viperdaily2020 // Reflections

On January 19th, 2020, while browsing Twitter, I chanced upon a post from an acquaintance. It was the announcement of a new project: she would start making and releasing one piece of music every day for the rest of the year. She was interested to see what would happen if some time was set aside to just sit down and let something creative happen on a regular basis, and encouraged anyone watching to join her on the journey.

At the end of 2019, I was drifting, and had been for a while. One of the most exciting music projects I had ever been involved with had ended in great controversy, and it seemed that it would never see the light of day. I had hoped that it would be an opportunity to catch the eye of some peers and make connections. Instead, I found myself feeling more disconnected than ever. Not only that, but other projects I was working on with long-time colleagues were practically in stasis, held up by perfectly understandable "real world" problems. For every new opportunity and every piece I put my heart into, it felt like I was spinning my wheels.

I found myself talking with this acquaintance more often after finding out how much in common we had, especially after she reached out during the aforementioned controversy. I had chatted with her briefly, and done her a small favour or two. I definitely had an interest in what she was up to as a contemporary. The new year had not been kind, and she was doing her best to get back on her feet after a major health scare, so to see that announcement was quite a shock! To undertake something I perceived as so massive after something like that was, in a word, inspiring.

So, on January 19th, 2020, I wrote my first daily piece of music. To my surprise, I wrote one the next day, and the day after that.

Now, on January 20th, 2021, I have written 366 pieces of music, and I find myself sitting here, writing this in Notepad.

~~~

I started this project essentially on a whim. I didn't really have any sort of goal beyond writing music every day for a year. After doing it for a few weeks, I started to really think about why I was doing it.

Was I just doing it for its own sake?

Was I trying to distract myself from other issues on my mind (of which there were, and are, many)?

Was I lost, trying to find meaning in what I was doing after a series of disappointments?

Was I trying to prove something, to myself or others?

Was I trying to impress people I barely knew, on the other side of the world?

To be honest, it was probably a combination of all of these and more, to varying degrees. I can say that eventually, after listening to the thoughts of others and reflecting on my own, I decided it was mainly for its own sake. What kept me going for a year was that initial, simple concept: what would happen if I just sat down and made something every day, for no reason other than to make it? I genuinely just wanted to find out.

~~~

Many things happened, as it turned out.

Some days it came naturally. The idea came to me during the day, and I just sat down and it came to life. Literally plucking something out of the air and making it real. Incredibly satisfying, but admittedly, rare.

Some days it was literally painful. A heavy pressure in the chest that spread out to weigh down my limbs and inflame my neck. I did not want to do it at all. I had nothing when I sat down, and struggled with every step. Even if the piece was technically sound, I couldn't find any satisfaction in what I had made.

Most days, it really was just something I did. Get up, have a coffee, go to work, handle errands, do my daily, and so on. It was just part of my life. Some days it was tough to squeeze it in, like the ones where I got up for work at 5am, had dinner with friends afterwards and didn't get home until 11pm. But I still made the time, regardless.

I tried new things. New ways of making music. New styles of music I had no idea how to approach, and new approaches to styles I was well familiar with. New software, new hardware, new limitations, new freedoms. It was a project of exploration.

I repeated many things. I stayed on the beaten path. I used tools I was comfortable with most of the time. Many pieces sounds similar to each other, and use near identical ideas. Same rhythms, same tempos, same sounds, same concepts. It was a project of repitition.

I rediscovered many things. I took account of all the materials I have picked up along the way. Libraries I had forgotten about, sounds I thought I'd never use, synths I never understood, tools I had been afraid to learn. It was a project of reflection.

And, I have 366 pieces of music. That happened! 366 pieces made for no one but me. 366 pieces of myself. Listening back to them as I write this, it really is a mixed bag! There are good ones, great ones even. There are bad ones, awful ones even. Some make me wonder what on Earth I was thinking, and I twist my face up thinking about what I could have done differently. Some honestly just make me smile, as I listen to them and can't think of a single thing I would do differently.

Some even make me wonder if I will ever be able to make anything like it again.

In the end, I think the main thing that happened was that I learned a great deal. About myself, about my work and how I approach it. About my tools, what I like and dislike about them, and what I look for in them. About my inspirations, what and who they are, and how they affect what I make.

