Good lord, it’s been over a year since I posted any of my weird Soundcloud explorations. (They’re still up there though - you should go give them a listen! I may eventually pull them down and package them and call them ‘product’, but in the meantime they’re still there and free. Click the ‘musickings’ tag and listen through those posts!)
Anyway, the process by which all those were created was: wake up & fire up computer by 7am on every day off, and starting from nothing create as complete a piece of music as possible by 10am, then go on with the non-music part of my day.
And that was really effective. I was finishing every year with 100 - 250 individual pieces of music created through a combination of my day off speed composing and just improvising on guitar or piano and/or warbling voice. And of course a good chunk of all of that was garbage, but I had enough of a pool to draw on for the soundcloud stuff that I could have kept it going… probably through now, if I hadn’t lost patience with spending a couple hours every week moving files around between different computers. But needing to simplify my life was not the only problem. By far the bigger problem has been the The Pile.
My primary writing habit my whole artistic life has been to turn on a recording device and try to create a brand-new piece of music on the spot. There’s a small amount of earlier stuff - mostly jams with other musicians on reel-to-reel tape - but I’ve been doing this at a REALLY vigorous rate since the late-1990’s, when I had better recording devices and the space to use them whenever I pleased. Eventually some of these pieces stick together in my mind as a cohereant whole, and I “finish” them, whatever that will mean for the project (better & rehearsed recordings, fleshed out structure & arrangements, lyrics & vocals?, etc.)
So just for funzies, let’s call half of everything I’ve done garbage - guitar jams, experiments, noise, no commercial potential, no work to be done, no reason anyone who’s not me would ever listen to it, and I why is my time so valueless that even I would listen to it? Then there’s the “successful experiments” - the kind of thing I would put on soundcloud. These are stand-alone pieces that will not benefit from more work - they are what they are, and will never be turned into something else. Between the successful and the almost-successful (would upload, but for one or two annoying, unfixable things), let’s call that 15 - 25% of the non-garbage music.
What’s left over is The Pile. A piece is in The Pile if I hear what it can be; if I hear past the stop-start/second guessing/retreads/sparse noodling of the initial improvisation and glimpse at least part of what a final version could sound like, it goes in The Pile to be “finished” “one day”. As of this moment (goes over, clicks on the iTunes playlist marked ‘Pile’) The Pile has 937 songs, 3.7 days’ playing time (x 24 = 88.8 hours). I do not believe this includes the Triptych pieces (more on those later). There’s another playlist called ‘remix’ - experiments that COULD be made listenable through some editing and rearranging - that’s another 21 tracks for another 5 hours. Throw in another (currently - I kept accidentally writing more) 53 Triptych tracks @ let’s call them 5 minutes per = another 4.5 hours of material. Some of this material is going to get longer as it gets fleshed out… let’s call it about 100 hours of material, and about 1,000 individual pieces of music.
The numbers are not good. Folks, I’m 47. There’s not enough life left to complete 100 hours of material, unless I do so full-time. So I buy lottery tickets.
The long and short of all this is that I no longer rise and make something new. I rise and work on something old. I try to whittle down The Pile. I need to finish some of this so that others can hear what’s in my head (and look at me strangely, fake smile on their faces, & quickly changing the subject etc).
Because I have a short attention span, I have everything arranged so I’m not plodding on one thing day after day. My current studio projects are:
Triptych is my current main project.
Several years ago, I was invited to participate in an online collaboration with several people I’d internet-known for years, but had never met face-to-face. (STILL the case!). I surveyed the landscape, saw 4 other guitarists, and decided to lead with the weirder guitar things I do. I pulled up my list of highly experimental, randomized tunings, tuned my acoustic 12-string to one selected at random, and wrote an amazing riff. As I was trying to flesh it out, I wrote something else. And another. And another. I think I had the better part of 5 songs, with melodies, before I went to bed that night. And 5 more the next day. And continued to write something else completely new every single time I picked up that guitar - now permanently in that tuning. I’ve always been pretty prolific, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. Music literally spilled out of me. I now have 53 of what I eventually called Triptych things that range between short riffs to fully fleshed out pieces. The recordings for the last 10 of them pretty much all include me saying “STOP WRITING MORE YOU ASSHOLE”.
But because it’s all sparse acoustic guitar and vocals, it all needs lyrics, and guess who’s not a poet, or a lyricist, or even particularly verbal. And because I’m me, they are all joined by a nebulous theme that I can’t really explain to anyone else who IS a poet, so it falls on me to try to be immediately good at a skill I don’t really have, or have time to master. Anyway. Try. Always try.
It will probably be released as a series of EPs as I complete them.
