100 Days of Writing Music: Finished!

Hello again! I accidentally took a month off from blogging, and how is it already past the midpoint of summer? I'm trying really hard not to fall into the August "it's all over" panic already, because summer goes so fast. In a month I'll leave for San Francisco to visit family and attend California Brazil Camp once again, and when I come back it'll be September - ahhhh! Let's not think about that yet.  

Last Sunday I finished my 100 Day Project, 100 Days of Writing Music (only 4 days later than everyone else)! During the period of time between April 4 and July 16 (except for those 4 days), I wrote 8 measures of music daily and posted it on Instagram here.

I ended up with 23 pieces or fragments of varying lengths, several of which turned into finished pieces, and the others will be waiting for me if/when I want to continue them. I am actually a bit sad that it’s over, which I didn’t expect to happen - I had expected relief and triumphant feelings at the end. I miss the ritual and the accountability of writing and posting something every day. This clearly means that I’m doing the right type of work! I still agree with my reasoning from Day 23 on why it was easy and enjoyable to keep up with this project:

  1. It’s work I really enjoy doing.
  2. Public accountability - it’s easier to skip a day if no one’s watching.
  3. Manageable length - 8 measures is an easy length to accomplish.

Some other reflections on the process:

Public accountability really works well for me

At first I felt funny about sharing my unfinished, unedited work, but it really didn’t take long before I shifted my expectations and didn’t mind it anymore.

Consistency (AKA showing up) is the most important thing, because not every day felt inspired

Even though it's hard to be consistent, in some ways consistency makes it easier to keep a habit, because the decision whether to do the task has already been made for you. Full disclosure: there were times when I selected 2/4 as a tempo in order to make my job easier, but this actually did yield some cool pieces, such as Rusty’s Dream. So, that's okay, and you know what Chuck Close has to say about this: 

 Yep, still true.

Yep, still true.

Lots of things got finished, somewhat effortlessly

Working in small bits sometimes made me surprised at how easy it felt to finish a piece (like, shouldn't it feel hard?) Toward the end of the challenge, I tended to do more continuing of existing pieces on consecutive days. This was cool because I got to finish more things, but sometimes I felt obligated to continue on with something when maybe it would have been better just to start something new. There are definitely merits to both, so I don’t regret it either.

It was hard to think about form

The nature of this challenge (writing a little bit every day) made it so that I almost always wanted to come up with something new each day, rather than repeating material from earlier in the piece. I think that this affected the form and structure of the pieces, making most of them through-composed (continuous, non-sectional, non-repetitive). Or, if I did repeat material, it would usually come back at the end. This isn’t a bad thing, but I feel like I didn’t really stretch my skills in creating the form of a piece. Maybe this is something that I think about more in the editing phase, once I can step back to look at the big picture. So...

Time for an editing challenge?

I think that I am better at starting things than finishing them, because once I get to the editing stage, it can start to feel Very Serious and my perfectionist/procrastinator tendencies start to kick in. If I can make myself listen to that particular part of my brain that can make decisions magnanimously, rather than the fearful part, it’s much easier. I think that it’s great to have notebooks full of ideas, but I may end up needing to create some structure around going back to them so that I can actually use the ideas for something.

See my earlier updates for more thoughts on the process: Day 23 | Day 58 | Day 79

LISTEN ON SOUNDCLOUD!

I've now recorded most of the pieces and you can listen to them on my SoundCloud page here. I plan to upload the last few next week. 

I'm taking a break for a couple weeks, but in August I plan to start another daily challenge so that I can keep this momentum going, both in terms of keeping the creative habit going, and showing my work. I may narrow down and create more parameters on what type of music or approach I’ll take - I haven’t decided yet!

Thanks for following along with me over the last 3+ months! I will likely post everything to Instagram again, so follow me there to keep up, and I’ll certainly post thoughts here, too. 

I won’t do a regular post this week, as I’ll be in the Chicago area for NCKP (National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy), but I intend to get back into a regular posting rhythm after that!

If you did a 100 Day Project this year, or have ever done something similar, share some of your takeaways in the comments - I'd love to hear them! 

Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer