In my lifetime I’ve been accused of being a dreamer (with both positive and negative connotations, depending on who said it), of lacking ambition, of not being particularly career-minded, and so on. Admittedly, there were times I needed a nudge. I always responded when I knew it was coming from a good place. Other times, I wrote off the judgment and sometimes the person making it–including some c
lose friends–because their motives were questionable. Often it was textbook projection, sometimes it was meanness, sometimes it was people who just didn’t know me and didn’t matter.
The “work and career” portion of my life is exactly where I like it: in as small a compartment as possible. I do my job and then leave it where I found it. There are no after hours conference calls, midnight emails, or working weekends. There’s no political gamesmanship because it disgusts me. I’d much rather develop skills that are both necessary and of some interest to me and try let the rest take care of itself.
If I ever lose a job over politics, so be it. I don’t ever want a job I have to lie to keep. Besides, if I spent all my energy trying to schmooze and impress but got on the wrong douchebag’s bad side anyway, I’d be out of a job with no real skills to offer. No thanks. I’d rather be a little unpopular and keep my kung fu strong.
I care about everything else in my life WAY more than work or career. I care about my family. I care about my friends. I care about music. I care about art. I care about horror movies and Halloween. I care about HAVING TIME. Anyone who ever accused me of lacking ambition has missed the point: those things ARE my ambition AND my passion. Work pays the bills and buys food with a little left over to buy new gear and go places. That’s it. Someday, some of the things I just listed might pay the bills. Until then, this is how it’s going to be.
Even though there are definitely times that I’m frustrated and want to advance in some way or other, my life is actually pretty damned good. I spend time with my family every day. I make music every day. I make some kind of creative something-or-other every day. I smell the roses and look at the clouds and notice life happening every day. That’s what matters.
And I wasn’t going to mention this, but it’s true so to hell with it: even though I knew all of this before, losing two sons and then gaining two sons definitely drove all of this home. Big time.
At the very least, I haven’t had a work dream in years, so I must be doing something right.
The old theme/template started to get really flaky, dropping my Flickr and Twitter feeds and generally being disagreeable. This became a convenient excuse to indulge an old habit of mine: changing things around just for the sake of changing things around. Please pardon any random and otherwise unannounced rearrangements that may occur over the next few days. I’ll try to keep it somewhat under control.
So far the one new feature that I’m excited about (giving it some small hope of permanence) is the SoundCloud widget over there on the left. Take a second and check out the music I’ve posted. There’s even a new one from just a couple of days ago.
Thanks for sticking it out while I fuss over the minutiae.
I recently added a new piece to my SoundCloud page. This one’s about a very traumatic event in my life.
As always, your feedback is welcome.
I wanted to make a quick post to share an image that is currently floating around the social media world. Just in case you haven’t seen it, this is a really great quote of Ira Glass.
Actually, I haven’t checked the attribution, so it may not be him. Sounds like something he would say, though. Either way, it’s a great bit of advice, not only for beginners in creative work but for anyone at any level.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. Not always consciously–there are some things I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to (and I have). But some things do require that conscious push to keep going. The latest example is forcing myself into the studio 2-3 nights a week to record something. Even if it’s just one little melodic fragment, I get everything set up, tweak some settings, and go. Anything to keep me writing regularly. Maybe even get a tiny bit better at audio engineering.
The results are starting to show. Not only is there a substantial amount of music on my hard drive, the recording quality is steadily improving. A couple of years ago I didn’t even know to load a virtual synth, let alone create my own patch, write a song, and record it. Recording was a complete mystery to me. I played bass. Maybe a little guitar. Now I’ve opened up an unlimited palette of sounds through synthesizers and MIDI, and I can make decent recordings of my ideas.
Speaking of bass, I’ve stuck with that since I was about sixteen. I’m forty now. Holy cow. That seems impossible–both that I’m that old and that I stuck with one thing for so long.
