Twenty Sixteen

Hello all, I figured it’d be time to give you a bit of an update post, since I promised one roughly a year ago. 🙁

I do apologise for not actually uploading anything to YouTube like I said I would. I don’t know where this year went, honestly. Certainly it was a long, long ride, but at the same time, my god is it really over already?

I figure I’ll get down to basics: The last two years have certainly been eventful. I have been accepted into a prestigious university, made amazing friends, lived alone, travelled back to Britain, and for the first time in a long time I’ve had to discipline myself quite severely. I have also written a metric ton of music, which I’ll be writing about later.

For now I’ll talk about the educational side of things. For those not aware, I am currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in Composition and Music Technology at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. Where to begin with it. I guess at the beginning? I can try that.

I was accepted into the ECU Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) at the beginning of 2014, after I handed in a portfolio of virtually ALL my work since I began as a composer. The interview/presentation went well, with the two lecturers present seeming very enthusiastic about my output. I like to think I scored points in terms of quantity even if my work may not have been top-notch quality on account of it mainly being MIDI files.

Things have turned my world upside-down since my acceptance. The people at WAAPA are all utterly amazing. Such bright-eyed, energetic, innovative, fun-loving people. And so stupidly talented on their instruments, dear god. I can’t begin to describe the experience of being in the presence of these musicians – all of them of the same incredible caliber – when a bunch of them are playing on their instruments at once. Just… astonishing.

My course is highly challenging, in more ways than one. The work is at times pressing and difficult, yes, but it also challenges my very way of thinking about music. The lecturers at this university are not afraid to tangle with the avant-garde, and in many cases seem to be utterly obsessed with pushing boundaries to the absolute ∞th degree. It’s easy to imagine then that the preceding two years have really opened my eyes to a whole other universe – one where “composers” can refer to people who create diagrams or paintings for their musical scores, which the players then have to interpret into sound; one where “compositions” can refer to a set of instructions for the performer to “Perform a disciplined action.” and that’s it; one where “performance art” can refer to a piano player pushing the instrument against a wall for an indeterminate period of time, or filling it with paint and hitting it with a wooden stick; one where “technique” can refer to a saxophone player stuffing a cup into the end of the instrument; one where “music” can refer to chewing gum into a microphone; one where a “symphony” can involve a guy throwing a ukelele into a bucket; one where “talent” can be applied to anyone with a crazy enough idea and the guts to showcase it to a public audience, whether it’s generally appreciated or not (and typically, it would seem to be the latter).

I have become aware that in this aggressively outlandish environment that clinging steadfastly to tradition will not serve me, and that I may need to redefine my interpretation of “open-minded”. It is after all advancements like these that lead to the next big thing, the next defining point of our culture’s music’s constant shifting and evolving. Will we all be filling our pianos with paint in 10 years’ time? Maybe.

Adapting to this massive paradigm shift was relatively straightforward, I just had to reframe my perception of music as a performance art – it’s something more than playing notes in a pleasing sequence sometimes. There are so many more elements that can be brought into it, whether it’s the player’s actions (they could be wandering around on stage or in the audience), or the treatment of the instrument (which could be stuffed with cloth), or the level of audience participation, some of whom could be planted by the composer, designed to add an extra dimension to the piece.

It’s definitely not the only change I’ve had to make this year. Studying is a vastly different discipline to making a map for Doom, for instance. There’s a real consequence to not putting the work in, and you can’t afford to slouch. You are blessed if you get the opportunity of a deadline extension on any of your assignments. So as a naturally terminally lazy person, I did find the self-discipline of staying on top of my assignments – particularly when they concerned the aforementioned avant-garde practices of music – a smidge difficult.

So I’m not usually one to really do the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing, but after 2015, I think there are certainly things about myself I need to reassess, to stay on top of things. This year, while certainly as an adventure as 2014 was, all things considered, did not go outstandingly well for me, and the reasons for that were probably largely born out of my handling of things rather than the situations themselves. What I have aimed for in these resolutions is not exactly to push myself into territory I know I’m incapable of handling, but rather for them all to serve as subtle reminders to change up my behavior and really take control of a situation. Little mantras that should keep me on my toes.

1. SEIZE EVERY WORTHWHILE OR LUCRATIVE OPPORTUNITY.

I’m very bad with my reluctancy to seize the moment and say “yes” to something. I have a tendency to be highly nervous when confronted with heavy decision-making, and on a deeper level it probably stems from my dislike of change of routine – though at the same time I dislike routine in general. I can’t actually decide whether I’m too set in my ways or if I even have “ways” at all – but I’ll come onto that in just a bit.

