The RPM Challenge starts again tomorrow (regular reminder: The RPM Challenge is to record an album of original material during the month of February), so I thought it was time to write some words about last year’s album.
Back in July 2018, I went to a show in the Buxton Fringe called Earthling by Gemma Arrowsmith. It was a very funny and interesting one-person sketch show based around the Voyager mission. I saw that she was also doing the show at Womad later that month, and as I was there I went along to see it again. I’m glad I did because there was a moment in the show that I’d missed the first time, featuring a recording of an interview with Ann Druyan, talking about working on the Voyager project with Carl Sagan. They had fallen in love, and shortly afterwards she had her brainwaves recorded to be put onto the golden records carried by both Voyager probes.
“Part of what I was thinking in this meditation was about the wonder of love, and of being in love. And to know it’s on those two spacecraft. Even now, whenever I’m down, you know, I’m thinking – and still they move, 35,000 miles an hour, leaving our solar system for the great, wide-open sea of interstellar space.”
It was quite a powerful and moving part of the show, and such a beautiful story. I was inspired there and then to use this, and the journeys of the Voyager probes in general as the theme for my 2019 RPM Challenge album. And, I also had a title – And Still They Move…
After I finished my 2018 RPM Challenge album, I realised that it was the last one I would do on that PC. It was old, underpowered, held together with gaffa tape and I honestly didn’t expect it to survive much longer (it didn’t), so I decided to treat myself to a new PC. I went for something with a decent powerful processor and plenty of RAM, so that I could run Reaper on it with a pile of plugins without worrying about overtaxing it. I got that in the early summer of 2018, and in January 2019 thought it was probably a good time to actually download everything I would need for it. I downloaded Reaper and Hydrogen, and set about finding all my old favourite VST plugins for Reaper, as well as a few new ones. I plugged in the new USB keyboard (new to me anyway, thanks to a fortuitous find in a charity shop) and everything was working just fine. I also bought a new 1TB hard drive (the PC at that point only had a 256GB SSD drive).
It looked like I was ready to go. 🙂
All started quite well, and I made a lot of good progress from the start.
There was one problem though that kept popping up, and was more apparent on one of the tracks. When adding bass sounds, I could hardly hear them. Closer inspection revealed a big problem.
Not long after I got the new PC, I found that my speakers (which I’d had for a very long time) had started to fail. I bought a new – not very expensive – pair of speakers and plugged them in. I was largely very impressed with how they sounded, especially as they were quite small and inexpensive, but they didn’t have a very good bass response. I suppose in the intervening months I got used to them, but for recording, they just weren’t good enough. I had a look for some replacements. Meanwhile, a solution of sorts was available. I had an old soundbar for my TV that I wasn’t using. I plugged that in and it sounded much better.
I restarted the title track and things were progressing well again. I also sorted out some better speakers – I set up the hi-fi (which up until then had still been on the floor since I moved in) on a coffee table next to the desk, put the speakers on my desk and plugged the computer into it. It sounded even better! Things were looking (and sounding) good!
By now, things were starting to get towards being largely completed, which is for the best as it was the last week of February by now. And then, the first one was completed!
I’d planned on 5 tracks for this album. The opening track was going to be 20+ minutes long with the others a more “normal” length. As the clock was ticking, and as I’d been struggling a little with one of the tracks, I had decided that I could abandon that one if needed, as the album would still be long enough to qualify. I hoped I wouldn’t need to though.
As the week progressed, more tracks were finished and uploaded. And then, the final day. I got home from work, ready to finish off the last 1 or 2 tracks, which was when I realised that the main 20+ minute track was still really only half done! I couldn’t abandon this track as then the album wouldn’t be long enough. So I set to it, and after a hard evening and night of work, the track was finally finished! While that was uploading, I had a listen to the other track and decided that I should be able to get that done too. So after a little work, that was also done and uploaded. The album was finished!
By now it was around 2am (but the rules do state that you can go over midnight on the final day as long as you haven’t been to sleep) and I had to be up for work in less than 6 hours, but I decided to have a little celebration with a small glass of single malt while I pressed the “Publish” button on Bandcamp. 🙂
And with the album done and published, and the whisky drunk (even if I wasn’t), I finally made my way to bed.
As ever, the album is available on Bandcamp, where you can pay what you like, from £0.00 upwards (naturally I would prefer upwards 😉 ). I hope you enjoy it!