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On compo entries and original ideas

On compo entries and original ideas

Postby plusminus » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:52 pm

I've been thinking about compo songs lately and the process behind them, especially with regards to using familiar themes/techniques/ideas.

In particular, waaay back when, I used to occasionally enter compos using pieces of patterns I'd already started as a base. For example I might take a chord progression and a basic drum pattern from one of the many one-pattern unfinished files I have and use them to start a new compo entry, using only samplepack samples of course.

Eventually I stopped because it felt dishonest. (Obviously I'm not at risk of "getting caught" but that's not the point.) However I'm re-evaluating that position a little now. For one thing, I'm still doing about as much work to make a song this way. Also, I have still used conceptual ideas in compos that have come to me prior to the compo starting, just ones that haven't been "written down" in any form, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Does anyone do this or have ideas about how much new material a compo entry has to be made from? Does anyone use old material as a basis for new compo entries? I think it's impossible not to at some level, since the distinctive elements that make up a person's "style" necessitate some kind of reuse of ideas. But maybe some people think that a compo entry should start from a blank slate, as much as is possible?
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Postby gilli » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:03 am

Great you're sharing these thoughts, plusminus.

I enjoy listening to songs with evolved ideas. So I don't mind if an artist once had a blueprint of some chord progression, melody or even an arrangement, that he places into a new entry.

As you already brought it up, it's hard to place a border between the biological memory (brain) and the digital memory (disk). So I don't think an artist should be disqualified for copying some pattern data while another artist writes down ideas he had built up in his mind for a long time.

It's different, if the compo is about speed though. I assume an artist wouldn't want to 'waste' any of his "evolved-in-brain" ideas in such a compo anyway. So there wouldn't be an advantage as every participant would most probably start from scratch there. I might be wrong though.

So my two cents are:
In long-term-compos like SDC, I'd prefer to listen to an evolved concept rather than having an entry that focused on avoiding this 'advantage' while it suffers from being evolved.

Of course this doesn't mean that an entry, that is intentionally started from scratch, is neccessarily worse than another one based on earlier concepts.

But I have been thinking about focus-on-quality-rounds, which would bring some "premium" reputation to SDC (and thus to its participants) while the conept of being open-source and maybe VST-free is kept. Maybe that's why I'm thinking that way.
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Re: On compo entries and original ideas

Postby Andy:Ray » Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:05 pm

plusminus wrote:Eventually I stopped because it felt dishonest. (Obviously I'm not at risk of "getting caught" but that's not the point.) However I'm re-evaluating that position a little now. For one thing, I'm still doing about as much work to make a song this way. Also, I have still used conceptual ideas in compos that have come to me prior to the compo starting, just ones that haven't been "written down" in any form, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that..........

------

But maybe some people think that a compo entry should start from a blank slate, as much as is possible?



4. Entry must be original.
Your entry must be original and not a remix of any previous works.


a few patterns previous work is totally ok imo. it's not that a great headstart and since the time is so vastly extended now there's no point in arguing that...
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Postby organic io » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:29 pm

I've generally always tried to start completely from scratch for SDcompo. There was one time where I used some patterns that I had already worked on recently prior to the compo. This was round 12 --> http://www.sdcompo.com/entry.php?e=132 ... I just swapped the samples and instruments into the compo version ones. (Basically a couple of patterns of the "main theme" at the beginning. )
I always felt a little guilty about it (especially since the song did well in the round) so I've avoided doing that since then.

But I wouldn't be too upset if I found out others do it on occasion. As long as it's just a few patterns (and not an entire song!)... Definitely nothing worth disqualifying over.
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Postby plusminus » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:40 pm

gilli wrote:It's different, if the compo is about speed though. I assume an artist wouldn't want to 'waste' any of his "evolved-in-brain" ideas in such a compo anyway. So there wouldn't be an advantage as every participant would most probably start from scratch there. I might be wrong though.


