Let the Water Hold Me Down

As David Byrne once said, “Well… how did I get here?” This has been the most difficult Song-A-Day I’ve gone through in many respects, and almost every day was a fight of some kind. But apparently I was so busy looking at my feet trying not to trip that by the time I looked up, I’d reached the destination.

And there’s yet another Brian Eno connection to the month: he produced and co-wrote that song. All of these Brian Eno moments over the last month weren’t intentional, I just kept finding more and more ways he’d influenced me directly, or influenced the other people who influenced me. An additional benefit of this last journey through Song-A-Day is that in contemplating the Eno connections and learning even more about him, I’m… well, “inspired” is too strong a word, but I’m interested in doing more true experiments.

I doubt he was the first person to string giant tape loops all over the studio, but his intentions behind doing so seem to be novel. His coining of the name “ambient” for a genre, but more importantly his definition of it has helped me stop feeling self conscious about writing a seven minute piece with only a few evolving sounds. I enjoy the creation process, but just as importantly I have the space to think when listening to it that Eno described.

So perhaps it’s time to try some of those more radical experiments. New chains of effects. New approaches to sound design or patch creation. Deeper exploration of both the sounds themselves and how to mangle them into something entirely different. I think perhaps it’s time to play and to take some different directions in how I present myself and my music to the world.

To pull another quote out, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” There weren’t many days when I left the studio overly happy with what I’d done beyond clicking “upload,” yet when I scan through what I’ve created, I like everything. My current dissatisfaction with the month seems to reflect my larger life-long struggle: I’m more disappointed in not having achieved what I feel like I could have or should have done, instead of celebrating what I actually did.

Statistics for 2021: 29 songs written. Total time: 1h 56m. Average song length: 4 minutes. Shortest song: 1:39, Longest song: 8:04
That I have created a spreadsheet for all of this should surprise no one.

And I did do some good things. When I look at the sum total of what I’ve accomplished in the last six years of participation, I’m kind of amazed. It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I created a spreadsheet to track my output and there are some really surprising statistics.

This was my most productive year in terms of both song count and total time. I’m about on par with my average song length as well as both the shortest and longest pieces. What’s astounding is that over the last six years, I’ve written almost nine hours of music that I otherwise would not have produced.

Qualitatively, I think the best years are still 2018 and 2019, and next year I think I’ll revisit some of the rules and restrictions I gave myself. The obvious difference is that I wrote a lot more songs than instrumental pieces those years. After a short break from this year’s tracks, I’m pretty happy with the overall quality, especially in terms of production. I can tell my mixing has gotten better.

The problem with lyrical songs this year is that I never felt like I could really delve into the things that are bothering me, at least in any way that wasn’t hidden under 15 layers of metaphor, and I’m still trying to get better at metaphor. 

The end of that Dickens quote above is, “…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair” and that definitely sums up the past year for me. I keep trying to be an optimist, and I keep getting disappointed. Maybe it’s time to become a hermitical stoic, at least in the virtual sense. Sometimes the ability to see patterns that others don’t, to have a decent track record of predicting long-term outcomes, is a source of stress and frustration when people keep choosing not to listen.This time around, though, there aren’t any good options for exiting the situation.

But those are issues for another (Song-A-) day. For now, I’ve decided that I’m celebrating a successful month. I have significantly lower inertia about going into the studio and actually working. I have renewed energy for the projects that have been stagnating. As for the rest of it, let the water hold me down.

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

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