Thoughts on the 2022 music projects
Background and history
After converting my website to a wiki in December 2021, I realized that the vast majority of the content was poorly written blog posts from 10 years ago. I decided I wanted my online persona to consist of something besides a 25-year-old software engineer with too much time on his hands pontificating about computer science topics with misplaced confidence.
At the same time, I had to decided to record myself playing music more frequently1. Mostly because I had reached that critical age that's approximately in the middle of your life where you realize you're probably only going to get worse at things. Especially the physical things.
For example, I started running a lot more frequently during this time and on a whim I decided to see how fast I could run a mile, something I had not done since P.E. in high school. As I stood wheezing and wondering if I would survive the (what I thought was) impressive 7:15 mile run, it dawned on me that given how unenjoyable this activity was, I would probably never again in my entire life run a mile faster than I just had. It was very… I don't know… existential or something. Suddenly I became more aware of my mortality. Or maybe that was just the fact that I was coughing and my heart rate was still elevated despite having finished my run 15 minutes ago. Something had to be done!
A man with a plan
So I had two pieces of potential improvement: 1) my website had no interesting content; and 2) I was starting to suck at stuff and my life was in decline (or something to that effect, perhaps with less melodramaticism). So I decided, what with it being the new year and all, to make myself do something every week, which I could post about on my website. If I kept at it, I would have 50ish new pages of stuff on my website that wouldn't be obsolete blog posts full of technical inaccuracies.
Another facet of my life is that I play both piano and guitar, and I'm decently proficient at both. However, I don't really play both at the same time. I generally play the piano for a month or two, maybe practice something, learn something new, get my fingers back into shape, etc. All the while I completely and totally neglect my guitar, and pretty much don't touch it whatsoever while I'm in "piano mode". And then every few months I'll switch and play the guitar and completely ignore the piano. It was all one or the other.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing I guess, but the point is that since I go from sucking at something I used to be good at to eventually getting good at it again every few months, it would be neat if I could chronicle something of this skill when I'm at its respective peak, skillwise (local maxima, obviously).
So the original goal was to just do a thing every week, related to music, with the eventual goal being that I would be recording myself playing something, and then I would have a couple dozen examples of how I used to be good at stuff that I could point to when I'm older and less able. Basically a pre-emptive defense for the rhetorical question "So have you always sucked at everything?" and I could be like, "No, checkout tmont.com for proof!".
It was absolutely foolproof.
I did it
Somehow I beat the odds and my own track record and completed it. I actually started a week late so I only did 51 weeks' worth before the year ended, but since I'm writing this tantalizing summary that gives me an even 52 for the year.
Overall, it was not particularly enjoyable. It was infinitely satisfying, but mostly it was like I had some homework due every week. The original idea was that I would spend 3-5 hours per week on each little project (i.e. an hour a night M-F), but depending on what I decided to do that particular week it would sometimes take more like 4-6, and occasionally 8-10 (particularly for some of the recording sessions).
I don't regret it at all, but I am very glad the year is over and I can focus on other things.
Things worth looking at
Not everything I did was super interesting. For example, I spent 9 weeks talking about Chopin's mazurkas, which basically devolved into me experimenting with Lilypond while trying to think of new ways to write "it was too long and kinda repetitive".
However I think some of things I accomplished were pretty neat. Here are some of my personal favorites:
- Week 1: Transcription of Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn — this was the first week and it really set the tone
- Week 11: Transcription of The Moon from DuckTales for the NES — some of the greatest video game music of all time
- Week 12: Guitar cover of the solo from Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin — I didn't do a particularly great job on this cover, but this was the first week that I decided to do a guitar recording using Ardour and it was a lot of fun; these covers ended up being mostly what I did during this project
- Week 22: Guitar cover of the solo from Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart by Stone Temple Pilots — I just thought this was a really good cover
- Week 26: Transcription of some of the music from the game Shogun Showdown — I really liked this game and thought the music was great
- Week 31: Performance of Chopin's Étude Op. 10, No. 12 "Revolutionary" — this was the piece I had in mind when I was thinking about my (eventually) declining skills; I know someday I won't be able to play this but now I have proof that I once could
- Week 32: Performance of my original piano piece Phlegethon — I randomly wrote this about a year before I recorded it and I just think it sounds cool, although it's kinda difficult
- Week 51: Guitar cover of the outro/solo from Innocence Faded by Dream Theater — probably my favorite solo of all time and frankly, I did a pretty good job on this.
In terms of categories, there were:
- 8 transcriptions
- 8 piano recordings
- 25 guitar recordings
- 10 "reviews" of classical music (9 of which were the mazurkas)
I did it all for the content.
- This goal manifested in things like this