It's Saturday again, and I'm still on target to release a new single every week between July 4th and October 1st. This week's is called Why Do We Do This? and it was recorded as a direct result of last week's blog entry, which you can read below.
It's been a busy week and by the time I got to Friday evening I could barely think straight. After a decent night's sleep I feel better, but I'm still nowhere near the top of my game at the moment. Work has been very busy since I returned from my holiday at the beginning of July and this weekend's bank holiday is sorely needed. This weekend I intend to make and listen to music, read books, and eat chocolate biscuits.
If you have a problem with that, tough.
Last night I'd gone to bed and switched out the light before I realised that I hadn't updated the blog with my latest single. Rather than waiting until this morning to do so, I got up, booted up the PC, and brought the website up to date. And I did this despite the fact that the number of people who would notice - let alone care - that I hadn't updated the blog on the Saturday can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.
As I typed away on the PC last night I started thinking about why I'd done what I did. Why wasn't I content to just lie in bed and get on with the update in the morning? What was driving me hard enough for me to put off going to sleep (which, it has to be said, I don't get enough of as it is these days) and go and voluntarily work on my website, for which, as always, I get no reward or recognition?
It's the same reason I make music. It's because I can't imagine not doing it. It's because my audience, with a few lovely and much-appreciated exceptions, is me. I do this to entertain myself, and because I derive satisfaction from writing and recording music. I do this to become a better musician. I do it to explore why it is that some pieces of music inspire an emotional reaction in others, and why other pieces don't. I do it to learn about writing songs, about composing melodies, and about the creative process, whether it is improvised or planned. I want to come closer to understanding those mysterious qualities that the great songs have. I'm not suggesting for one moment that anything I create will ever have those qualities, but it's not going to stop me making music.
I recorded two more pieces for Fifty/Ninety yesterday, which means I'm now more than half way to my goal of writing fifty songs by October 1st. Today I'll be spending several hours writing one or two more. I'll make that effort because that's what I enjoy doing, because it gives me a strong sense of fulfilment.
It would be nice to share that sense of fulfilment with a wider audience, though. If you have a few minutes to spare, please give my music over at Bandcamp a listen and see what you think.
I uploaded this week's single this morning; it's called Seriously?
It's an instrumental. It's been a long week and the idea of writing some pithy and appropriate lyrics for a song was too much of a challenge. As it turned out, I think I came up with one of my better pieces and I had fun going back to playing the Jackson "Adrian Smith" SDX guitar that I bought back in 2014. It's been unfairly neglected since I started using the Roland Guitar Synth with the Godin xtSA, and I know I should be playing it more regularly. Now that my hand has healed up, I suspect that's exactly what I will be doing...
I turned 57 yesterday. Rebecca and I went out for a lovely meal at the Falcon in Wotton on Thursday night, and the folks at work sang "Happy Birthday" to me in the office yesterday which was rather nice, but it's been an intense week and my birthday evening concluded early; getting home took rather longer than usual (on any Friday in summer, the motorways are places to avoid, so I drove across country instead) and I didn't get home until 7pm. After a celebratory G&T and a Skype call from Mel and David, I was pretty much done. This morning I woke up and realised it's now less than three years until I hit the age of sixty. How did that happen?
It's odd - when I was a kid, the only thing that I knew about the future was that in 1999 there would be a total eclipse of the Sun on my birthday. Beyond that, I simply had no idea about what life would be like. If life in my forties was a closed book until it happened, what I would be doing in my fifties seemed even more mysterious. As an eight year old reading about upcoming solar eclipses in my copy of the Guinness Book of Records back in 1968, the future extended to the end of the millennium, and that was about it. I didn't think about the twenty-first century at all other than having a vague expectation that I would probably be working on the Moon at some point. Regular space travel seemed an entirely feasible proposition for my future self. I was reminded of that alternative future this week as I read Sir Christopher Frayling's beautifully curated book of Harry Lange's designs for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, The 2001 File which I bought as a birthday treat for myself. Few things convey Moore's Law more compellingly than the design for the space ship Discovery; the HAL9000 computer takes up nearly half a deck in the sphere at the front.
Nobody's dug up a monolith on the Moon yet, but it's still safe to say that the way things have turned out is a continual surprise to me, and I'm profoundly grateful for the friends who have accompanied me on this journey. You're all lovely, thank you.
I'm really enjoying the challenge of writing, recording, and releasing a new single every Saturday over the summer. As soon as I played back Austerity I knew it was going to be this week's release; it came together easily and it seems to flow nicely. I'm very pleased with the production. Listening to a lot of podcasts about mixing has helped me to up my game considerably and I think the way my stuff sounds this year is a big improvement over my earlier work.
I've also been having loads of fun designing the cover for each single. I seem to have unintentionally settled on a visual style that's been surprisingly consistent, which has been a surprise.
This morning I've been working on another track for Fifty/Ninety, which will be number 21. That means I'm a couple of songs behind where I should be, but I hope to catch up over the rest of the weekend.
In the 90 days between the 4th of July and the 1st of October, not only will I be writing fifty songs, but I will also be releasing a track in high-definition sound each Saturday on my Bandcamp page. Today's song is a little number called Mania which features me rolling out some of my guitar chops to make sure my hand healed properly after I sliced it open on a broken glass while doing the washing up last month.
I've made good progress on Fifty/Ninety this week, as I've not only caught up to my songwriting target, I'm actually a song ahead of where I should be. I'm planning on writing a couple more songs tomorrow, too. After a few tracks that didn't really spark anything for me, I feel like I'm getting my groove back, which is good.
I've also knuckled down and started doing some serious listening and commenting on stuff released by other participants, and this evening I left my hundredth comment; a couple of years ago I'd have given four or five times that amount of feedback by now, but then again, a couple of years ago I didn't have a demanding full-time job our a four-hour commute...
I've ended up using my Shure Super 55 mic for vocals on everything that I've recorded for 50/90 this summer. I like the way my voice sounds through it compared to the NT1-A I've been using for the last couple of years. The Røde is a great mic, but it's unflinching in its representation of what my voice sounds like. As it's a dynamic mic rather than a large-diaphragm condenser, The Shure is much more forgiving. I actually had someone comment this week that I sounded "suave" - how cool is that?
I wish I could puch my guitar abilities forwards as easily, but the only way I'm going to do that at the level I am now is through hard work and diligent, focussed practice. I will make it happen, though. It'll just take time...