RPM Challenge

This year’s RPM challenge has been announced. More information is

The idea is simple: Start February 1, record ten songs, or 35 minutes
of music, committed to a CD, and mail a copy to the organizers.
Details are on their web site. A summary is posted below. I did it
last year, and hope to get it done again this time. Make some music!

Prent Rodgers

It’s a little like National Novel Writing Month, ( where writers challenge each other to write 1,700 words a day for 30 days, or the great folks over at February Album Writing Month (, who encourage artists to write 14 new songs in February. Maybe they don’t have “Grapes of Wrath” or “Abbey Road” at the end of the month, or maybe they do—but that’s not the point. The point is they get busy and stop waiting around for the muse to appear. Get the gears moving. Do something. You can’t write 1,700 words a day and not get better.

Don’t wait for inspiration – taking action puts you in a position to get inspired. You’ll stumble across ideas you would have never come up with otherwise, and maybe only because you were trying to meet a day’s quota of (song)writing. Show up and get something done, and invest in yourself and each other.

Anyone can come up with an excuse to say “no,” so don’t. Many of you are thinking “But, I can’t do that! I don’t have any songs/recording gear/money/blah blah blah…” But this doesn’t have to be the album, it’s just an album. Remember, this is an artistic exercise. Just do your best using what you have in order to get it done. If you have a four-track, become a four-track badass! A mini disc, a pro-tools rig, a Walkman, an 80’s tape recorder – use it. Do your best. Use the limitations of time and gear as an opportunity to explore things you might not try otherwise. If you can afford studio time in a “real” studio, fine, but let’s be completely free of any lingering idea that “good” records can only be made in a studio. If that were so, then all the old scratchy blues records or Alan Lomax field recordings that have changed our culture – the world’s culture – wouldn’t still resonate with us today as they do. Springsteen’s haunting classic “Nebraska” was a demo he did at home on a crappy machine. That album is fricking awesome. What label would put those recordings out now? (See: who cares) There are a million examples of this kind of stuff, but the fact will always be: Well written, honest music is compelling and undeniable no matter what it was recorded on. So put it to tape.

February will come and go whether you’ve joined in or not, but do you really want to be left out?

To recap:

• This will be fun!

• Ten songs or 35 minutes of recorded material, on a CD, postmarked or hand-delivered by noon on March 1 to:

10 Vaughan Mall, Suite 1
Portsmouth, NH 03801

• Recording can only be done in the month of February – no prerecorded songs.

• All material must be previously unreleased, and we encourage you to write the material during February too.

• Participating bands get their own page on the site, which you can blog to as much as you want. You also get access to the band-only discussion board, where you can swap ideas, resources, etc., and the ability to e-mail and private message with the other participants.

• All the completed albums may be put up in the jukebox on the website, if you so choose, so people can check it out; conversely, if you’d rather not share your work with the public, then no one needs to hear it but us.

Write some instrumentals, split up the songwriting duties amongst band members, form an RPM side project, write songs on the piano or clarinet instead of your primary instrument, make that metal album you’ve always wanted to – buy a ukulele! Just do your best to make the best album you can. Be unafraid.

What if every musician you knew put their music first for 28 days?

What if you recorded the best song of your life?

What if the world was never the same?

What’s stopping us? Nothing. February is Record Production Month. You have no reason to say no, and nothing to lose.

Slowing way down now

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This is a work in progress…

I added a twinkle sound from the finger piano made up of 8 notes, each dropping in pitch by one degree of the 53-TET scale, getting softer, and moving from right to left, as in a Doppler shift of a fast moving flying object.

Even Slower Slow Up & Down

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This is a work in progress…

This one takes the minute and stretches it out 3 times longer. Same notes and everything, just a change to the T0 table in Csound, and a few adjustments to the envelopes and volumes. I think I could keep this up for a while

Slow up & down

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This is a work in progress…

After a long hiatus, I’ve been able to crank out 60 seconds of music. This one takes a chord of the overtone series 4:5:6:7:9:11 and slides it up and down to the same notes. 4 goes to 9 or 7, 7 goes to 4 or 6. Each note glides to it’s nearest overtone, up or down. There’s a finger piano arpeggio that just moves up and down a 53-TET interval while playing on the 4:5:6:7:9:11 notes. They start in synch, drift out and back twice in a minute. Scored for finger piano, tuba, trombone, flute, french horn in Csound.

60×60 Call for works

Heads up! All composers – All videographers – a new call for works

Vox Novus is the brain child of Robert Voisey. He assembles CD’s and concerts of 60 second compositions by 60 different composers, called 60×60. Recently he worked with some dancers to accompany a 60×60 concert with 60 dances by 60 choreographers at theWinter Garden of the World Financial Center in NYC. A review in the NY Times was quite complementary.

