Another Project

I told you it wasn’t my last post.

That last post still applies.  Everything in it is true except the part where I say farewell.  I learned how much I missed the blog about 24 hours after posting that.  24 hours after that, I realized how much time exists in a month and how much fun we can have together.  And here I am, writing another blog post because honestly, if I really wanted to, I could write my 700th post before I leave.  (This is #669, so I’m not sure I really want to, but it would be amusing.)

In trying to be dramatic and serious and stoic, I accidentally gave myself a five-month absence instead of just four months.  Now I’m taking this month back.  (To be clear: July, August, September, October, I’m still gone.  June?  Nope.)

Let me tell you about a project I started a couple months ago, and truly got working yesterday.  I’ve been a pianist for a long time— it was my first musical instrument, at age 4, and I took lessons for a good ten years.  Since I stopped, however, I’ve kept noodling.  I’m particularly good at playing by ear, but I also enjoy improvising.  In fact, if I have sheet music for a song, I will still improvise, by ear, that song.  At this point I’d rather make my own version than be restricted.

If you think about it, that sums up my writing process too, at this point.  I make a story up as I go along, to fit imperfectly the image I have in my head, rather than follow a set outline, even if I wrote it myself.  I’d rather improvise an imperfect, but fair, solution than hammer down and get a perfect one that doesn’t allow for mistakes.  At least, that’s how I feel about it.

This is kind of a problem, both in music and in writing, because the perfectionist in me and the perfectionists around me hate it when I make a mistake.  The improviser in me shrugs and grins— hey, it’s improv.  Don’t sweat it.  Which is great for the first draft of a novel, but less good for music.

Now, the problem for writing comes in a little later, when it comes time for me to edit.  My improviser side says, the entire story worked out fine— sure it had some mistakes, but it’s mostly okay.  Leave it alone.  Let’s make a new one.  The perfectionist side says, you know what, Improv is right.  Anything would be better than this.

In short, I’ve got a lot of first drafts but nothing edited.  Which is fun on the writing side, but not so much everywhere else.

The same goes for music, at least a little bit.  The things I improvise have some nice themes and development, but they’re still imperfect.  If I worked hard at it, I could probably weave those themes into an actual piece and call myself a composer.  As it is, Improv tells me it’s fine as it is, and Perfection tells me it’s certainly not fine but goodness, you can’t do much worse.  Make something new, they chorus.

So I do.  I keep writing, and saving what I wrote thinking maybe I’ll do something with it all.  I keep improvising, and saving what I recorded thinking maybe I’ll do something with that someday.  But doing something someday begins with remembering what I did today, and for me, memory is a commodity.  Thus, and because perhaps nothing will ever come of any of it, I’ve put a bunch of piano improvisations from the past couple months onto SoundCloud.

That, in short, is the project I’ve been working on.  Since April, I’ve recorded a couple improvisations per month.  None of them are perfect.  The audio recordings aren’t the best.  I haven’t technically taken lessons in four years.  But what they are, I give to you.  I currently have eight improvisations posted, as well as one track of pure noodling (about a minute of it is sitting quietly, which is an important part), and the improvised accompaniment of something that could be an actual song at some point.  The above is my favorite improvisation thus far.  It’s also the longest, because when I like something, I make it long.

Am I crazy for starting something new when I have less than a month to see it go anywhere?  Probably.  Some say I should calm myself down and ease into the life ahead of me.  That’s not the way I’m planning to do this.  If something is coming, prepare; but if you have time and energy to do something more, do that.  The forms, the exercise, the supplies I have to get before I leave, none of it negates the ten minutes of improvisation.

We’ll see where this goes.  Perhaps I’ll do a couple per week before I leave— perhaps I won’t add any more tracks.  Who knows?  It’s just another possibility for me to enjoy.

For the full list of improvisations and noodling, go here: https://soundcloud.com/theheadphil/tracks .  I hope you enjoy what you hear, but bear in mind it’s made up on the spot.

Edited to add: I might as well.  For the next month, I’m accepting any tags that come my way, complete with all questions.  If that’s your thing, and you’ve been pining these past couple years for me to answer a single tag post, throw it at me.  Thanks.

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47 Comments

  1. …And now I would yell at you if I weren’t so much like this myself. (And also, if I wasn’t so busy trying to get my computer to let me type in English. It’s complicated.)

    I noticed the five month thing and wondered about it, but didn’t say anything. Ah well. You figured it out.

    Now I have something other than endless repeats of The Prince of Egypt soundtrack and “Scales and Arpeggios” from The Aristocats (that’s kind of become my mantra for violin these days, because I loathe arpeggios and yet have a long way to go this summer). Thank you. I like these so far, and I still insist that’s amazing for improv.

