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Music

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.

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Music

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?

https://www.rpmchallenge.com/

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.

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Music

2021

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.

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Music

The Septic Blank

Holy Cats!!! I finally completed the RPM challenge.

This album is a 13 “song” collection of my found-sound recordings, drums, guitar and tape loops with effects applied to them.

I consider this to be a WIP for an album I’m releasing later this year – which I’ll write about soon.

I’ve set out to complete the RPM challenge several years running, but this is the first time I actually finished it.

UPDATE

I spent a couple of hours trying to upload my songs to the RPM site, to make it feel even MORE official. You can’t just link out to Soundcloud or Bandcamp. They’ve made it just unfriendly enough that I finally gave up. I can’t seem to delete my account either, but I removed all the information that was up there.

I dig the idea of making a full record in February, but I cannot recommend that site until someone fixes it. What a great idea, though!

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Music

Sound as a Muse

I’ve been processing sound files to create a foundation for animation. I’m building on last year’s work around incongruent foley and non-diagetic sound. I’m starting with sound, and then seeing what animation shows up for me based on what I’m hearing.

This post is about some of the devices I’m using to accomplish this. I find inspiration in them, and maybe you will, too.

Years ago, I accumulated and compiled a lot of “found sounds” with a portable mini-disc set up. I used to carry one around, along with a pair of Shure SM-58 microphones, and record stuff. This is before iPhones. The sound on the Mini-Disc is really great, but it’s impossible for me to get the source files off of the proprietary hardware, other than through the headphone jacks. That’s pretty shitballs, but, whatever. I’ve never been much more than a lofi fellow, anyway.

Mini-disc players

In addition to the many hours of weird stuff from the mini-discs, I dug up some old cassette players.

Now, Lookit this beaut! It has four stereo outputs, which means I can use it to send a signal to four different processors/amps/whatever. I call it the Bell & Howler.

Bell & Howell tape deck

Additionally, I’ve enjoyed using Red Panda’s Particle to add a little English to the tapes. You can hear this in the video below.

Emerson Walkman and Red Panda Particle pedal

I’m also a big fan of Red Panda’s Tensor, which is like a tape loop machine with a hyperdrive.

Mini-tape deck

My buddy Jack Livingston was in Colorado in the late 1970’s, and he attended a series of workshops hosted by Beatnik poet, Allen Ginsberg. We share a love for Beat culture and writing, and Jack loaned me some recordings from those sessions. I’m going to use some of this in an upcoming, literary inspired animation.

Allen Ginsberg Tapes

Thrift stores are FULL of odd old tapes, there’s no shortage of material to be found on them. These are great for making short loops.

Disassembled tape cassette
Short tape loop

Finally, I use my iPhone to capture stuff all the time. Using handful of devices in this article, there are endless possibilities for making compelling audio tracks and foley.

I’ll explore how the sounds themselves can inform the visuals for animation in an upcoming post.