My time at university is rife with opportunities to collaborate with fantastically gifted students and lecturers alike and I should really capitalise on that. I have chances to showcase my music, my passion, to other like-minded individuals who can likely really make something special out of it.

It definitely goes beyond university as well. The Internet is a great thing for looking at pictures of people’s food and videos of frat boys crashing through the ceiling of their wretched party slum, but it is also a tool that many have harnessed to great effect. Publishing and marketing my music as effectively and as widely as possible must be a priority for me this particular year. So that probably entails actually sticking to my promises of uploading new content to YouTube. :/

2. ADOPT A MORNING ROUTINE AND STICK TO IT.

As I was saying before, the idea of confining myself to a fixed set of actions doesn’t really appeal to me, but it’s how 90% of the population operate. I need to cast off this idea that my life will be become too strictly regimented as a result of my adopting a morning routine, and making sure it stays the same. I should probably aim to get up as early in the morning as possible, too. During times when my studies are not going on, I have a tendency to slip into a period of sleep schedule chaos.

Ideally, my routine should consist of morning tea, a shower, a brisk walk/run and cereal when I get back. I think I can handle that.

3. HAVE WEEKLY OBLIGATIONS.

I have a Twitter account, if you guys aren’t aware. I don’t exactly have much to say on it though because my life is not exactly throttled by immediacy. Certain folk are constantly using it, but then their daily lives are stuffed with activity, what with touring the country/world, recording albums, or being the leading presidential candidate (God help us all from the Trumpinator). Still, it’s nice to have a means there of communicating with the audience I have (I’m honestly kind of amazed at having 150+ followers on it), so I should aim to be more open and communicative with people over social media, despite my misgivings with it. Facebook less so than Twitter, perhaps – but I should probably aim to post something via those websites at the very least once a week.

I’m also going to try and start posting more frequently on this blog. That will include weekly updates to Epic Song of the Week which hasn’t seen an update in literally forever. That starts at the end of this week (Friday 8th). I’ll also be taking submissions! Send me your songs, send me your favorites of 2015 – I’ll put them up for ESOTW if I have nothing of my own to go on. More on that later on, though, when I make the official post about it.

4. SEE EVERY SHORT-TERM PROJECT THROUGH TO ITS CONCLUSION.

This one I don’t think should be terribly demanding of me. Short-term projects are little challenges like writing an essay or creating a short collection of music tracks. Even writing this blog post qualifies as a short-term project in a sense.

So as of January 1st, I’m going to give this particular item a test run. And by “test run” I mean “I’m definitely going to do this shiznit”. You may be aware of my 30in30 compilations, of which I now have three. Well, I’m gonna try and do one new track a day all throughout January 2016. I even have the 31st of the month just in case I skip a day, but that one day skip had better be for a damn good reason, because I’m pretty tired of skimping on projects because of feeling sleepy or whatever dumb excuse it would happen to be. I’m expecting lack of creativity to crop up as one at some point, but it’s not like I don’t have a wealth of music at my disposal to serve as inspiration.

Anyway, that’s that officially in motion. Hopefully we’ll see 30in30-4 officially released at or just after the end of the month.

5. MAKE DEADLINES MY B*TCH.

Providing I don’t go too nutso with Resolution #1, I should be able to manage this one, especially since my free time is usually taken up with me fart-arsing around on social media or IRC. If I cut down on that time quite substantially, I should be able to rustle up some extra super-dedicated study time, which for my third year of uni will definitely be in demand. I ought to find a study buddy of like-minded passions and skill levels to have frequent catch-ups with at uni.

One thing I said that I’d do before the start of my second year (which has just finished) was to get started on assignments when I was given them. This would definitely be a good thing to adopt even if it means starting on assignments prematurely, i.e. not having the knowledge required to fully pull them off – lectures are after all only once or twice a week, but if I actually take a step towards staying clued up on stuff with focused study sessions, then maybe I won’t end up winging it four days before the deadline. Which I did. Maybe twice.

6. MAKE TRAVELLING A PRIORITY.

This one might be the hardest for me, since I tend to rely on all my stuff being in one place. As a composer, my ability to write comes from having time alone in my room. Granted, I might get a good deal of inspiration from being out on the road or visiting some place, but the actual compositional process won’t kick off until I’m in front of a computer. As someone who chiefly writes electronic music, I feel this is kind of unavoidable. Though I shouldn’t shirk the opportunity to branch out into other forms of composition – I don’t necessarily need to hear a piano tone in my ears whenever I put a note down on the page – heck, with my ear getting keener for pitch as I listen to more music, I might not even need that anymore. Damn, I should try and compose something without sound for a change. There’s something for me to do after 30in30-4 is done.