    Reply
    • Also, if you think that’s imperfect, I point you to this from about three years ago: https://goo.gl/photos/sEYrmaYkeGLo7vmX7 And that wasn’t even improv, sadly…

      (Also, I apparently didn’t know my keys back then. A Minor, not A.)

      Reply
      • Okay, okay, I’ll give you that. I know the difference between me now and me when I was taking piano lessons. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist for piano, and my skill has definitely atrophied a little over the past couple years.

      • Perhaps so.

        I haven’t tried again since…I mean, I’ve played the piano since, but not recorded anything. Apparently that messes me up. Plus, our piano is in the middle of everything, and with this many kids…there’s no quiet moment. Sigh.

      • That’s true. Well, piano playing is not the definition of success.

      • Thankfully.

        …This begs the question, what is the definition of success? (Funny, Notgrass just gave me that question two weeks ago.)

    • I figured it out. Sometimes when I actually think, I realize stuff. It’s weird that way.

      Ooh, cool. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Reply
  2. I said it at least twice already, but I’ll say it again. I like your improv. Yes, it’s imperfect, but I still think it’s beautiful. Honestly, it reminds me of Jim Brickman, whose style is one of my favorites.
    Also, I don’t like being held to sheet music strictly, either. (Which is why I could never play the organ, because you have to play every note, according to my sister.) But since I cannot play by ear, I do need a little guidance. So just hand me the melody and the basic chords, and I’ve got it from there.
    Then again, I don’t play music much anymore. Because, though it may seem silly, Meredith is a whole lot better than me and actually can play by ear. Also, because I don’t like practicing in front of people (mainly parents, which is quite frankly odd, I admit). I can’t make it sound good the first time and even then, I have “strange” taste in music, so I’m always picking the obscure songs. Meredith is just about the opposite on all counts.
    I also dropped piano very quickly when I stopped taking lessons. With no need to practice, I stopped practicing.
    Dang, this was a downer of a comment…
    I meant to get to the point of telling you that you’ve inspired me to possibly start playing the piano more. Perhaps. We’ll see. But thanks for being inspirational, nonetheless.

    Reply
    • Thanks.

      Go for it! It’s impossible to get away from practicing in front of other people, but don’t let it stop you.

      Reply
      • You’re welcome.

        Thanks. The encouragement is nice to have.
        I actually did get reacquainted with the piano the other day. Awkward and I’ve forgotten a lot, but dusting off the keys and playing a very simple Ode to Joy once through was kinda nice.

      • Did you sing it in German too? That would have been impressive.

      • …I think someone would’ve died. I can’t sing. And my German is terrible (it kinda got dropped when editing started… and I can’t do the accent right). So… yeah, I think I would’ve killed someone with that. (There’s idea for an awesome magic system though…)

      • I know how it is, dropping German. It doesn’t bounce very well.

      • No, indeed.

        Speaking of singing, it’s Barricade Day (today and tomorrow). Want to go sing and build a barricade and then die a bloody, noble death? I’ll be Eponine, you can be whoever you want.

      • Is the death because of bad singing, or…? It’s also doughnut day today, which might be safer.

      • How is death by singing a bloody, noble death?
        You sing. I’ll join in on the songs where Eponine’s voice gets drowned out. And I’ll sing Little Fall of Rain, but I will butcher it terribly, but since she’s supposed to be dying in that scene anyway…

        Yes, indeed. Did they have donut shops in 19th century France?

  3. Heh, I was trying to figure out if your last post was a true farewell, or just a warning for what was coming… glad to see you’ll be sticking around for the rest of June, hehe.

    Wow. I really like that. I’ll be honest and admit something I don’t know I want to admit… I’m kind of… well, ignorant when it comes to that side of music, and I really can not hear flaws or imperfections at all. I mean, unless it’s really obvious—like an instrument being out of tune or something like that.
    So to me, what I listened to, just sounded amazing. Hehe, that’s probably not in the least bit helpful, so I’ll stop now.

    Tags, huh? Okay, now I’m feeling mischievous…

    Reply
    • Feeling mischievous along with Shim… will you be posting the tag picture, like you are supposed to, or just the questions and answers?

      Reply
    • Thank you! I’ve also become adept at taking mistakes and making them sound at least a little bit planned, but that doesn’t always happen. But thank you very much.

      Uh oh…

      Reply
      • Planned mistakes are the best mistakes. *cough* Um, yeah, something like that.

        Teehee!

      • Make a mistake confidently and everyone will think it’s great.

      • Yup. And spectacularly. Spectacular mistakes are almost as good. I’ve no idea how to trip over my own feet and make it look confident—but I sure can make it look spectacular! Hehe.

