Sunday, February 27, 2011

This past week, and the return of Doubles' Dash Compo

I first stumbled upon composition competitions (or "compos") a few years ago, when I attempted to wrap my head around music production and, in particular, digital audio workstations. I had original and arrangement ideas in my head that I wanted to lay down and flesh out, but I had no idea how a computer would allow me to do it intuitively and without headaches. Once I realized I could get specific feedback and commentary regarding my songs on steady basis, compos became somewhat addicting to me. I was very attracted to the idea of being part of an online community of musicians who shared my interests and aspirations, and who were willing to share their wisdom.

I participate in at least two compos a week, one of which I run and organize. That may be taxing for a composer to do regularly, but there was an addition to my regimen this past week: the Double's Dash Compo. DDC was without a doubt the highlight of my week in terms of toning my musical muscles. The compo itself had previously been put on hiatus due to its organizer Shael Riley going off and handling the business of his band's upcoming album release. Incidentally, his stop in New York City made it possible for me to meet the man as well as his bandmate Ty Guenley in person.

My week of compoing started off with Tuesday's JHCompo, which per usual had a group of entrants that slowly grew as the start of the round approached. Snappleman returned after making an unexpected first appearance in JHC the week before, but ended up not working on an entry because of a prior engagement. Otherwise the compo round consisted of JHCompo's usual regulars, who each provided excellent takes on the week's "Art Gallery" theme. I particularly liked Jacob's description of his entry, which stated: "I'd totally listen to this kind of music while viewing some pointless art sculptures. :)"

Later on in the week was another event I usually attend, the One Hour Compo. Unfortunately, that week's "Club" theme didn't particularly inspire me. After several attempts at writing a tune, I gave up and recorded a spoken word rendition of the theme description. I had previously done a monologue for a "Moon"-themed compo round several OHCs ago; I felt it was an amusing way to practice producing a vocal track without actually composing. Someone in the listening party had suggested that I enhance my soliloquy with double bass and bongo accompaniment for a poetry reading-like experience. It's something I may consider for future entries.

At week's end was my favorite compo by far, the Doubles' Dash. The most compelling aspect of DDC for me is the spontaneity of collaborating with another musician and working out the logistics of co-writing a song remotely. As part of my attempts at promoting Friday's event, I came up with a string of possible team names for the entrants to use: my personal favorites include A Freakin Elephants, Diagon Allies, and Fully Clothed Men. My teammate ProjektZero and I settled on Perfectly Normal Beasts, an allusion to Douglas Adams. An alternative team name had been PZ's suggestion Team Club Sepiroth Forever, a reference to Brandon Strader's OHC entry made the night before.

Speaking of Brandon, he opted to team up with himself for that night's DDC under the team name The High Road. A collaboration between himself and "Oinkness" (an artist name Brandon previously used), the entry came about after a apparently heated dispute with Shael, who originally intended to collaborate with Brandon for the night. The song "Deserted" suffered from occasional audio dropouts but was otherwise a solid entry. The vented frustration in the chat coupled with the quality of the song led to the exclamation "BRANDON I HATE YOU BUT THIS IS AWESOME" by an observer.

My entry with ProjektZero was the first time in DDC that I had co-written the chord progression with a songwriting partner. He initially came up with a set of chords on guitar and sent them to me via a WAV file, to which I grafted an additional section. His chords became the verse and mine became the chorus, and ProjektZero composed the melody and lyric with the combined sections as a basis. I had incorrectly laid down his vocal track during the chorus by setting it a measure further than he intended, though he was eventually okay with the effect. I'm particularly fond of how my bassline turned out for the entry, as I normally cut corners in this regard during compos with shorter deadlines.

The past week was a chance for me to do a strings-only composition in JHC, a chance to hang back slightly in OHC, and a rare opportunity to co-write a song in DDC. I hope to branch out more and experiment, and hanging out with my peers in compos is great way to do that.

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