Thursday, October 13, 2005

In Which David Explains 30 Second Spots

In college I decided I wanted to be a composer. After surviving graduate school I pursued "being a composer" for a number of years.

Then it hit me - being a composer was ruining my life.
  • The initial idea of my pieces never seemed to make it through to performance.
  • Each missed opportunity made me bitter & I wrote out of revenge. ("I'll show them.")
  • Composing was making me unhappy.
So, I quit composing.
The problem was that I still thought like a composer like in the shower or while taking a walk. Musical ideas would still pop into my head. After several years I realized I could quit "being a composer" but I couldn't quit "making up music."
Three things contributed to my starting again.
  • I mastered the notation software Sibelius.
  • I inherited Leslie's old laptop which was powerful enough to run Sibelius.
  • I could write music on the laptop while drinking coffee at Starbucks - in fact, I enjoy all the distractions.
I set up some simple rules:
  • Each piece would be 30 seconds (or so) long - one piece per visit.
  • I would select the title when I save the file. Later the title would not change. Titles are often bits of overheard conversation.
  • There's no intent for real people with acoustic instruments to play this music. Midi output is the final product.
  • Once I leave Starbucks the piece is finished. On the next visit I (usually) begin a new piece.
I call this scheme 30 Second Spots
In 2 years I've averaged one per week. Sometimes I go every day, sometimes I skip months. A few pieces have become 4 or 5 minutes in length. Sometimes I like it a lot. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.
Part of the reason for this blog is to see if people would listen. Here's the plan:
  • I will post mp3s to a separate Earthlink webspace.
  • Each will have its own linked blog posting here. You can search for the text "30 Second Spots" within the blog.
  • There will be a limited number available at any one time.
  • If you click an old link and get File Not Found, it's gone. Sorry.
  • I might post them as I write them. Or maybe I'll put up old ones. Or maybe I'll be too busy to post any more.
Hey, I'm starting this off in a complete vacuum. Please let me know what you think.
30 Second Spots


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you're composing again, and hope you'll post a recording one of these days of your old piece "Slow Dance On a Circle." In the meantime, how would you like to write the score for a 3-minute video about cephalopods?

David Ocker said...

I doubt I'd like to write a 3 minute score for a video about cephalopods. But I may name the next 30 second spot I write "Music for a Three Minute Movie About Cephalopods". You can play it 6 times.

If I hadn't married a marine biologist I wouldn't know what a cephalopod is.

David Ocker said...

It's me, David, posting in April 2007.

If you read this far and compare the above to what is actually happening on Mixed Meters, it should be obvious that the "30 Second Spot" plan has morphed somewhat. Longer pieces have gotten their own category, the "3 Minute Climax". There's even been one "Ten Minute Break" ("Thinking With Other People's Words" which is less than 9 minutes long.)

But all the music I post here (except for the ancient recordings of me playing clarinet) is still composed using Sibelius software while sitting at my local Starbucks. No conventional musical instruments are ever used. Everything is programmed into the computer via midi.

I still prefer not to call myself a composer unless the adjective "failed" is also used. This infuriates my friends, but it's very liberating for me.

If you are courageous enough to listen to some pieces, please leave a comment. Any comment is fine, it doesn't have to be positive.

David, the failed composer

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I have lots of your 404's on my i(something)

David Ocker said...

Hi Pas.Adj - By "404s" you mean links that don't work any more? Well, nothing is forever, not even music I've posted on the Internet. Especially music I've posted on the Internet. I tell myself that I should spend more time re-posting those files. But then I ignore what I tell myself. Sorry.