The Halloween season has been a little weird this year. We were hit with about ten inches of snow in a bizarre October storm that left us without power (or heat) for four days, including a certain very important day: October 31st. As a result, Halloween was postponed and the usual last minute prop-building and haunting activities were replaced by things like getting the furnace to run on generator power, getting enough outlets going to make coffee and charge phones, and grilling pots of water for baths.
But, for everything that seems to have gone wrong this year, one thing did go very, very right. That was my collaboration with Pumpkinrot on his short film entitled SWAMP FOETUS.
My secretive friend and his wife labored away on this thing for about nine months, building props, sets and characters, shooting (and re-shooting) scenes, editing, and finally sending a rough cut of the film to me for scoring a couple of months ago. I was completely unprepared for the spectacle that unfolded as I watched the early, incomplete edits of the film. I was so blown away, in fact, that it kicked me right into one of those “the music is writing itself” modes and everything fell right into place fairly quickly. Before I knew it I was sending rough tracks back to him and the final editing process began, with ‘Rot sending me updated versions of the film and me sending back tweaked and remixed versions of the score. A few versions later, we had a finished product.
The completed film was unveiled on Pumpkinrot’s site on the morning of Halloween as a nice little gift to his readers (link below). Here’s an MP3 version of the score:
If you’d like to watch the film and read a bit more about it, you can see it at Pumpkinrot’s blog.
Wanted to share a few shots of some of the things I’ve been working on for Halloween this year. Kinda went a little bit crazy with the skulls.
I think it’s going to be a good Halloween.
I’m feeling a great sense of accomplishment today. Last night I sorted out an aspect of my MIDI/synth adventures that I’d been avoiding: sysex.
Sysex is short for “System Exclusive” and basically refers to the language spoken by a given synthesizer or other MIDI device. It allows communication with that device. In my case, I was trying to take some cool sounds created by other people on the web and import them into my machine–a Korg MS2000R–so I could play around with them.
With relatively little research, some menu diving, and some trial and error, I managed to get my PC talking to the Korg and got the sounds loaded up in about an hour. Not only that, but now I understand how to save sounds that I create on the Korg to an external file so I can hang on to them or share them with other people.
A small but important victory in my quest to master the machines.
I should mention a couple of helpful websites that made figuring this out a lot easier:
If you find this post because you’re searching for help with your Korg MS2000(R/B/etc.) those are good places to get started. Good luck.
I want to share with you an amazing website that I’ve been visiting for a few years now: The Freesound Project. If you’re into audio recording and have some kind of studio at home–be it a laptop with Garage Band loaded or a full-blown ProTools studio–Freesound offers you a huge library of sounds to incorporate into your projects. Anything from bird sounds, mechanical toys, synthesized ambient samples, street sounds, to a variety of sampled instruments.
As the name suggests, the sounds available on the site are free. In fact, the only thing you’re required to give in return is credit where it’s due. The sounds are provided under a Creative Commons license which enables you to use them for any non-commercial purpose as long as you note the name of the sample used and the person who provided it.
Speaking from experience, there is some really good quality stuff on the site. The Freesound community, by and large, takes pride in providing high-quality, low noise recordings. Contributors will often share which equipment was used to capture or create the sound they’ve posted, which can be helpful both from a production standpoint and in terms of learning how to get good recordings yourself. Another interesting thing about that is seeing how some people use really expensive gear to create samples, while others use fairly inexpensive or even improvised gear to yield impressive results.
I’m a member of Freesound myself, so if you happen to visit you can find my humble contributions under the user name last echo.
Remember a short while back when I was yapping about killing your darling little ideas the second they stop working? Ben Kaufman over at The 99 Percent has written a really great article that develops this idea further. Ben gives some good advice on gathering up your ideas, culling them mercilessly, acting on what’s left as quickly as possible, and setting up deadlines to keep yourself focused. Oh, and taking breaks to recharge.
Moving fast, having the confidence to keep only your best ideas and the discipline to push them forward. He makes it sound so simple…
Thanks to my pal Krista for letting me know about this article.