This year's RPM challenge album "Radical Pastel Mercy"
Well this year's RPM Challenge album was one of the smoothest I think I've had in the last 9 years of doing them. Lyrics flowed easy, I didn't have to fight a pile of chords into making sense, and even though I had to sit out the first week to finish off a different project I still didn't feel rushed and I'm reasonably happy/proud of the results. After completing the first couple rpm challenges it became less about it being a "challenge" where I'm proving to myself or to others that I can do a thing and more about the importance of a creative ritual in one's life. Like a type of lent where I create a thing for the world that nobody really asked for and celebrate by listening to what everybody else in my life made in that same time.
I mean, yeah I guess there is a bit of showmanship involved, I'm trying every year to make the best album I can make in that month and I hope that people are impressed by it and enjoy it. But one of the first things you learn about the challenge is that it's not very effective as self promotion to put out an album on the same day as when a hundred and fifty of your friends put out their own. But it's still very satisfying to do and I look forward to it every year.
Having an annual project with a strict deadline and a defined goal with a significantly sized community of participants and supporters with an emphasis on completion and participation as opposed to reward or potential commercial success turns out is a recipe for inspiration. The fact that I have no problem making an RPM album every year for the last 9 years but have strained and poked at my latest non-rpm album for like 3 or 4 years now is proof of that. When you eliminate the need to do things "right" or the "best way" and make everything about what is the best way I can do things "right now" because I only got 28 days to make at least 10 songs or 35 minutes of content it actually focuses you and opens you up to all sorts of creative solutions you wouldn't have thought of before.
It feels like every time I've brought up the RPM challenge to my mom she'll ask me "so is there a prize involved?" and I say "no, it's a challenge not a contest". Then she'll ask "so it's like good promotion? it gets people listening to your work?" and I'll say "well, kinda yes, there's listening parties and stuff but it's not great self promotion", then she'll leave it at that because she knows it's better to imply a criticism with me with me than fully engage me in one if she doesn't want to fully stir me up into a lather. But the thing is with the rpm challenge, if this was an annual contest with a serious prize or some big promotional endeavor where you got played on a bunch of showcases I doubt I would've participated more than once or twice.
When you change the motivations for a creative endeavor from something personally fulfilling to something commercial or competitive you change the whole tenor of the project. It's not always necessarily a bad thing (sometimes it's exactly what you need) but when the project is something you deeply connect to your name or identity it runs a heavy risk of fouling yourself towards your own work and weakening your resolve to continue making. At least that's how it effects me. It's kinda the reason I very rarely go after public grants or other proposals, I can always taste the committee mandate in every stroke of my brush like some sorta alien spice in my curry.
When I discuss my work as a "calling" as opposed to a "career" or a "business" I'm only being slightly pretentious and I'm not bragging at all, it is entirely inconvenient, stupid and awful to have a calling in this world. If this was a career I could have some flexibility in the projects I do, I could change things to suit others needs and not feel sick to my stomach. I could concentrate on what others want from me and not what work desperately needs to come out of me now. If this was a career I could detach myself from what I do by saying "well it's just this job" and feel satisfaction in the fact that I sold something and possibly helped improve my lot in life and maybe not feel a profound, sickening emptiness and self betrayal at every compromise I've made towards MY ART. God fucking forbid.
Is a "calling" just another word for some easily diagnosable mental illness probably related to depression or narcissism? very possibly. Do I feel like a total asshole writing about my work like I have the last two paragraphs? Oh my Jesus yes. Do I plan to take any actions to bring about change in my behaviors or thought patterns? What? no, of course not, that would cut into time I need to concentrate on MY ART. Anyway, what was I talking about before? oh yeah, RPMs! RPMs are great, if you check the St. John'S tag on bandcamp you'll find oodles of them there or you can check my bandcamp collection page and the top two and half rows are all new rpm albums I've purchased the last few days, plus a lot of other good stuff is on there. Yeah. cool. Talk to you later.