So that's really interesting to hear, because I think quite the opposite: a compo is a good opportunity to use some of those in-brain ideas and properly realize them. Obviously they might not turn out as polished, especially if it's a very short timeframe, but I've come to put a lot more value on actual songs than conceptual ideas. So if the samples fit an idea, great! Time to turn it out!

Andy:Ray wrote:4. Entry must be original.
Your entry must be original and not a remix of any previous works.


Indeed, but what constitutes a previous work? I guess that sums up what I'm curious to hear people's opinion's of.

Also, where is the line at drawing inspiration? The last entry I submitted to sdcompo was highly inspired and informed by a much older track of mine, but as far as "notes I entered into the tracker" they are completely separate. I don't see any problems with that though.
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Postby chunter » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:23 pm

I test ideas here all the time. ;) There's nothing wrong with using an idea you've had a while if it's unreleased. I even think there's nothing wrong with reusing a concept we've heard before as long as the song itself is clearly different.

As said, sometimes an oft-used melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic idea can set you apart as a composer. Starting with a completely blank slate can be difficult.

If I find that I am making too much of the same things over and over, I will set up "rules" for myself before I begin, generally forbidding myself from doing what I did last time. (For example, two or three soft sections and a loud ending with the drums entering.) Sometimes I will try to make up a melody on an alternate instrument, sometimes I will deliberately set myself on a certain chord progression...

Hopefully that is useful.
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Postby tenfour » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:09 pm

I always start from scratch. I try hard to write something new every time, and avoid any tempting habits. I know when I'm going down a path that I tend to favor a lot, so when I do that I catch myself and try to find a better way.

Sometimes I say screw it and just indulge myself. My biggest guilty pleasure is writing smooth-funk-jazz-cheesy stuff, and probably my biggest indulgence in sdcompo was round 24 Big Truffle In Little China.

Mostly I try to force myself into a corner. Honestly this is one of the best things about joining a compo like this, because you have such restrictions that inspiration bursts from. I try to place further "external" shape like trying to do vocals or re-create the atmosphere of another song I love, or trying to directly counter my habits, and for example try to stay very minimal.

I never use musical ideas from previous works. I don't join sdcompo to compete against others, I join to compete against myself, to be a part of this nice community, to force myself to create something I'm proud of, to exercise my creative muscles. It's my own choice to get the maximum out of participation here.
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Postby plusminus » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:05 pm

tenfour wrote:I don't join sdcompo to compete against others, I join to compete against myself, to be a part of this nice community, to force myself to create something I'm proud of, to exercise my creative muscles. It's my own choice to get the maximum out of participation here.


I wonder if anyone here actually "plays to win?" I almost never do with compos. I've been thinking I should try sometime, just because it would force me to compose music a little differently. Funny thing is that usually I can guess roughly where I am going to place, but my first few entries at sdcompo scored a lot higher than I expected...
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Postby chunter » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:16 pm

plusminus wrote:I wonder if anyone here actually "plays to win?" I almost never do with compos. I've been thinking I should try sometime, just because it would force me to compose music a little differently. Funny thing is that usually I can guess roughly where I am going to place, but my first few entries at sdcompo scored a lot higher than I expected...

I don't expect to win, but the score matters.

Especially if I am testing an idea, the scores are a gauge of how strong the ideas are, because although the comments can explain in detail, it is impossible to vote everything at 1.

I used to try to win FamiCompo Mini mostly because of its scope, but I'm not interested in the kinds of songs that win there anymore, so it's not as important to me.
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Postby organic io » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:29 am

I definitely don't play to win.

The scores used to matter more to me way back in the beginning of SDcompo. But weird things would happen, such as a song that I worked really hard on and I was proud of and anticipated it would place highly would get dead last. And then another song that I thought surely would score terrible ended up getting second place. <--- After that I stopped really bothering with the scores. I still never have won first place. But I'm always happy with getting somewhere in the upper 50% of the rankings :)
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