In-Progress thoughts on my Solo RPM album

For 2012, I decided to do a solo album, in addition to the album we traditionally do as Demons of Gyrophonia. I have four tracks recorded, totaling over 40 minutes of music so far.

Before I declare Things I Should Have Said finished, I thought it would be a good time to discuss my process in writing not only this album, but my writing process in general.

It seems I haven’t given it much thought until recently.

A lot of composers are inspired by events in their lives, emotions they are feeling, or other obvious sources for artists to draw upon. The resulting work is usually interpreted as being intensely personal as a result.

Since the last time I recorded a solo album (thinking back, I would have to say it was Robert Shields’ Diary from four years ago), I haven’t really had any specific inspiration to write anything. That’s a big reason I decided to take the RPM challenge personally this year, as it generally has the effect of jump-starting any creative thinking for its participants. And wouldn’t you know it? It worked.

I created a set of limitations I would adhere to while producing the album for several reasons. Obviously it would result in a more cohesive finished product. But I also find as a composer (or performer, or developer for that matter) that constraints help me focus my work and put forth the very best effort possible.

The main constraint was instrumentation. Korg MS-10, a whamola, a 3-string Guitbass and a 3-string Drumitar. All electric instruments, most running through a minimal effects rig including a harmonizer, ring mod, chorus, and delay. No singing, no percussion, no acoustic instruments. The other constraint was length. No short songs. Each selection from Things I Should Have Said takes its time developing; the shortest track thus far weighs in at just a shade under nine minutes. To be honest, with the MS-10 in my arsenal, it would probably be harder to do a short track than a nine-minute sonic odyssey.

With those limitations in place, I was free to explore the sounds these few instruments were capable of and not be concerned with anything else. I allowed myself to forget everything else and just focus on sound. My inspiration for this project: Sound.

The biggest limitation others see when they initially hear about RPM is the amount of time allotted for being creative. 29 days?! That’s silliness!

But it isn’t really. I shouldn’t really bring pop music production into the discussion here, but most chart-toppers are written and recorded in what essentially boils down to a sleepless weekend. The post-production work is another topic of discussion, but there’s arguably a function of diminishing returns in the amount of time and money spent on modern pop post-production.

Working with Gyrophonia, we habitually end up cranking out an album in just one or two weekly(-ish) meetings. Our process generally doesn’t fuss over the niggling details and just focuses on making sound. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad; we make it, listen to it, and if we like it, make a record out of it.

It’s February 21st and so far I’ve spent five nights on my album. I’ve made four tracks, and I’m happy with the way all of them have turned out. The rest of the month, I’ve been working, eating, sleeping, and doing all of the things I normally do in the course of a month. Oh yeah, and working on another RPM album with Gyrophonia.

Overall, this has been a great experience. I haven’t hit any existential crisis mid-way through that prevents me from moving forward. I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown in the midst of trying to find the perfect rhyme for ‘kumquat’.

I’ve just been making sound.

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