Music, Code, and History

It’s funny how things evolve while you’re not paying attention.

I’ve recently gotten back into my old hobby of producing music. Eons ago I had gotten pretty good at it, and a surprising number of my works wound up in various video games of the era (mid to late 90’s). Then one day, I had a terrible disk crash, lost all of my source files and “signature” sounds, and I pretty much threw in the towel. Sure, I played around with the new tools back then, like the first versions of Acid and Reason, but I didn’t take it seriously anymore… it was just fun to make noise for a few hours.

Earlier this year, my good friend Bitburn convinced me to give it another shot. I started by “remixing” one of his tracks, though I really just grabbed a few sounds and melodies and made them into something very different. It wasn’t great, but considering it was my first serious effort in over six years, I’m willing to cut myself some slack. Later that week, I was bored one evening and played around with my music software. I mashed together a few canned loops, made a few minor edits and cooked up a simple bassline, and in the space of two hours “Parking Nazi” was born. I think for something I just cobbled together out of Reason loops, it’s a pretty freakin’ sweet track, but I got lucky. I didn’t have much of a plan when I started it, I just surfed through my vast collection of loops and samples until I found bits I liked. I was really just playing around.

After the first few songs, I got busy with other things and didn’t touch the music for a while, though it lingered in the back of my head. I was a bit depressed and frustrated from my difficulties. Music used to be so easy for me, so to have lost my “touch” over the years, it was very demotivating to have to relearn everything. Then out of nowhere it hit me: everything I’ve learned in the computer world, I’ve learned through trial and error. I’ve fried components, I’ve trashed data, I’ve taken things apart and messed with them, but most importantly I’ve done A LOT. I’ve built dozens of applications, hundreds of web sites, and thousands of computers, and each time I learned a little trick or improved a small detail that has culminated into my broad skill set today.

Right then I decided I would start producing a ton of music, whatever came through my mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s repetitive, or imperfect, or even finished… the more I experiment, the quicker I’ll learn. There’s nothing wrong with having a hundred unfinished songs on my hard drive. I think of it as a notepad, with scribbles and doodles, but instead of being ink on paper, they are sounds, melodies, rhythms and chords. The junk I save today, may well be transformed into a solid hit next month, or perhaps it will remain as junk, serving as a warning of what not to do. Either way, it is immensely valuable as a learning tool.

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One Response to “Music, Code, and History”

  1. Peter O'Connor says:

    Very touching and inspiring post Billcul. 😉