Progress Notes #1

It’s probably a “well, duh” moment, but it’s occurred to me that the reason I’ve learned music stuff relatively quickly, is precisely because I’m happy to throw out half finished stuff, ideas, and whatnot, without concern for quality control at this stage. Which means that if there’s something wrong somewhere, or something isn’t working, or a sound needs changing etc etc, there’s not a great deal to the track yet, and it gets picked up on before I’ve spent weeks on it. It means that I’ve had *something* uploaded from the very start, and been able to take on board criticism all along the way, as well as have some sort of demo to use as a jumping off point for collaborations. All of which has been invaluable.

Last year’s FAWM taught me the value of creating and moving on, and highlighted specific aspects of production and playing to focus my education on thereafter. In the year inbetween, I’ve taken on board the suggestions and criticism I’ve been given, and used that to build on the learning. BUT at the same time, I’ve realised how REALLY REALLY important it is to keep that criticism in mind as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. Because at some point, you’re going to start working the technical stuff out and if you have in your mind that “no, THAT way is wrong” it’s going to become huge issue. The creative stuff is pretty much your own anyway (and in terms of pure creative, I rarely take suggestions totally on board, because people just don’t enjoy the same things and I’m not about to change my entire mental process on the suggestion of someone who has a massively different preference to me. But, also, don’t disregard the creative suggestions entirely, cos that’s counterproductive too. Balance.)

This year’s FAWM has, again, been both productive and educational. I’ve had several “oh, riiiight!” moments whilst working out how to make THIS do THAT, and playing around with new bits of software, getting more deeply involved with my hardware, and experimenting with sound manipulation.

The rush to get something out there is insanely creatively freeing, and the short timescale is the relief from the limits involved. I couldn’t maintain it for, say, a year. At track 10, with 4 more to get done, I’m already twitching to go back to the first handful and apply some of what I’ve learned over the month. I’m completely ready to get my editing hat on. But, I’ll continue, because in less than a week, I can do just that.

There’s still a world of information and education to take on board, but I’m reaching a stage where I feel like I’m starting to develop my own sounds and style, considering the idea of performance, and may be at a stage where I’m looking to release something within the next year, so I’m feeling pretty okay about that.

February Album Writing Month

Taking the form of the NaNoWriMo influenced time constrained artistic challenges which are growing both in number and popularity, February Album Writing Month (or, FAWM), sets musicians and songwriters, both amateur and experienced, the challenge to create 14 new songs in 28 days. As with many such challenges, the emphasis is not on high quality, polished work, but rather on output to be grown and edited at a later time. It’s as much about active participation as it is about the creative process, and the online community is supportive and friendly.

For me, participation has meant having an extra driving force to stop worrying about the fact that I’m still learning the ropes, or that what I’m doing doesn’t sound quite how I’d like, and start getting ideas down. At the time of writing, I’ve published two tracks, both of which I’m reasonably happy with as rough drafts, and both of which I intend to work on further once the month is up.

Without the purpose of a set challenge behind me, I’m not certain I would have had the confidence to publish anything for a while yet. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it’s a hell of a lot easier to say “here’s something I made for this specific reason”. The limitations of the project act as a safety net, in some ways. The time constraints mean that there’s an implicit understanding that quality of work is not the goal, and for anybody without years of experience, that is a massive asset. I know I’m not going to be creating anything amazing after only a few months learning, but this gives me the opportunity to get ideas down, put them out there, and get some feedback much sooner than I might have done otherwise. Feedback and constructive criticism means progress, and I welcome both.