Gadgets, gizmos, and gongs


Process and product

My recording project, which is what the link goes to, is close to completion. More or less, there’s one track to finish. So, click on that link and you’ll come to a Dropbox folder with six different pieces.

When I finish the seventh I’ve got to jump through some administrative hoops, all of that is easy stuff, to get the whole thing up on Apple Music and Spotify, etc.

When I began with all of this, I though I was simply making a collection of recordings of first-take improvisations. That idea quickly morphed into something else. But I didn’t know as the morphing was happening what exactly the something else was. That’s because I definitively have a follow-the-breadcrumbs approach to making music. What that means is I try and let what I hear in the music lead me to wherever things should end up.

That’s also the approach I advocate—follow the breadcrumbs—when I teach improvisation and composition.

Eugene Kurtz

Years ago, one my composition teachers left me with a wonderful idea which came as an answer to a question I asked.

Eugene, how many pieces a year should I be composing?

He asked me:

How many good pieces a year can you compose?

I said:


He replied:

Then you should be composing two pieces a year.

In retrospect, I wonder why I even asked the question. That’s partly because I think his answer may be the only possible reply to that question. The less than definitive “may be the only possible reply” is the key phrase.

That’s because, if, as I said, I could only compose two good pieces a year (and who knows whether there’s anything real attached to that statement) maybe Eugene should have said in response:

Learn how to compose three good pieces a year.

In other words, he might have suggested my goals for the moment were fine but with a little more push, which would have to come from me, I could go further faster.

On the other hand, his SOP was indeed go no faster than you can at the highest level of quality you can muster. Any faster than that was counterproductive. And I recently read that Leonard Cohen sometimes took years to complete one song.

Maybe it’s really the case that how much music to make and how fast should one go in making it aren’t among the most helpful approaches. Rather they’re illusions? That’s because it’s easy to quantify. Assessing quality is a whole different thing.

Just to be sure it’s clear, in discussing the push/pull between quantity and quality it is an abstract discussion. In other words, it’s probably a discussion or a topic or a condition that applies to anyone anywhere who makes music. I think …

Gizmos, gadgets, and gongs

That link at the top of the page. It goes to my Dropbox folder where I just added a new piece Gizmos, gadgets, and gongs. Were I to say something about the process of making everything that sits in that folder, which I will now, my method was

  • Record a little bit.
  • See or listen to what I have.
  • Record some more.
  • See and listen to what I have.
  • Continue with both steps above while, at the same time, changing and editing according to taste.
  • Continue on.
  • When things doesn’t sound all bad AND when you can’t stand to work any more on it any longer, then I’m pretty much done!

One more

One more piece to post and then the set is complete. It’s done. It’ll be seven pieces in total, although there are some others still in the hopper that could have made the count higher. But they’re not for this project.

What it is

Meanwhile, I think what I’ve created is a hybrid between, well, all hybrids mix and match assorted things. In the case of the music in Dropbox folder I’ve recorded some of my improvisation and mixed them with assorted cliches that comes from a bunch of different musical styles. Actually, maybe I haven’t mixed my recordings with assorted cliches. Because I’m not even sure how to name the cliches, whatever they might be, except to say they’re things I’ve heard somehow somewhere before.

A few friends have said some of the pieces sound cinematic. One friend said he heard some be-bop about five minutes into one of the pieces. I think someone said some of it sounded just, well, weird. It doesn’t matter. I’m  totally and completely happy with anything I receive in the way of response and feedback.

And there’s so much music in the world—Apple Music lets us access I think about 50 million songs—that I also think I’m lucky if anyone listens! I mean who has time these days for listening?

And that leads to something else I’ve been thinking about, which is for whom am I making this stuff?

I know when writing text or prose it’s a good thing to know who you audience might be and who might read what you’ve written. But I can’t quite figure that out in relation to music. Or maybe it’s not that I can’t figure it out.

Rather, it’s that I stop short when the answers are, actually, close by. That’s because the answers, whatever they might be, range somewhere from making music solely for myself and my own interests to making music for an audience of, well who or whom and how many?

There are a lot of unknowns in all of this!

What’s next?

The piece I have that isn’t yet in the folder in the link at the top of this post …. It needs some additional work and refinement. And then I may well find that all seven of the pieces, when heard together, one after another, need additional work and refinement. That itself might be a project.

And I still have to come up with a title for the set. I’ve had many ideas. When I float them to friends, everyone suggests something else! Recently, I’ve been thinking I should call it Music at 120 BPM (beats per minute).

I’m going to post this now. I wonder if I’ll find typos I only after I’ve published it to the internet! Thats’ what usually happens, at least for the things I post when I blog. Meanwhile, comments on what’s in the folder are highly welcome and appreciated.