RPM Challenge 2024

And so, with great anticipation, I return to the RPM challenge.

It’s a very cold night here in Baltimore – 18 degrees as I type this. We don’t get many of these anymore, so I’m kind of relishing this season. Maryland is wonderful for its diverse seasons. asks participants to accept the challenge of completing a musical project during the month of February. It can be a song, an Ep, and album, or even a boxed set.

I chose Ep this year, with the hopes of completing at least 4 songs – and I mean songs in the more traditional sense – and then some more experimental pieces.

I then read that it is acceptable to complete already started songs, which moves me a lot closer to the goal stated above, and quite possibly an entire album.

I’ve done this enough times to know that what I set out to do, and the material I end up with, usually are very different. We shall see.

Last year’s RPM album was A chop off the old block.

UPDATE 2/27/2024

Alas. It’s looking like 2024 is the year I won’t finish the RPM challenge. I did lay down drum tracks, and I came up with a new song that I like. I have ideas for others, but I did not spend the time getting the material worked out, nor recorded well.

I got Logic working, so that’s something.

I might finish some experimental things tonight, but I won’t release them on Bandcamp for the RPM challenge, because I told myself I didn’t want to do that this year.

Do I feel bad? Not at all. There’s always March!

At the very last moment, I joined a creative writing workshop at the University of Baltimore, and that has captured my attention. That’s not meant to be an excuse. Between that class, my own teaching, my wedding, and shinky dinks, I haven’t made time to record.

So, unless I pull out some miraculous tracks this evening, I’m throwing in the towel on RPM24.


A Chop off the Old Block

I finished the RPM challenge again. As mentioned previously, I set out to write and produce five songs for an Ep. I was aiming for five instrumental guitar based songs, and I have ideas for them. I have ideas for 10+ instrumental guitar based songs, in fact. But I’m lacking time to do them justice. I’m teaching two courses at two different universities, and so, I decided to follow a looser approach, and improvise.

I’ve enjoyed this one very much. The cover is a photo I took in Cape Cod at a flea market. I walked up to a vendor’s table, and this little display was set out exactly as I’m presenting it.

Album cover showing a hand chopper, part of a torn $20 bill, and doll parts on a old wooden table.

I also made covers for the individual tracks.

Constellation/XYZ – ABC

Beverly and I were walking along the inner harbor on a very cold February morning, looking for somewhere to get coffee. I recorded this on the walk, paused my recording while we got coffee, and resumed recording to capture XYZ – ABC.

Wooden board from the bottom of the Constellation ship, with the numbers 11, 10, and 9 painted on them.

I will never say I told you so

BGE has hired contractors to dig up all the roads in our neighborhood, and also move our gas meters outside of the house. I had to quickly dismantle the Theoretical Audio Laboratory to accommodate employees of Pipeline Solutions desire to track a great deal of mud through my home. It was a huge relief to have them out of the house, and when I set up some drums again, I recorded these parts.

One night, I played a Bass VI and improvised the string parts on this track. The next day, I set out to lay down drum tracks for a different song, and wondered what these two parts would sound like together.

I will never say I told you so is what these two parts sound like together.

my drum set in on a riser.

A Pie for Grackles

I was “taking my exercise” one day and heard someone playing an out of tune, warbly piano. As I paused to capture this recording, a car drove past me and parked a block away. I was happy that I captured enough piano to make a loop, and then found the passing car to be interesting, too.

I got the photo one night while Beverly and I were out on a date. It struck me that the people across the room might be having grackle pie, and/or might be grackles themselves.

A man in the far distance talking to a waiter in a restaurant.

Where to be

I made about an hour of recordings one night – 7 tracks in all – two of which will end up in films, and then this one, which is the sweetest of them all. More straightforward, it reminds me of a part of Baltimore that I may have once visited.

The cover is a continuation of Found and Chosen. As much as I’d like to stop, I keep finding discarded treasures on sidewalks.

A cheap, broken gold buckle on a side walk.


A favorite among faves, this drum loops sits squarely under a recording of BGE’s favorite road warriors, busily ruining the streets around here.

The image is from a 1950’s era advertisement, and while I’m a sucker for those sandals, it was the text that inspired this image become the cover for this track.

A pair of feet in black thong sandals above the word Salty

Cards of Marseilles

A gal holding a cello

I had a sleepover with my lovely daughter this month, and we got some recording in. One this track, I got to play her cello, and she manipulated her Line6 DL4 MkII delay pedal.

Me, playing a cello
and black and white illustration of a man pricing meat.

A risible scene of lovemaking

my drum set, seen from below

This was the first track I made for RPM2023. I set my iPhone on the floor under my drums and it just happened. I’ve made some backing tracks from this for the aforementioned instrumental guitar album.

A 1950's era black and white advertisement of two women watching a TV.


As always, I’m grateful to have participated in this cool challenge, and I’m always better for having done so. I recommend it to everyone who writes music.

I gave a lecture on inspiration and where to find ideas last week. I told my students the following:

Ideas are a form of creative currency that must be spent. They do not earn interest if hoarded.

Mr. Jim, Introduction to Animation, ART341

I remember when I was in my 20’s and the drummer for several original bands, I’d come up with ideas for songs that I kept to myself. Maybe I envisioned myself playing guitar on them. For a few, I remember thinking they were like shiny treasure that I needed to keep safe. That these ideas were soooo good, I needed to do something with them myself.

That was wrong thinking, for several reasons.

  1. I was being selfish.
  2. The ideas might have been great, but most certainly would have been made better by the collaboration of my bandmates.
  3. Those ideas never saw the light of day, all because of this thinking!

I wish I had shared those ideas now. I would love to know where Guppy (of Bazooka Joe) or Christoph Green (of Honeypump) would have taken them. They were both fantastic song writers, and much better guitarists than I.

Ideas are not personal property. They cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. They are useless unless executed. Statistically speaking, if you don’t do it, someone else will!

So, I spent a few ideas this month, and you know what? By doing so, I doubled the amount of ideas I had, and have even more recording to do. I think that’s part of where ideas come from.


RPM 2023

I’m stating my intention to complete an Ep (5 songs) during the month of February. I encourage any of my musician pals to join, too!

I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff from doing this, as I’ve probably mentioned a hundred dozen or so times previously.

I’m teaching a couple of classes this spring, which is going to keep me very busy.

I haven’t mentioned my other current new intention for the year, which is to animate every day. That tracks well for me, because I’m teaching animation. A few years ago, I decided to write some music every day, and it was one of the best things I could have ever done for my musical soul. For one thing, it turned into a good habit. I’m predicting the animation-a-day will do the same.

Anyway, as I’ll be pretty busy this spring, I think this will be a nice little creative supplement. A little Vitamin C, if you will?


Goldberg Variations

I’ve successfully completed the RPM challenge for 2022. This is my third success in five attempts, and I think it’s the best one yet.

This video to explain the why’s and how’s of this one. I’m proud of this work, and I hope you’ll check it out. If you are a Patreon subscriber, I’ll share the free download link!


RPM challenge 2022

It’s that time of year again! I’m throwing my hat in for the RPM challenge, and I’m planning on spinning up a nice, hot platter of musique concrète.

More as I know it!


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.