Monday, January 31, 2011

RPM Challenge 2011

As I'm sure you know, February is Record Production Month. There is this group of people who host this thing called the Record Production Month Challenge which is basically like NaNoWriMo except for bands. The goal is to cut an album--only working on it during February. To meet their criteria and get put on the streams on their site this means it has to consist of 10 songs or 35 minutes. They don't define what a song is so being me, I consider 35 minutes to be the real goal.

Read more about it (or possibly sign up) here: RPM Challenge HQ

Anyway the RPM Challenge is a prime example of the kind of record-making philosophy that I have. Basically the idea is that you don't have to make good music, you just have to make MORE music. What I mean is that making music at all is always better than not making music because you're afraid it won't be good enough or you don't feel inspired. Basically if you're making music all the time, some of it is bound to end up inspired, even if just by serendipity. [For instance, my writing is lacking inspiration right now, and I'm very displeased with how poorly I'm selling the idea in this paragraph, but I am writing it anyway because having it heard at all is better than not.]

Anyway it is similar to my current recording paradigm in a certain sense. I have been at the bottom of the inpsiration barrel for a long time now, haven't really made any new material in eons. A large part of me wants to just give up and wait for that one day in the far future when suddenly I'm inspired again, but think about this: what if when that day comes, I haven't touched a guitar or a microphone or a mixer or a computer or if I haven't programmed drums or dialed in tones or anything like that in like two years? Then when I finally DO feel inspired I won't be able to act on that inspiration!

That would be a tragedy, and it would be really really embarrassing. So that's why I've been churning out all these covers. You have to continue making music all the time or else you'll lose everything you've been working for your whole career. I'm sure this is the same in other arts, with the exception of some geniuses. You can't just give up and then resume right where you left off later. You have to plow right through all the tedious bits and all the blocks and doubts and uncertainty.

So basically what I'm saying is that if you can't currently make good art, then make mediocre art! Making art at all is more important than whether it is good or not!

The only people who sincerely cry quality versus quantity are the critics who've never created anything of their own. I think that any critic worth their salt knows that more things being created is what fosters more creativity in the community as a whole, and guarantees that their favorites are better because of it. The very best creators owe everything to every creator who is less popular than them.

So that's why I think calling things like the RPM Challenge "a good way to generate lots of music that isn't worth listening to" is ludicrously naïve thing to do. [But I've heard it done.]

The very best song [IMO] I ever created came from the RPM Challenge of 2008. It was just an instrumental at the time but over the next few months I fleshed it out into a "real" song. Anyway feel free to listen if you want:

Euphonia - Comfortable by Walker Shurlds

I have a couple ideas for what I am going to do this year for the challenge but most likely it'll end up as a bunch of terrible noodling. So in my head I'm going to try and avoid noodles but no promises.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fragment Friday: Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

It's that time! Friday!

At first I was afraid you'd have no clue what is going on here but I decided not to worry about it. With some of the dialogue I am bad at making it clear which character is speaking.

I blather on about microphones at the beginning.

Paper Towns by John Green

3 out of 5 stars.

Initially I'm not sure what to say about this book. I liked it. Enjoyed every second of its reading. But I guess I am turning into some kind of picky snob or something because in spite of that I only gave it 3 stars.

I first heard of John Green when he and his brother Hank were doing the Brotherhood 2.0 vlogging shindig. While never a hardcore nerdfighter I watched a handful of the videos and they seem to be pretty entertaining guys. So when I went to Borders to pick up a few other books and I saw Paper Towns in the bargain section just before you exit I snatched it up.

Paper Towns tells the story of a kid following his recently runaway lifelong-crush's clues around suburban Florida. Or at least that's what he thinks he's doing. It's really well executed in terms of structure and pacing. First he goes on an adventure with the girl, then she vanishes and he finds all her clues, then once he has prepared himself goes off to find her. And those three stages mark the changes in emotional intensity as well. The kid gets more and more depressed wondering what has happened to the girl and wondering exactly what her motives are in leaving. So I hope you understand that John Green does a wonderful job of writing and that's not why I docked stars.

The kid and his companions are basically a handful of ordinary high-school kids with certain features exaggerated. That isn't a problem, it's basically a description of every character we're intended to relate to at all: "exaggerated normal". I guess what rubbed me the wrong way in the characters was that their exaggerations were "funny" instead of "interesting". What this is probably better evidence of is that I'm not the intended audience.

I feel like the prime cause for my enjoyment of reading fiction is the sense of shared imagination. In the reading of a book the author's imagination merges with mine and creates a new, unique world, that only he/she and I share. So when I am critiquing a book what I'm talking about is how compatible our imaginations are and also about the end results of our "collaboration". Therefore whenever I dislike a book it's partially a failure of my own imagination-power.

But I am blaming this one on Green. All it really comes down to is that imaginings about high schoolers going urbexing isn't really the most interesting thing for me. I don't have to imagine urbexing in high school because in high school I went urbexing for real. I don't have to imagine someone being so devoted to an online anyone-can-edit encyclopedia because that's basically me my freshman year of college. So basically what I'm saying is that the character traits making these people interesting aren't interesting enough. Told you I was a snob.

Then there's the girl. It was really interesting how the picture of her in the characters' heads changed throughout the book, but that's through their eyes. Through mine she was just doing "random" stuff and being "random" as some kind of weird facade of interestingness. I guess I am kind of talking about this xkcd strip but it is way more harsh than what I mean.

Anyway the girl came across as just some kind of fantasy. I guess that was what was intended--for us to get inside the kid's head and see this girl the way he sees her. Unfortunately I find the way that high schoolers think about girls to be really unrealistic and foolish. I guess there was a potential for me to learn something from it but I failed to do so.

It's possible that I just don't really like YA. I haven't read very much of it.

I hope my cynical disposition doesn't shy you away from this book actually. I sincerely enjoyed every word, if you just take it all in as lighthearted fun without looking too deeply or trying to psychoanalyze the characters.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Haven't had too much to post about recently--should fix that tomorrow and over the weekend. Anyway I caught the insomnia the other night and made this video.

Song is "Disappear", originally recorded by Porcupine Tree.