Robert writes with a new call for works:

Did I forget to mention that there is another call for 60×60? Yes! With all the excitement I forgot to mention that there is a new call for 60 second works on recorded media. Here is the link:×60/Call.htm

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

In conjunction with New Media New Music New England We are lookiing for video too! Visit the following for details:

I contributed one piece that was accepted in a Pacific Rim 60×60 mix, and highly recommend others do the same. 60 seconds can really focus the mind. And to hear your work played next to someone else’s is fascinating.

FLAC’s of The Soundtrack of the Donner Party

PDF of liner notes

The following files are FLAC files, but they are named with an extension of .fla . I couldn’t get them to download when they were accurately named .flac. After you download them, rename them to xxxxxx.flac from xxxxxx.fla, or tell your FLAC decoder to read the .fla extension as a flac file. I don’t have a clue why that is. Something web related. I’ll have to figure this internets out some day. Sorry!

Omar y los Bandeleros – Omar’s Shuffle

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This is a piece I put together in 2000. It’s the first of my “Fake but Accurate” pieces, based on samples, tuned to the Partch 43-tone tonality diamond. I used some restaurant samples and convolved it with a church, to make it sound like it was recorded live. There are restaurant noises to set the mood, and broken glass to punctuate the rhythm. It’s scored for Tuba, Piccolo, Guitar, Marimba, Bongos, Trumpets, Trombones, and assorted implements available to waiters in a Mexican restaurant in Ajijic around the turn of the century. It’s kind of an audio version of PhotoShop.

I wrote about it at the time, in 2000:

Omar and the Bandoleros are a band I first heard playing at a party in Ajijic, Mexico. Omar is the band’s leader, as well as their tuba player. His wife Angelina plays the piccolo. Omar is tall and thin and has a neatly trimmed mustache. Angelina has let her weight get away from her, and is pushing 120 kilos, easy. Every Friday night they play Mariachi music in the moonlight for the wealthy retired Americans in Ajijic at the Posada. But on Saturday nights they move to the school gym off the town square and step up the tempo. Earlier, on the night these recordings were made, Angelina and Omar had been fighting over something. Enrique, the first trumpeter said it was over Omar loosing money at the cock fights. Roberto, the bongo player, felt that Angelina was angry over Omar spending all Friday afternoon helping the new guitar player, Rosa, learn the new changes. Angelina felt the new changes were not all for the good, if you know what I mean.

Omar wanted to diffuse the situation by playing some romantic music with Angelina, and that is how this tune starts. Francesco the marimba player begins the tune with a gently rocking ostinato in C major otonality. Omar entices Angelina to join in with a sweet bass line on his tuba. Hector and his trombone section join in to complement the sound. When Rosa joins in on guitar, the pace quickens rapidly. Pretty soon the tempo and the heat rise as it becomes clear Angelina wants more than sweet music from Omar. The group is rocking through some bizarre changes at 150 bpm.

After this recording was made, Omar left the stage with Angelina, and the remainder of the band finished out the set without them. Rosa was asked to leave the band the next day, and has been hanging out in Colorado with a guy named Nelson in Durango, driving a Suburban into town every day to pick up her mail and her royalty checks. Omar continues to lead the band every weekend, but Angelina is thinking of quitting to join the Guadalajara Philharmonic. She says she is going to be the next latin jazz piccolo legend … with or without Omar.

I’m not sure where the group first learned to tune their marimba to the Partch 43 tone scale. Rosa the guitarist found her axe in a dumpster outside Peteluma and quickly fell in love with the big chords made possible with the otonality. Omar just likes the chance to show off his embrochure, if you know what I mean.

In a Landscape by John Cage

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This is a work in progress…

I have adjusted the tuning a bit. The Bb is now a 4:3 above the F, which makes sense. The B at the end has been updated to an 11:8 over the F, giving the last note a bit more bite. Both changes were only a single step in the 53 TET tuning, but they make a big difference.

Here is a graph of the function table I use to make the finger piano have a more robust sustain. It attenuates the attack, and increases the strength of the later parts of the sound.

More work to do on this.

In a Landscape by John Cage

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This is a work in progress…

I love this piece by John Cage. Especially the versions on piano by Stephen Drury and a version for American Gamelan by Gamelan Pacifica.

I’ve been thinking of what it would sound like on finger piano. Today I put the first ten measures down and it sounds ok. But it needs some work. Done with Csound and some finger piano samples from an instrument I made in 1978. I definitely need to work on the tuning. I picked a C overtone series, but the piece seems to be in D minor?