I’m currently working on this subset of the project: (ID# - Title or “Working Title” - current state)
- #2 “Hold” - Needs lyrics & final recording. I have so many demos of this I’m about over hearing it…
- #3 Intermission - lyrics begun, actually retaining its working title. There’s an instrumental arrangement that is completed as well.
- #13 “Starry” - Just a riff at this point.
- #6 “On The Way” or “Space Brothers Will Save Us All” - One title is easier, one is funnier - which will win out? I need to find the original lyric sheet, finish, finish arrangement, record.
- #5 Heirophant - has lyrics, a couple words I still don’t like, needs final recording.
- All Things Are Made of Atoms - the piece that started it all. Instrumental, may rerecord guitar melody, but may release as-is.
- #9 “Choir” - might be done, might not be. I need to contemplate. Probably at least needs a remix, if not a rerecord.
- #7 “The Dark One” - Needs Lyrics. This one’s important.
- #4 “Mandarin Ducks” - Jesus Christ, the task I’ve outlined for myself with this one. Need to finalize the arrangement before I can move forward, but need to move forward before I finalize the arrangement. Also, I may need to find a native Japanese speaker, and possibly someone to play the Shakuhachi. Maybe I’ll get really saucy and reach out to Cornelius Boots for the flute bit.
- #29 “Scrawl” - lyrics begun, but I wouldn’t even say it’s about anything yet.
- #27 Iris - DONE DADDY DONE. Lyrics I don’t hate, recording I don’t hate. Many more to come, right?
Pretty much as explained above. These are mostly old riffs, electric, rock band &/or metal songs. Some of them need lyrics, some mercifully don’t; thankfully, I have not ascribed a lyrical theme to any subsection of them.
(optional)MMDDYY - Title or “Working Title: - Status
- “A Mere Oversight” - probably to be called ‘The Want Machine’. Lyrics begun, arrangement finalized, finish comping a bass part before the end of this weekend, might throw a real drummer at it at some point.
- Y CAN NOT - instrumental, so working title is as good as any. This one is very close to done. Need to figure out a “melody”, “lead”, or “point of focus”, but the existing guitar improvisation may be good enough. Kinda in the fuck around with it stage.
- 062515 “Ganymede” - this one’s so amorphous I have no idea what it’s going to be in the end. I HAVE at least started thinking about lyrics, starting from the working title.
- 021914 “The Gnarl” - I think this one’s going to be instrumental, so that may be the final title. Had Matt Fitt cut a bunch of drum tracks to this - some of them need heavy editing. There’s a bunch of weird tempo changes & stuff in here. This one’s at least 50%, but could still wind up somewhere surprising.
- 020616 “John Doe” - this one’s a clusterfuck that might wind up in the trash bin. But not before I try to turn it into something listenable.
- 013016 “Cyclone” - a noisy bass improvisation that I had Matt play drums to after the fact. May become something cool, may get thrown on the trash heap. No idea.
- 011016 “Wired” - This one is also noisy and amorphous. I recorded Matt playing drums randomly, out of time, with the intent of dropping them in here somewhere. Time will tell if it works.
- 122915 Seppuku - DONE. I think. Fretless guitar/software synth instrumental.
- “Jester” - an old guitar improv, largely formless & void. Probably instrumental. Not sure where it’s going to go.
- “Clouds” - a slow-moving guitar + ebow thing. It may be done, I need to listen back through it again.
- “Substantiate” - one of 3 or 4 instrumental/experimental pieces inspired by black metal tropes &/or Whourkr. It’s about 90% done.
- 020615 “Permeable” - another of the weird atonal BM pieces. Might be done, need to assess. As featured in this video
- “I Dunno” - for something that I literally spent 25 minutes jamming on initially and have been totally into, the fact that this is still largely formless & void is pretty shocking. Ultimately, this is a riff I want to do justice to, and I haven’t yet figured out HOW.
- “I Zebra” - This one might be part of the BM project, but it could also fit in with something else. I’ve thrown a lot of work at it, but it still doesn’t scream “done!”
- 052911 “Mad Drum Science” - this falls into the remix category. A ludicrously long guitar improvistion + effects + electronics, that I have an inkling could be made better, but getting there is a lot of complicated, fiddly, editing.
- 062115 “Halfway” - might be done? A little slow, a little boring, nothing much happens? Might be destined for the scrap heap if I don’t figure something out
Honestly, I still need to do this from time to time to keep myself sane. I’m not just spitting them out in 3 hours though - I’m using the time to learn programs and technologies that I would have otherwise skipped under the tight 3-hour timeline. And I’m trying to keep them guitar-centric. When I have a large enough backlog of this stuff, I’ll start Soundclouding it again, but it’s my lowest priority right now, so that may take a while. I’m currently working on #5, and I want to get to #25 before I start uploading. I’m currently learning to use Clouds for this track.