Friday, September 26, 2014

The Parameters For My Long-Form Challenge

The September Commuter Challenge is to come up with your own three-month creative project and map out the timeline and requirements for submission.  I have a few more days to think about it and tweak the text and/or goals, but this is most likely what I'm going to do:

My long-form challenge will be to record a set of songs, with the general “EP” or “extended single” as the model in terms of content and format.

For comparison, I dug through some of my old boxes and found 7 different They Might Be Giants CD EPs.  The EPs had 4 to 6 songs each (most had 5 songs). They each had 0 to 2 remixes of the main track (most had one remix).  They each had 0 to 2 cover songs, averaging approximately one cover song per CD.  I will endeavor to conform to that general format, with some extra stipulations to help ensure that I don’t end up phoning it in at the last minute.

The overall minimum requirements will be for me to record no fewer than 4 songs (with a personal goal of recording 5 or more).  At least three of the songs must be original compositions (not covers, and not remixes).  At least one of those songs must be either a cover of a song by a different artist, or a remix of one of my original songs on the EP.  If five or more songs are recorded, at least three of them must be original compositions, at least one must be a cover or a remix, and the other(s) can be originals, covers, or remixes.

Extra rules:

At least one of the original songs must be submitted to  The Songfight submission should not be an instrumental.  The words of the song must be relevant to the associated Songfight title.  The song must conform to the Songfight submission guidelines, and it must be submitted to in time to compete that week.  I should make every effort to meet the Songfight requirement of the Challenge in October or November.

I should avoid instrumentals.  Only one of the songs (but hopefully zero) may be completely instrumental.

I should avoid “experimental” or “avant-garde” compositions.  Only one of the songs (but hopefully zero) may be “avant-garde”.  This is to prevent me from lazily subverting the spirit of the challenge by producing low-effort, gimmicky submissions like Negativland’s Over the Hiccups by or John Cage’s 4’ 33” [though I do admire and appreciate both of those songs].

I am allowed to collaborate with other musicians to whatever extent I desire; I am allowed to employ/engage other musicians and vocalists to perform any amount of the music on any or all of the songs.  I am allowed to use any samples, loops, or other recordings that I want to any extent I choose.

I must create original CD EP case insert art - at minimum a CD case front insert (4 ¾” square), but my personal goal is to also have a back insert (5 3/8” by 4 5/8”) and lyrics/liner notes.

Timeline/interim due dates:

October 31, 2014:  The minimum I must submit (to breadbox at the Commuter Challenge website) is demo versions of two songs.

November 30, 2014:  The minimum submission requirement is demo versions of two other songs.  They must be different songs than those submitted October 31, 2014 (though one of the songs may be a remix of one of the other three songs submitted in October and November).  It is very highly recommended that one Songfight submission should be completed before this date.

December 31, 2014:  The minimum submission is four completed song recordings (at least one of which has to have already been submitted to plus original CD case art per the above requirements.  The personal hope is that more than four songs are recorded by this date, but I will have fulfilled the bare minimum requirements with four songs and one piece of CD case art.

[Extra note:  I am not going to make blogging a requirement of the Challenge; this is just something I'd like to do, and something I hope to maintain during the Challenge.  I'm declining to make it an extra requirement just in case I lose time or interest and stop posting here.  It might be fun for me to maintain this blog, but I can't let it get in the way of the Challenge (or my job, or my family/social life, etc).]

Why "Jerkatorium"?

Every band name is already taken.  This accursed internet proves to us that there is nothing new under the sun.

Don't believe me?  Brainstorm a list of five original band names.  Chances are, no matter what you put on your list, all of them are already (or were at one time or another) in use by a band.  I went through a zillion of them (Hork, April Mayhem, Shortbread, The Frownies, Monkey Fracas Jr, Itty Bitty Ditty Committee, etc etc etc) and there are already bands out there with all of those names.  In order to name a band nowadays you need to get very random (Bernie Bernie Headflap), and/or very specific (Crustacean Stretch Receptor), and/or very long (And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead).

I chose Jerkatorium because I saw an episode of The Simpsons where Homer reveals that he has a hidden room in the house where he makes beef jerky, and at one point in the episode he refers to it as his 'jerkatorium'.  The name stuck - it's a little self-effacing, a little lewd, and a little funny (to me, anyway).  But most of all, it is almost perfect to describe my project/exercise for the Commuter Challenge:  middle-aged man who used to be in rock bands in high school and college tries to recapture some of that magic by picking his guitar up and recording some predictable claptrap.  I'm an embarrassing, self-indulgent cliche before I've even started the Challenge.  The name Jerkatorium is nearly perfect.  And I like it.  Best of all, there are no results in YouTube when you type Jerkatorium in the search field.  The closest music-related Jerkatorium hit I could find on my Google searches is what might have been a music venue in Providence (but has probably been defunct since 2008?).

I could have used my own name, or I could have stuck with Finhork, but my name gets mangled and misspelled so badly and so often that I figured a different option would be easier.  And more interesting.

Welcome to Jerkatorium

I hope you were expecting indie music from a middle-aged man, because that's what this is.  Or that is what this is going to be, anyway.

Jerkatorium is the name of my 'band' (formerly Finhork).  The 'band' might end up consisting of just me and my computer.  I might or might not try to include collaborators by the end of this project.

The Commuter Challenge is a series of creative projects, and it has been going on for eight years now.  For most of that time the Challenges have been creative tasks with a deadline at the end of each month; there is a more thorough explanation/description on that website.

The September through December 2014 Commuter Challenge will be our first long-form challenge, and by midnight December 31, 2014, I will have recorded a minimum of four songs (at least three must be original compositions) and made some CD cover art to go along with it.  Yes I know that CDs are practically obsolete by now, I just wanted a format to follow in order to give myself some boundaries to work within.

This blog is just here for anyone who wants to peer over my shoulder at my progress.  This is my first blog ever, please excuse me if I lose interest and stop posting.