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Once Upon a Jam: An Audiovisual Narrative by the Endlesss Community

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Once Upon a Jam presents "The Reed Flute's Song" by Rumi on the Endlesss Twitch on Sunday, August 22nd at 8 PM BST

In 2019, the Endlesss community was lucky to add Littlewing to its ranks. A continuously considerate presence in our Discord, and an equally impressive musical force in public jams, Littlewing performed as part of the Track Club collective's curation of our very first Unfolding cycle, and has been a reliable source of positivity and creativity in livestreams ever since.

Once Upon a Jam began on Endlesss as just that – a jam – but initiated by Littlewing with the vision of developing an elaborate audiovisual narrative in a collaborative manner. A small group formed and worked on the first experiment over a period of several months. The result was a reimagining of The Stag and His Antlers, from Aesop's Fables.

With Littlewing as creative director, and featuring narration by Endlesss community members Holler [Stevo] and badrico as “The Stag,” it was a new take on the familiar story, with a vivid soundscape to draw listeners in that included textural effects by Littlewing, ludi and badrico, alongside instrumental music by all of the above plus the Saxophone Warrior.

In November 2020, Littlewing began to cast more members to complete the second installment of Once Upon a Jam: “The Reed Flute’s Song,” by Rumi. In the words of Littlewing:

"This all started because before I'd joined Endlesss. I was experimenting with immersive narrative installations in the metaverse. I have loved every minute of creating music with people all over the world on Endlesss, but it is such a flexible tool, that you can really experiment with different approaches, and narratives were on my mind for a while. Then one day holler (stevo) shared a Rifff of an underwater world of creatures with the community, and I was SO inspired!

So I approached him with the idea and cast a small group together: Badrico's enchanting grooves, ludi's moody cinematic style, and thesaxophonewarrior's imaginative expression on the sax! I knew something really unique could come out of it that was very different to anything that has been done before on Endlesss, merging collaborative music and narration.

"With the Rumi poem we really wanted to take things to a more dramatic, symbolic place and the piece felt special to us all. We also added a few members to the cast: Aryayawe plays an exquisite part in her performance and _the boundless_ took on a very active role. In addition to his dramatic soundscapes, we collaborated on creating the visuals to the piece, which was a significant part of the project itself. I love that every member embraced the poetry and expressed it beautifully, by narrating, singing, and jamming so much so that the final project feels like a vivid reflection of Endlesss community creation to me. We are already working on the second part of the Rumi project, with a few more members joining us (fancyspectacles and post-American(wilco75), and we'll continue to work at a gentle pace, and cast roles to more members as this project goes on.

Watch the trailer for “The Reed Flute’s Song":

Additional contributors to the Once Upon a Jam narrative shared further thoughts on the project:

_the boundless_

"I was super excited to learn about Once Upon a Jam. In Endlesss I met and jammed with Littlewing one on one, and we have a few tracks that we are working on that will one day emerge out of that, as her approach and style overlaps with mine very well and we both like to explore similar spaces and seem to be on the same page.

My background before music is theatre and I adapted and directed poetry theatre downtown in Chicago in 2003, where my theatre company sourced poems from local poets and presented them. I also have adapted the poetry of Rilke, William Stafford, and others and set all of it to music that I had found, and it felt amazing to be able to create the music this time. And then to work intensively with Littlewing to stitch images together that weren’t too on the nose that would allow the listener/viewer to immerse themselves in the space that OUAJ created.

As to the jamming experience, to do something focused with a key and a tempo was one of the absolute most rewarding things. Especially working with amazing musicians like that. Especially throwing down piano and textural improvisations and then having a flute from New Zealand meet it from the next day and then chanting and other beautiful narrations and contributions from everyone in the group. And thematically with the poem I got an awareness of the earth and the sun… how the sun simply and graciously hangs there watching and warming. That it’s bigger than any nation and illuminates music, poetry, and community."


"For me, the Once Upon a Jam’experience is like being invited to join a dreamy story circle round a fire... The flavour of the tale is being passed from hand to hand in a flickering darkness. Littlewing, our conductor, whispers a suggestion and the story bends towards it with everyone’s own breath inside of it. Sometimes it roils, bursting with all of our voices and sometimes for a day or two it is a thin thread of music, waiting to swell into a marvellous garment again. The narrators lay the stone paths of Rumi's poetics and someone arrives with just the perfect exotic sound of longing or reunion. We wander in and out of this song for weeks. No hurry, no sense of chore. A welcoming campfire tended by whimsy and musical charms. Then seeing the finished production and feel it resonate so clearly with the flow and mystery of our adventure, well that’s just a touch of magic."


"When it was my turn to add to the jam, I would go in and listen back to all the material that had been added since I was last there, and just take a moment to understand and feel the mood and space that the music inhabited. In jamming, and especially in this project, one cannot add meaningfully without understanding the space they are entering. Once you understand it, then you will make better music. Because you get that space.

Then, I would try out different instruments such as my voice, flute, different recorders, to see what fit best to the space I was entering. Sometimes I would add a vocal line, or some woodwind duets...j ust whatever I felt, really. A day or a couple of days later, another person would take the melodies I'd added and add new music to them. Hopping into the jam and seeing how the music had changed around my melodies was such a joy, and it's one of the great things about Endlesss. The fact that I can add some music, and then someone will pick up where I left off and continue that musical idea - or transform it into something new and exciting; it's mindblowing, and it's brilliant. My thanks to everyone who contributed to this track, and in particular to Littlewing who was the visionary, and did the heavy lifting with the mixing and arranging. Also, many thanks to _the boundless_, who along with Littlewing created the visuals for the track."


"One of the unique aspects of this experience in terms of Endlesss, was the realization of a common project over a longer period of time than would allow for always jamming together at the same time. Because everyone lives in different areas of the world, and have different schedules, the jamming was typically uneven, but there was nevertheless a feeling of us all being part of something together and each of us playing a distinct role in the jam.

Part of this was a result of Littlewing’s excellent conducting and assigning us each a role, and some of it was due to the varied and unique instrumentation. With the emphasis on Middle Eastern instruments, in combination with each participant’s unique take on the material, several hybrid styles emerged that nevertheless felt very coherent and well suited to each other. In general, the approach was one that fit very nicely with Rumi’s poem, and its spiritual content. The themes of unity and separation, and distributed experiences united by a single presence, the One, dovetailed perfectly with the very process of expressing those themes. I found that I was experiencing the imagery and the emotions of the poem while participating in making the music, both because of the poetic material and because of the way the music was being made. This frequently forced me to ask a number of questions, which up to that point had been more or less latent in my use of Endlesss: What can music do? What do I want it to do? Why do we make music? What is special and important about making music together? By the end of the project, my answer was one that I think Rumi would have approved of: we make music out of love."


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