Theoretical Audio Laboratory

This has been a nice, long walk to get here. Here being the beginning of a project from which I’ve been assembling materials and ideas throughout the pandemic.

I made a joke to myself a while back that goes “if you don’t have someone to play with, play with yourself.” And then I laughed to myself. And so, I’ve created the Theoretical Audio Laboratory in which to conduct my experiments. Sound Experiments (SEx)! And even Song Experiments.

This is turning out to be quite a hoot. Stay tuned. Or, detuned. Please stay!


RPM 2021 Conclusion

Record Music in February (Just Because You can) RPM Challenge 2021 logo

I’m calling time! Stopping the clock! Ringing the bell! Buzzing the buzzard.

I finished the challenge for the second year in a row. 10 new songs are in the can! Or, computer. In the cloud?

As with last year, I’ve arrived at a destination that I didn’t set out to find. I had envisioned a more traditional, polished collection of songs. This year’s result is very guitar oriented, with layers of MIDI supporting it.

Early in February, but after I finished the Punk Frocker’s tracks, I began recording with an Epiphone Les Paul “Black Beauty” guitar with three humbucker pick-ups. It has very heavy strings (12’s?) and I used a random, non-standard tuning. I decided to only use this guitar for the rest of the month.

I recorded some live drums here, and I relied on Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators for other rhythm tracks.

My results are a bit like last years, with heavy signal processing weirdness and odd production values. I have a few gems that I’m excited about. Some of this stuff is probably self indulgent, in that the music will likely only be interesting to me.

That said, I’ve made the decision to not share this material at this time. I want to continue developing the gems into a more polished state, and the other half will go into soundtracks.

I can’t recommend this challenge enough. Something good always happens.

I’m resuming my daily music exercises now that this is complete.


Punk Frockers

Punk Frockers

I made some graphics and music for the Punk Frockers community sewing podcast. The first episode will go live later this month. I think I’ll count this toward a track of this year’s RPM challenge.


RPM Challenge 2021

Following up on the 2021 make-music-every-day post, I’m declaring, once again, that I’m participating in the RPM challenge. What’s more, my daughter and my girlfriend’s son are playing along, too.

The RPM Challenge is a creative challenge to anyone to record music in February. We give you a deadline of March 1 to complete it by and then we host listening parties to celebrate. Any genre, any level of experience, anywhere. Thousands of records and tens of thousands of tracks have been made by people around the world as part of the Challenge since it was founded in 2006.

It’s fun, it’s hard, it’s rewarding, and it’s free to take part. What have you got to lose?

To accompany the fresh new Website, RPM has expanded on the original requirements, which were to conceive and record an album in the month of February, start to finish. It doesn’t have to be good – just complete. Here, an album was defined as one 35 minute piece of music, or 10 songs. The new requirements are one of the following:

  • Single (1 track or 5 minutes)
  • EP (5 tracks or 20 minutes)
  • LP (10 tracks or 35 minutes)
  • Boxed Set (30 tracks or 100 minutes)

I love it!

I finished an album last year for the first time, and I reflected on that experience in the past 12 months. It was so valuable. I found new possibilities and ideas – and the constraint of having to complete the tracks really pushed me to find different processes, and think about how to produce material in a new way. I recommend this to anyone making music.



I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I decided to challenge myself to write music every day in 2021.

One bad thing about the pandemic has been the solitude.

A good thing about the pandemic has also been the solitude. In the quiet, introspective stretches of this pandemic, I was able to discard some musical baggage and those things that no longer serve me, and find inspiration and, well, grow.

I spent parts of the fall reviewing music theory that I haven’t used since college. Back then, I was a drummer-as-frustrated-guitarist-studying-the-piano, because that’s what the college had to offer. I loved learning about music! I didn’t enjoy the piano very much, and a lot of what I learned faded away once I moved to Baltimore and got busy with Bazooka Joe. So, in the quiet space of this time, I gathered what old notes and textbooks I could find, and got to work. I’ve particularly enjoyed Steve Vai’s book, Vaideology.

I also did a deep dive into Ableton Live. I began using MIDI, making more expansive tape loops, samples, and developing better music with devices from Korg and Teenage Engineering. Good, powerfully enabling tools. So far, I’ve been experimenting and learning how to do things.

I set up some drums. I haven’t played drums regularly in more years than I care to admit. In fact, I can’t really play like I used to be able to. Funnily enough, I don’t want to play like I used to. Maybe I’ve out grown my drumming traits – I’ve certainly grown older. But, I’ve enjoyed playing in a way I haven’t in years.

This period in my life – the pandemic – has acted like reset for my interest in music composition. I’ve discovered new paths to explore, and only realized this evening that I should probably document that stuff here.

Okay, back the the challenge. To increase the chances of success, I set some parameters. Nothing has to be completed in a single day. If there is some task that needs completing in order to write a certain bit of music, that task counts, too. For example – maybe I would really like to record my furnace using stereo contact mics. But I have to make the mics, and then figure out mixer settings, amplification, and other “administrative” tasks. Or, I’d really like to use pedals X and Y to achieve Z, but I’m not sure how to do it. Spending productive time on these administrative tasks that get me to the point on recording the furnace in stereo or achieving Z with pedals X and Y all count toward the goal of daily music composition.

I’ve written some music every day in January 2021.