Thursday, January 22, 2015

Back From Vacation, Three Stars at, and EP Not Posted

This is my first post in almost a month because I was vacationing in the Philippines from December 31 through January 18 and didn't have a good way to access this blog.  I hadn't mentioned the planned vacation in any previous post because I'm under the impression that it's a bad idea to announce that your home will be empty for three weeks in a row.  I apologize for the lack of updates during my absence.

This blog isn't really meant to be about my personal life or travel, but I'm still going to share one aspect of the trip - we were on this flight for the Guam to Manila leg of the trip:

We were over the ocean, more than an hour away from any land, when the right engine of the plane crunched to a stop and then started coughing fire.  It's hard to discuss the experience without sounding a bit melodramatic, so I'll just note that in over 13 years of very frequent air travel (for work, mostly), I have never had a more terrifying experience in my life.

Our time in the Philippines was pretty great though.

Anyway, I finished the fourth song as another SongFight entry for the Three Stars fight, and last time I checked it's still up for votes at  At heart it's a three-chord song, a simple-to-construct song of the type that I mentioned in a previous post.  I got over my distaste for loops, samples and sound effects:  I used a portion of a piano loop from Garageband, with an added lick I generated manually on the computer and then copied and pasted repeatedly throughout the song.  The vocals are heavily pitch-corrected, and that short accordion bit in the bridge has an added chorus effect.  The final mix turned out a little quiet, and I'm not sure how to fix that.  All in all, it's nothing I'm particularly proud of, but at least it's done.

The rest of the Commuter Challenge aspect of the project was officially completed, but the final product is disappointing.  I re-recorded the vocals to "Butterfly", only vaguely improving them.  I never added any lyrics to Demo #2, so for the purpose of the Challenge it is currently, officially, and disappointingly an instrumental.

I unsuccessfully tried to fix "Grim Reality".  I believe that I will have to re-record the whole thing if I want to make it presentable.  Listening to that recording is depressing now; it's surprising to me how bad the vocals are, and I can't believe that I ever thought it was in any shape to submit to SongFight.  I suppose that I was so focused on the small details and various slight embellishments that I lost sight of how bad the thing sounded altogether.

The EP CD cover art:

As mentioned in earlier posts, I'd wanted to do a painting instead of the altered Durer above.  The altered Durer looks pretty simple, and it was much simpler than the painting would have been, but it still took a long time - I had to remove the central figure (a kneeling penitent lashing himself) from the center of the image and fill in all the crosshatching by hand.  Yet it looks like an easy, underwhelming photoshop job.

The final EP has not been posted at the Commuter Challenge website.  Upon returning from vacation, Brian and I were both unsatisfied with our own progress on our respective projects, so we're still in talks about how to approach this.  We may make the January 2015 Commuter Challenge a "Improve the Long-Form Submission" Challenge with the intention of posting the results by January 31, or we might continue work on the projects indefinitely and post them when we're happier with the results, or we might post them as-is and move on with other things.

If nothing else, this project has kick-started me into making more music and submitting songs to SongFight.  It has helped me to get at least a little more experienced and comfortable with GarageBand.  Perhaps most significantly, it has brought me down to earth with respect to what I am able to do as far as music is concerned:  For a long time I'd had this notion that I was capable of amazing things if I'd just put a nominal amount of effort into recording some music.  Now I see that if I put a ton of work into it and continue to produce and practice, I might eventually be able to make a neat ditty or two.  It's hard to explain why, but that sort of reality check is actually pretty cool - some pressure is off, I'm free to experiment a little more, and I don't have to stress out about any of it.

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