Looking Back/Forward

30 Dec 2020

2020 Goals In Review

2020 Goals (that look a lot like 2019 goals):

  • Read more – I have some good recommendations from friends as well as that pesky backlog. – So-so. I read Chaos, and that’s about it, I think. I read a lot more online content (newsletters, blogs, forums)
  • Develop and complete a data-related project for my day job – NOT Done. I looked into a few projects, but this year was not one where my motivation was high. I am starting to work on a few things that I hope to flesh out in 2021.
  • Develop and complete the deep learning project for my brother’s Architecture Practice. – NOT Done. Wow, hard to believe this was a goal for the year. This totally fell down. I should bring this goal forward to 2021.
  • Write at least one blog post per month (seems easy, right?) – DONE! This was one goal that I smashed this year. Using this blog as a sort of COVID journal was a big part of achieving this goal.
  • Complete enough songs for at least an EP or more? – Done! More to say about this below, but despite some meandering, I did manage to find some focus musically toward the end of the year and I’m starting to develop some skills in putting complete tracks together.

It goes without saying that 2020 was not a great year for pretty much everyone. I don’t want to blame that for my lack of motivation, or inability to close out all my goals for the year, but the impact was greater than zero. I had a lot of crap to deal with this year (we all did, I know), and simply making it to the end of the year seems like a victory. I’m happy that I was able to accomplish a couple goals. I’m especially excited about finally getting some music projects completed. I have more ideas to develop for 2021, so I’m looking forward to that.

Goals for 2021

That being said, what goals should be set for this coming year? The pandemic crunch isn’t over, and won’t be for several months to come, so I need to pay close attention to what can realistically be achieved. Hmm, 2020 is the ultimate do-over year, don’t you think? Me too. I think I’m going to call “do over” on my 2020 goals for 2021 – with a few minor tweaks.

  • Read more – I’m currently in between books, so time to pick one from the backlog and get going. Should I tackle The Stand, or start with something lighter? I should probably start lighter and build up for The Stand.
  • Develop and complete a data-related project for my day job.
  • Develop a machine learning or deep learning project in support of my brother’s Architecture practice.
  • Write at least one blog post per month
  • Complete another (!) EP, or [stretch] a full-length album using my gear.
  • Complete an online course in data science / machine learning

Harried Holidays

Despite having an extra long break for the holidays this year (forced vacation at work), it hasn’t been the most energizing or recharging break. The county entered a stricter phase of lockdown. Ultimately, this doesn’t affect us that much (we’ve effectively been living this level of lockdown all year), but it did raise concerns over visiting with family for Christmas. There was a lot of debate weighing lots of factors. Not only did we have to consider the moral aspect of “violating” the stay at home order, but there were added wrinkles with my sister-in-law and her husband visiting with his family before we were due to get together. With some changes to the dining schedule and plans to stay outdoors as much as possible, we were able to get together on Christmas this year to the best of our abilities. It was still a good time and that prime rib was 10/10 amazing.

Housekeeping – Literally!

One of the main things that we’ve been working on over the past two weeks is a ton of deferred maintenance of the house. In other words, there has been A LOT of cleaning going on. The upstairs is done, but we’ve stalled out on the downstairs (main) living area. There’s still about a half-day left, so maybe we’ll make enough progress to be satisfied. If nothing else, we have made a huge dent in the dust monsters that lived upstairs.

Musical Endeavors

As you can see above, I officially have music up on bandcamp! It’s not going to win any grammys, but that’s not the point. I mostly wanted to finally complete some fully structured songs and put them out in the world. At the very least, this release can serve as a line in the sand. The hope is that future releases will show improvement and progress. There is a distinct feeling of accomplishment, which in itself is reward enough for the time spent. As I mentioned, I’m looking forward to producing even more music this year. Toward the end of this past month, I was really feeling a creative flow, so I hope I can keep that momentum. I have some ideas written down, now I need to get started.

One great lesson learned in producing these two tracks is that limiting options (in other words, narrowing my focus) is extremely beneficial to productivity. Despite my best efforts, I did way more buying and selling of gear this year than I wanted to. That isn’t without its own benefits, as I was able to experiment with a wide variety of different sound devices, but it does feel like a distraction. As I made my way on my music-making journey this year, I was able to whittle down the gear setup to the stuff that clicks with me the most and allows me to get ideas put together quickest. At some point in the middle of the year, I had thoughts that maybe I was getting too stuck into the “Elektron way” workflow. I was feeling like I couldn’t break out of just jamming on loops vs. creating fully structured songs. However, with a little more dedication and perseverance as well as knuckling down and trying out the arranger on the Octatrack (how have I never done this before??), I broke through and leveled up, so to speak. One other thing that helped me with this breakthrough was the Polyend Tracker. This wonderfully featured device has an intuitive song mode that helped me create my first track. I discovered the reason why these machines usually have many multiple pattern slots per project. Instead of trying to pack an entire song into a single pattern, I just needed to stretch out and have patterns for various parts of the song. Intro, main beat, variations, breakdown, close. Using an arranger or song mode, it became clear that what I needed wasn’t more complexity, but actually the opposite! I may end up creating fairly basic tunes for a little bit, but with time and practice, I’ll be able to add more depth by taking advantage of all the awesome features these machines have to offer. What does that mean for the gear journey? Well, apart from the Tracker, I am ending the year doubling (or even tripling) down on Elektron. As it turns out, the Elektron way really works for me. I guess I am an “Elektron Guy”! I have plans to develop songs with the Digitone & Octatrack, as well as the incoming unicorn – The Analog Four mk. 2! I’ve always been interested in this box, so after selling some distraction gear, I had enough in the bank to get the analog four. I think it’ll offer enough depth to keep me exploring for quite some time. The plan for 2021 is to stick with this setup for the entire year (or more) and resist adding anything new. I want to spend my time creating music instead of reworking the setup. Wish me luck..!

See you in 2021

I didn’t fit it into this post, so here’s a tease for what will be the first post of 2021.

That which is unique breaks… Creating vs. Consuming