      • That’s a good skill to have as well.

      • Yes, being able to trip spectacularly is definitely a good life skill to have. Hehe.

      • Give ’em the old razzle dazzle.

  4. Selsey-Mithrandir

     /  June 3, 2015

    I had no idea you played piano. Your improv is great! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Ooh, I shall have to play around on SoundCloud tomorrow. I’ve never played with SoundCloud. This should be fun. Looking forward to hearing more of your improv!

    Were you not leaving in a month, I would challenge you to and edits challenge. We seem to have done the opposite since our first NaNos; you wrote lots of first drafts, and I’ve been editing my NaNo ’12 for two years. At least you have a readable story. 😛 *Thinks an edits challenge sounds interesting even if she does it by herself.* *Makes mental note.*

    Reply
    • I’ll do an edits challenge with you, Lily! Maybe then I can stop procrastinating from my editing, heheh.

      Reply
    • I would do it, too, except I won’t be here for most of the month. 😛

      Reply
    • It’s a fun platform, if you have something to share, and even if you don’t do anything but follow people. Maggie Stiefvater works from SoundCloud a lot, but mostly by sharing other songs.

      Agreed. I’d go for it, but I’d need to actually reply to your email about TTS and that would be too much work…

      Kidding. I’ll do what I can about that email, and we’ll see what I can figure out about the novel. Definitely get me working, though. I need to start working, even if I don’t have much time.

      Reply
  6. redwaxandroses

     /  June 6, 2015

    Hello. Little Old Me stumbled onto this glorious stew of biting sarcasm and writing advice no less than 25 minutes ago, and find that she likes it. She finds that the advice is sound, that The Blogger says ‘indeed’ quite often- something that she has found herself guilty of as well-, and that The Blogger is going to be sailing, rather literally, into new horizons. Kudos to The Blogger.

    Little Old Me is also impressed to find that The Blogger plays piano, and finds herself, as always, rather jealous and in awe. (She has only began learning piano, is unable to play any melody on the left hand, has a skill level that reaches to The Entertainer, and can only play strictly by sheet music.) She absolutely loves the improv, and where it picks up around six minutes in. While not very accomplished in music, she has a deep appreciation for it.

    Let it be known that Little Old Me wished to drop The Blogger a line and tell him that she greatly appreciated his opinion on love-triangles. She is currently struggling with one that has created itself of its own accord, and wanted to see if other writers felt the same deep hatred for that plot-device-turned-villain.

    Good luck in your future, in your project, in your next writing endeavours, and thank you for sharing your nuggets of thought with the internet. I apologize if this is long and if the third person approach to a first person comment was lame. (I blame your piano-ing. It sounded too much like a nostalgic goodbye for me to not be lame and long-winded.)

    Peace out, home skillet.

    -Little Old Me

    Reply
    • I should have you write the tagline to my blog. “This Page Intentionally Left Blank: A Glorious Stew”. (Kidding, but that was a great description.)

      I’m glad you discovered me, and that you’ve found something you like. I’m sorry I won’t be here for long to enjoy your comments, but please keep reading around the blog and I’ll do what I can to entertain you. As for love triangles, I think my position may have evolved a little since I wrote the famous post, but I certainly despise the wanton misuse of such a tool. Done right, it’s great. Done badly, of course not.

      Thanks for the comment and the good wishes, no matter how lame or long-winded it seems to you. I enjoyed meeting you, and hope you stick around.

      I’m also going to have you give me titles, because that would look great on a resume. Liam Wood, writer, blogger, musician, sailor, home skillet. (Again, kidding, but it’s hilarious.)

      Reply
  7. Hooray, he’s not gone yet!

    (Also, I listened to your SoundCloud while studying for exams. I didn’t get to focus on it much, since I was concentrating on the study, but I liked it!)

    Reply
  8. Wait, I’ve forgotten. Short term memory, it runs in the family (at least, I think it does). Maybe Quirk?

    (Your welcome.)

    Reply
  9. I just remembered that my most probable real reason why I write is because I can write on the spur of the moment and it stays and that way I don’t instantly forget it. I mean, I forget it, but it’s not lost forever. (I improvise ballet a lot. Also, I play songs on the guitar by ear.)

    Reply
    • That’s true. I’d forget stories if I didn’t write them down, absolutely.

      Reply
      • Yes. I’ve had times when I couldn’t find scenes I’d jotted down and then was really upset because no matter how I try, I can never do it quite the same way again. It’s never the same the second time.

      • Agreed. It’s nice to be able to write one draft that works.

      • *sigh*
        I don’t often change the scenes I write. Sometimes I do, but mostly when I edit I either cut pieces entirely, or add more, to clarify or to lead up to the next part…

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