It made me realise I love learning.

~~~

So, at the end of a year of daily music, what have I found?

I found that, yes, if I choose to sit down and focus on making something happen, it will happen. Some days it will be easy. Others, it will feel impossible. But given time, something with happen. Silly as it sounds, it's something I needed to realise.

I found that, no, if I put a piece of music out there that has something "wrong" with it, nothing bad happens. At worst, it will get the exact same attention as something that is "right." Things are "done" when I stop working on them.

I found that, yes, people do enjoy the things I create, even if I'm not completely satisfied with how they turned out. Others will always view my work through a completely different lens than I do, and that's wonderful. I love connecting with other people, even though I'm not very good at it. I want to work with others, understand them, and ideally have them understand me.

I found that, no, people's enjoyment of what I create should not be my sole reason to continue creating. The vast majority of the dailies barely broke single digits in views. I saw this every time I uploaded a new piece. Did I stop? Maybe a part of me wanted to, but no, I didn't. I kept making things because I wanted to. That's an important thing to take out of this, I think. What do *I* want out of anything?

I found that, yes, I am good at what I do. That I can do it. I love doing it. The end result may not always be what I expect, may not always be "good," but I now know that I am perfectly capable of picking myself up and trying again. "Good" doesn't have to be the goal. It can just be whatever it needs to be.

I found that, no, what I do is not enough. I need to learn more. Do more. Both in music, and outside of it. If I apply myself with the same discipline to other skills, other fields of interest, I think I'll be able to get a good grasp on them. I've proved that to myself now. I just need to try, and try again. I can do it.

It sounds silly again, but honestly? I found myself. What else was I expecting to find, really?

~~~

Was it worth it? Yes. This project saw me through one of the most challenging years of my life. It feels like the world is in flux. Chaotic, unreal, frustrating. People retreated into themselves, and my distance from others felt like it grew exponentially over the space of a night. I have lived far away from people I care for my whole life, and yet I never felt as isolated as I did this year. And yet, every day, I made something. That was my constant. My tether. As a bonus, I now have a gigantic pile of things. Something I can look to for inspiration, or maybe just a reminder that I can. Hopefully other people get something out of this giant pile of things, too.

Would I recommend it? Depends. A year is a long time, and to have enough of it spare to make things for their own sake is a privilege not everyone has. Are you feeling lost creatively? Are you not sure what you want to make? Are you feeling like you're not doing enough? I think doing dailies gives you answers for these questions pretty quickly, and of course the longer you go on, the more you find out about your creative self. It doesn't have to be a year, either. The length of time should be what you're comfortable with, or what you can manage. Be prepared to see it through, and I'm sure you will get something out of it.

Would I do it again? Maybe. After a year of it, I must say I'm feeling the urge to work on fewer things for longer! It made me realise how much I enjoy "polishing." The refinement of an idea. So much goes into making a piece of music, and it's easy to take any individual process for granted. Coming up with ideas was something I thought a lot about, and now that's been overtaken by their refinement. But I'm sure that in time, the scales will tip back in the other direction.

What's next? Beats me. I think I'll have a bit of a breather initially, as again, a year is a long time! I have a couple of projects that look like they're picking up steam, along with some opportunities that I hope haven't slipped away, so perhaps those afterwards. Beyond that, last year gave me a lot of time to reflect, particularly on myself. I came to plenty of realisations, and I'm seeing some things in a new light. I'm starting to see the value in myself again. I want to learn new things, meet new people, and nurture the relationships I have now. It's going to take a while, but after a long dark spell, I think I'm on the mend.

As for the music: if you like something you hear, or if it sparks something, please feel free to use it. All I ask is that you give credit where it's due, and let people know where they can find more. Hell, if you find something that nearly works but doesn't, hit me up! I made something like it once, I can do it again.

~~~

That was a lot, so thanks for reading it. If you didn't or just skimmed through, no worries. I'm guilty of it myself. The point was that I tried something new, learned from it, and know myself a bit better. That's it, really.

I think I've said all I wanted to say, so to finish up, some thanks:

offal

Thank you for your help with all things webdev, not to mention your improvements and suggestions for the site that came out of the blue. I'm happy that I was able to return the favour and help you out with my meager controller collection!

friends

Thank you for being there. It was a rough year, and even though I may not have talked to some as much as usual, I am thankful for what we did share. I hope to do more to stay in touch from now on.

contemporaries

Thank you for being a source of constant inspiration. You are all on different paths, but it seems like we all have the same goal. It's wonderful to see you grow, and I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

delek

Thank you for writing the piece of software that got me back into making music, in one form or another. Looking forward to the next Defle update!

developers

Thank you for doing what you do. You build, educate, maintain, entertain, improve, preserve...the list goes on. I could not do what I do without your hard work. No amount of praise seems like it would be enough.

listeners

Thank you. You are too many to list, but know that you are all appreciated. Every comment, however brief, meant a lot and helped keep me going.

family

Thank you for putting up with me. As few as I have left, and as hard as you can be to live with sometimes, I am thankful to have you. I hope the same goes for you.

~~~

Lastly, but of no less importance:

emma

Thank you for reaching out when you barely knew me. Thank you for inspiring me to do this, and helping me out along the way. Thank you for doing what you do. I'm glad to have you as a friend.

~~~

So ends viperdaily2020. Thank you for listening. All the best on your journey.

- heavyviper // January 20th, 2021

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