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2020 January 18 min read

I've just published two new tracks to kick off the new decade! The first is an electronic track called Resolution, which, along with being a remake of my old track "Ambition", contains tons of material borrowed from all of my musical output throughout the past ten years, as my way of capping off the 2010s. If there's anyone out there who can name the source of every instance of self-reference, I'll be extremely impressed and willing to offer them some kind of special prize. They're all here on this website, good luck :p

Along with that, I've recorded and uploaded the first in a new series of weekly piano improv videos that I hope to continue indefinitely. It's one of many projects that I've been planning and preparing for the past month, as I've settled in to my new place and found my productive rhythm again after months of illness. Suffice it to say, I've felt lately that the entire past five years of my life, all the ups and downs, life-changing adventures and devastating setbacks, have been setting me up for 2020, and the rest of the decade to come.

You might notice that the digital piano in the video has about 27 more keys than the one I normally play, and is about $430 more expensive. For over five years now I've stuck with my old 61-key piano, during which time I used it to record endless hours of "lo-fi" improv for personal brainstorming purposes, and I carried it around the city to busk for three years (I'm convinced that it only stopped being lucrative because I don't look like I'm 15 years old anymore). Increasingly, though, I've gone back to writing and practicing classical pieces, and it's been almost impossible to do this without getting out of the house and heading to a music store or a practice room, where the pianos, while less portable and lacking in fancy features and instrument samples, do have the 88 weighted keys that are really necessary for this. And now that I've moved out of university residence, it's worth it for me to have that in my room.

In particular, it'll help me avoid the annoying scenarios that I've run into far too often in my past improv recordings, where I have to stubbornly use pitch bend or the "M.Octave" function to reach a particular note that's too high or too low. The weighted keys also make dynamics easier to control and fast runs and jumps easier to land. I figured that if I'm gonna try to put out spontaneous music on a regular basis I'll need all the help I can get - but I think it'll be worth it, at least to introduce some balance and predictability into my otherwise wildly variant schedule for writing and publishing tracks.

While I'm on this weekly schedule, I'll also be taking the time to upload video versions of all the electronic tracks on my website, spreading them out over the year appropriately. I've hesitated to do this not only because it's a pain for me to screen-record GarageBand on my computer without noticeable lag, but also because unlike SoundCloud, YouTube doesn't let you revise your content after uploading - which I have done with many of my SoundCloud tracks already. I'm planning to go back to some of these tracks once again - some of which haven't been touched since 2012 - and do some touch-ups to prepare them for their final versions. Spacing out the uploads will grant me ample time to give each track the attention it needs, and by the end of the year, I'll have 32 tracks, fully polished to my 2020 standards, that I can compile into my next album (more details on that to come!)

My YouTube channel will also be ideal for me to promote, every now and then, on social media - another place where I hope to become much more active in the next year. The internet is a busy place, and to get noticed and recognized, sometimes you gotta just keep posting, keep connecting with people, and otherwise doing what you can to remind the online world that you're alive. Although I'm always active on platforms like Discord and Messenger, I've been very shy in more public settings, where it often feels like you're just shouting into the wind. In places like Twitter, Instagram, and even SoundCloud, I've mostly just been silently lurking, too scared to even dip my toes in the tidal waves of constant online activity.

But after months of this lurking, I see no better time than right now to get my feet wet, and I've prepared myself extensively for what this will entail. Although I'm aware - and very self-consciously so - that my motivations are in large part careerist and self-interested, I've expressly decided not to restrict my Twitter activity exclusively to music and make it a "business account" in that way. Like my blog, and my other social media, I much prefer these public profiles to be expressions of my full, authentic persona, and thus projections of a kind of openness and approachability that is not only genuine, but is in my experience endearing to like-minded people. They say to watch out for doing too much self-promo on your social media, but I'm imagining that the real worry for me is gonna be leaving adequate space between the random showerthought tweets that are like... overanalyzing pop lyrics or making puns on the names of obscure mathematicians.

Another thing "they" say, though, is that when you do want to advertise yourself, no amount of social media can substitute for a good website. So over the past month I've also been doing tons of renovations to my site and adding features to expand it, building on the initial design I came up with and implemented last summer. The most noticeable addition (to my two regular visitors) is probably the Games page, where I've been slowly remaking and adapting several old games of mine in a web-friendly environment. I initially made this site as just a landing page for music, anticipating the promotion of my concert - but once again, I don't want to define myself by just my career, nor my career by just my music, and I figure that the more I turn this place into an all-purpose personal site, the less out-of-place some of these blog posts will seem. Plus, if I ever find the willpower to go job-hunting in CS again, this site can be a place where prospective employers see my (vanilla JS with severely-outdated ES conventions) code in action.

One of the games you'll find there is called Detective Descartes. It's very new, and in early stages right now, but I made it to help me with my first tutoring gig - which came out of an eerily-timed email on December 5 soliciting qualified math and science tutors among students at my alma mater. (I was still on that email list because I had dropped out of school only three days prior!) It's been a fantastic jumping-off point for me, as I've been refamiliarizing myself not only with the curriculum at my old high school but with the experience of tutoring in general. In the coming year I'll be looking for a lot more tutoring opportunities, with the hopes of - fingers crossed - generating enough income to aid in my long process of becoming financially self-sustaining again.

But I've also been, inadvertently, ensuring that if I ever need to plead my case to income assistance, I'll have a mountain of evidence all in one place to back me up. Starting December 1 I've been keeping an extensive, itemized list of every productive thing I've done on a daily basis. I've designed a system where each item is given a point value: 1 for small tasks that take less than an hour, 2 for projects of more substantial length, and 4 for full-day commitments. Each item is also sorted into one of eight categories, including general business-related things like website maintenance and social media setup, music stuff like the two tracks I just published, coding projects like the games on my site, tutoring pursuits, and political organizing endeavours like that secret project I mentioned that one time that I really need to get back to soon.

Last month, I earned 151 points, and through some exceptionally clever Google Sheets wizardry if I do say so myself I'm now able to see a concise summary of how this breaks down by date and category. It's been quite fulfilling, and the process of updating the list now takes so little time and effort that I might actually find it in me to keep doing it every day as the year goes by. It'll be interesting to see if, and how, this system will motivate me and help me balance out my life. If I didn't have so many other exciting projects on my to-do list, I'd consider making an app of some sort for others who might benefit from this kind of daily productivity tracking system. (Actually, my friend's working on an app right now for helping students with mental health and stuff, so maybe I'll talk to her. Hi, if you're reading this!)

In my post last month about moving out, I listed a bunch of the big projects I took on during my highly-productive summer of 2018. By the end of this year, that list is gonna be half a page long, and I'll have a whole spreadsheet full of data to supplement it. Watch out, world.

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