Friday, April 15, 2011

Community Voices

Late Saturday night marked the return of 2DC after a 2-week absence. The theme for that round dealt with fire, a broad concept that lent itself to varied interpretation. In an unusual event for 2DC, the compo round featured two collaborations: Draconiator teamed up with MickRip while I joined up with ProjektZero. According to the "NightBlaze" song description, Draconiator came up with the percussion and bassline, and MickRip took care of the melodic content as well as post-production. For my collaboration I sent ProjektZero some chords via MIDI, to which he added a bassline, kick drum and his vocals. Very late into this creative process, I opted to write a drum pattern and laid it over PZ's production. His vocal implied a time signature that clashed with my drums, creating a slightly disjointed sound.

Tuesday's JHC featured a theme that was perhaps my broadest yet. One entrant went so far as to call it "impossible" and left shortly after the round began. "The Answer" theme was a nod to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and it's famous use of the number 42, since that night's round happened to be JHC042. HarmDis got the reference most evidently with his entry, as it featured a Hitchhiker voice clip. My favorite interpretation of the theme came from mu, whose entry included the sound of an answering machine. Due to technical issues with my computer, I had trouble putting my entry together as I produced it. My laptop is an aged unit, and I guess it's time that I put money toward getting a new model.

At one point during the past week I asked people within the compo community to share their thoughts and tips regarding their craft. Draconiator offered insight into this process: "Well, for me at least, first thing I've noticed is that you need a clear mind. If you're thinking of too much before a compo, you'll get confused and can't focus on what you're doing. I would recommend setting aside an hour or two for quiet time before the compo to purge your mind of any thoughts, and so you can focus on making music. Second, even if you don't like what you're making, continue with it. Throwing a good 30 second (so far) song out the window only serves as wasted time."

In some cases, participating in compo provides incentive to generate creativity. RAMPKORV commented on entering competitions versus working on his own: "I'm having a hard time finding motivation to do music if it's not in a compo. Improvising on piano is one thing, it doesn't require hard work - it's just 'doing'. But working on details with a song in a sequencer, there has to be a reward for me to do it." When asked which specific aspect of compo helps to motivate him, he responded, "The fact that people hear my music. [It] gets a purpose other than me learning to become better at making music. I also don't feel like I have time making music 'for no reason' because there are always more important business I have to take care of."

For potential participants of compos who are curious about the competitions, the internal spark might not be generated. Meteo Xavier expressed his desire to participate and his reluctance to enter: "I want to compo, but never get the spark of real interest to do it... yet I would for any other reason." What would be the cause of this lack of spark? "Timing is one reason. It is difficult for me to even get something started within an hour. I can't just turn on music like a switch for something like a compo. As easy as they go, its still something difficult for me to do. Usually I'm working at home at that time too, or if I do music, its context is far from what the compo is about."

My computer again acted up as I attempted to create a song for Thursday's OHC. The busted CPU coupled with my inflamed bronchial tubes and general malaise underlined my lack of inspiration that night. Rather than duck out of the compo entirely, I offered yet another spoken-word reading of the round's theme. With great discipline I was able to record a take without having an uncontrollable coughing fit. I also used the entry description field to clarify that I intend go on musical hiatus for an indefinite period. I will continue to run JHCompo and participate in listening parties of the various competitions, but I will avoid composing in favor of devoting my energies to my unfinished novel and other endeavors.

Over time I've noticed that my musical output doesn't quite match my outward personality. People I've spoken to in person say that I am smart, wry and sophisticated. The music I make isn't really any of that. I think it's time I focus on another creative outlet.

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