some wiggle room at the end to get our NFT release ready for deployment.

To give this span of time more shape, we split the camp into four 2-week periods called Acts.

Act I "Order" • Act II "Disorder" • Act III "Entropy • Act IV "Rebirth"
Act I "Order" • Act II "Disorder" • Act III "Entropy • Act IV "Rebirth"

These 2-week Acts serve a few different functions.

Containers for Creation

A primary function for the Acts is that they give the musicians clear containers of time to work in. In every Act for the first 3 Acts, bands are creating a new song. At the end of each Act, musicians are reshuffled into new bands of 3, and the next two weeks of creation begin.

These Acts are created in a way such that over time, we are venturing ever deeper into the realms of Chaos. As you can see from their names (Order, Disorder, Entropy), they are containers of time that each bring us into a new dimension of chaotic co-creation — ever increasingly becoming this headless band called Chaos.

This is most noticeable in how the new bands are reshuffled in Act II and Act III.

  • For Act I aka Order, the bands were curated intentionally by the Curation team. They were formed with the intention of creating teams that were most likely to gel.
  • In Act II aka Disorder, bands were reshuffled within their respective Houses using a randomizer. So the 4 Bands in House A for instance were reshuffled into 4 new bands. The Houses remained intact, as did their Alchemy team, but the 4 bands were made anew. (Each band still had a Producer, Vocal Artist and Flex each.)
  • In Act III aka Entropy, things got even more chaotic. This time, the Houses were dissolved and all 12 Bands were reshuffled with each other. The 3 Alchemy teams were also dissolved, and the Alchemists were given the mission to create their 3 songs for Act III in a swarm-like method, where all 12 Alchemists are co-creating the 3 songs emergently — pulling from all 12 Bands as inspiration.
  • In Act IV aka Rebirth, the headless band Chaos is ready to be made manifest. The music is finished, and all the pieces to this chaotic puzzle are put together in these final 2 weeks. At the end of Act IV, we will be ready to move into NFT release mode.

These lore-soaked time containers have helped ease the network through the quick pace and constant changes of camp. All of these evolutions from Act-to-Act have been communicated to the camp via messages from Eris — the Goddess Of Discord.

Early pre-camp whiteboard designs of the Chaos music-creation flow.
Early pre-camp whiteboard designs of the Chaos music-creation flow.

Containers for Value Flow

The other key function these two-week Acts perform is that of value flow.

The Camp Chaos network have 4 value distribution cycles, at the ends of each Act. This gives us 4 opportunities to reward each other (ourselves via a self-selection mechanic, and the people we are collaborating closest with via Coordinape) for the work we did in that previous Act, i.e. over the previous 2 weeks.

Our next technical essay will go into deep detail on how Value Flow is functioning in this camp.

Until then, stay updated on the latest developments of Chaos with the @headless_chaos twitter and the chaos.build website.

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