24 Hours, 24 Minutes

On December 13th, I took part in something special.  The community at alonetone set us a challenge.  To produce an album in a day.  The rules were simple, with no prior planning, make 24 minutes of recorded music in 24 hours.  Sleep optional.

For me this would be particularly difficult as I had myriad other things to be doing all of which were beginning to sound like excuses...

I started at 10am and by lunch I had my first track.  I started with some electric piano and a couple of chords.  Then I started looking for some drum sounds which I ran through various beat repeaters/slicers.  Then in a fit of tradition, I added a synth bass.  Not really being happy with it, I took a sample from a talk by Suzanne Jeffrey entitled "What Makes You Working Class".  Time did not permit me to really listen to the talk, I was just looking for a texture...  Having found it, I reversed it and put it through Live's Beat Repeat effect...  The result had the perfect devilish incantation quality...  A bit of arranging and and an un-reverse at the very end.  Hmm, drums sound like crap.  Perfect!  That's the title, "Would You Think Less Of Me... [if I told you I can't program drums to save my life]"

Then the interruptions began.  Take one kid here, take another kid there, do some shopping.  Before I knew it, 5 hours were gone and it's dinner time.  I was screwed but I pressed on.

Still hung up on the electric piano sound and pressed for time, I played around with some chords that have been bouncing around my head since I was a teenager...  Then I grabbed some drum clips I had kicking around to get a groove going.  Then I changed the chords a bit, created a bit of melodic part over top.  Surfing around for samples, I found some vocal samples on a Computer Music DVD (an excellent UK magazine that comes with a DVD full of samples and other goodies).  I sprinkled then in here and there.  Arranged, effected, automated, and generally rushed until I was "done".  I named the track after one of the samples, "Baby".

To this point, I had resisted using my new favourite toy, Elysium.  But it was 8pm.  The pressure was sapping my MoJo.  So I broke it out and created a pattern that I fed into a guitar-ish sound.  I recorded it into a long loop.  I had record quantization on because it doesn't have any MIDI sync ability.  But I failed to press stop at the right time so as the loop recording came around out of sync I got this weird syncopation which actually sounded cool...  Now I fleshed that out with some synth pads, some more choppy synth pads, some drums.  Nice!  But was missing something on the low end.  So I found an arp-y bass synth sound.  Yeah baby yeah.  One I get a good groove going, it's always fun to spend a little bit of time wanking/jamming over top with a lead synth sound.  That wankery gave birth to the lead melody...  The only thing left to do was to arrange it into something resembling a song (a major weakness for me).  Still not satisfied, I slowly brought in an autofilter towards the end of the Elysium part of the track which forms the ending...  I had no idea what to call it and no time to dwell on it so "La La La I Can't Hear You" is what I settled on.  Maybe I was talking to the voices telling me that this whole exercise was nuts.

I was now at 16 minutes and it was 11pm.  I had to be done that night.  I had to be up early...  I was done.  And I said so.  Somebody in the chat room that we had set up for participants told me to just jam for 8+ minutes before giving up.  That was the pep-talk I needed.

So in response to the happy vibe that was La La La, I decided to go dirge-y...  Seem to fit the time of the night and the desperation of the situation (can't believe I just wrote that).  Not much to say here.  Just lay down a couple of chord progressions using a dark pad sound; solo-ed on top.  Sprinkled drums in.  Sprinkled effects.  Generally made noise.  The soloing got a little plaintive so I glommed onto the title "Sorrow".  Dramatic, perhaps but it was 1am and I was done!

This was a great experience for me.  For many reasons that I'm fully able to express.  You'll understand when you try something similar.  To be sure, I'm not totally happy with my results.  I am totally stoked at the process.  I look forward to the next one.  Developing as an artist is no different from developing as an athlete.  It's a journey and in our low attention span, quick to judge world that's easy to forget.

Finally, it is very important to acknowledge that I was not alone.  There were others and their astonishing work is here.  In particular thanks to sudara and sandbags who convinced me to give it a shot.

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