Maybe I shouldn’t make this about necessarily going places (although that’s definitely on the cards for this year), and focus primarily on putting myself out there – spreading my name, meeting new folks, putting out more business cards. All that said, I really ought to just get my driver’s license. It’s a bit of an intimidating process, though, considering how much driving you actually have to do before you actually become eligible to go out in a car without a qualified driver overseeing you. You may recall me talking about it before. It’s never been high on my priorities because until recently I’ve never needed to really go anywhere. My work is here in the room I’m sitting in right now.

7. PLUG THE LEARNING GAPS.

Okay so there’s a lot to get through here so I might just run through it all in bullet points:

  • Singing/vocal technique
  • Sight-reading
  • Sight-playing piano
  • Performance practice
  • Piano fingering
  • Playing the guitar

These are all terribly broad subjects, yes – I guess I’ll focus on getting over a few serious problem areas of these and just try and work at feeling a bit more confident in each of them. The biggest obstacle for me is the frustration of knowing I know nothing about something. The process of learning can actually be a tiringly slow thing sometimes, but I need to ignore that and just keep it up, otherwise the learning process just slows or halts completely.

With that very last one I’m still very noobish, having only just received a guitar for Christmas from my parents. I would borrow a guitar of my dad’s from time to time and strum on it a bit, but the whole thing with the fingers is still rather a difficult obstacle for me to overcome. Maybe my fingers are the wrong shape or something.

8. STAY AS ORGANISED AS POSSIBLE.

My computer is kind of a mess in terms of where I’ve put my files. Most of my MIDI files are all dumped into a single folder and then reallocated once in a blue moon to the “Good” or “Bad” or “Remixes” folder or whichever would happen to be relevant. However, I haven’t done that tidy-up in a good long while, and as a result I currently have 251 files awaiting filing in my MIDI directory. Many of them I will probably never edit or even open again, but it’d be nice not to ahve to sift through a quagmire of unfinished bric-a-brac in order to find “that one track I did months ago that does ‘doodly-doodle-doo-doo'”.

This goes for my MIDI files, and for my Reason files too. Everything’s a hideous mess in there at the moment as well.

Additionally I will probably be reorganising and reprioritising my Doom projects, though I won’t go into that now. I might assure the few of you concerned about The Adventures of Square that 2016 will be a good year for the game and we will be seeing to its eventual release.

It goes beyond my needs as a composer, though. I need stationery on hand at all times. I need to know what my passwords are. I need to have a system for where I draw ideas for Doom maps. Et cetera. There’s a lot I could be doing, and if it means drastically reorganising my workstation or whatever, then so be it.

9. ABANDON FEAR OF EGOTISM.

I did a whole vlog dedicated to this subject (ha! remember those? I don’t…) but my outlook has changed somewhat since then. I no longer believe that ego is necessarily a bad thing. Heck, a lot of creative personalities that I’m aware of could stand to showcase more of it. While ego can make you narcissistic, it can help in moderation by making you not afraid to speak about what you’re proud of. It’s a great source of self-confidence. People who know how to balance modesty and ego are the ones who nail their job interviews. I on the other hand am far too modest, even blatantly self-deprecating. Sometimes I honestly believe that I’m far from the best at what I do, but therein lies a paradox – no one else on Earth does exactly what I do, so I can’t possibly gauge the quality of my output or effort against anyone else’s. I have to bolster myself to other people, give off the air of just a great, genuine guy.

10. ACT MY AGE.

This one’s definitely broadly worded so I’ll expound: basically, I just turned 24, but I really don’t feel that old right now. I have not fully embraced adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it. I’m still very afraid of the “real world”, and the fact that I’m even employing those two words is perhaps an indicator that I have to change my outlook on living life. So what am I expected to actually do at this age? I don’t really know for sure, and I think my parents are really the only ones qualified to tell me what that is. I do feel as though I should be able to move myself around, have a tangible social life of some description, even during holiday season, and I really, really need a steady stream of income. I basically need to take steps towards getting there. The first step is probably adopting the frame of mind of an adult, which I don’t think I’ve fully embraced until now.

 


 

 

I think that covers everything. I can sum up all these resolutions into a nice block of brief bullet points to paste above my desk – should serve as a good daily reminder that 2016 will likely be demanding of a slightly new and improved me. I reckon I can do it.

Here’s to the New Year!