Thursday, February 03, 2011

RPM Challenge

Today I signed up for the Record Production Month (RPM) Challenge.  The goal is to write and record 10 songs or 35-minutes of material during the month of February with no head starts (i.e. previously unfinished work) allowed.

Given my track record of re-re-thinking every musical decision and spending hours fiddling with minutia, writing an entire album in three and a half weeks seemed like a ridiculous idea at first.  After giving it some thought though, I realized that it was actually the best idea ever.  I am officially giving myself permission to write music quickly.  There have been a handful of occasions in recent memory that I've written what could stand as a finished track in one day, but couldn't accept that it could possibly be finished in anything less than three weeks of full-time work, and so set it aside or ruined it with unnecessary tweaks.  I'm hoping RPM will by my psychological escape from that kind of thinking.

So what am I going to write?  My number one goal for the RPM challenge is to foster spontaneity.  Instead of wondering if a direction is "correct," or whether I'm moving closer to some ideal "perfect" piece of music, I'm just going to churn out ideas and fit them together.  I'm not going to allow myself to deadlock.

A few other guidelines I've set for myself:
  1. Focus on creating with few musical elements, but with depth and evolution involved in each.  My tendency is to combine a great many relatively static (i.e. unchanging) sounds to create motion and depth in my music.  I think this is a useful approach, and I like the results I can achieve using it, but this month I want to try to focus on modulating and manipulating individual sonic elements to change their character over time instead of relying on dozens of component parts.  I'm not convinced that this will be a time-saver, but it'll be a good exercise for me.

  2. Value emptiness and silence.  This is something I've been working on for some time.  When there are no limits to the number of layers you can pile onto a track (which practically speaking there aren't), I have a natural tendency to increase complexity, even when it ultimately hurts the musical statement I'm trying to make.  I want to recapture the power and drama of silence.  If there was a theme to my as-yet unwritten RPM album, I think this would be it.

  3. Leverage the performance techniques and workflow I've developed.  I am a very different beast on stage than I am in the studio.  If I've prepared properly, I can really get into a zone when performing that leads to (I hope) really interesting and spontaneous musical discoveries that I almost certainly wouldn't have come across during production.

    In a live context I can't go back and fix mistakes, so I don't dwell on them.  I also feel much more connected to time and how the music I'm creating moves through it.  This probably comes off as an odd statement, but consider that most production software presents music as a "chunk" that you can (and almost must) absorb in its entirety with your eyes.  The beginning and end of that eight-minute epic sit just a few inches from one another, and you can skip between them in half a second.  The psychological effect this has had on me is interesting, and something that I'm only now really beginning to understand.  I'd like to write more about that someday, but for now suffice to say that I'm going to try to bring the spontaneity I feel during performances to the production table this month.
Success in this endeavor is far from a certainty, but I know I'm going to finish it.  Meet me back here on March 1st for the results =).

1 comment:

kc! Bradshaw said...

so so excited to see what you come up with. I guess this also gives me a challenge to finshing noodling about with your logo and lay paper to pen for the final release! :)