Friday, March 11, 2011

FAWMers March

Hail to the FAWM!

Just finished is eight years of a sort of vanity project writ large, February Album Writing Month, hosted at I was a little part of over 5000 "FAWMers", representing a significantly larger number of people that, of various backgrounds, individually and as collaborators, taking a stab a writing something like a song every couple of days during February.

The thing that is magnificent about this venture is that it more or less allows you to challenge yourself to simply produce. One of my favorite quotes from the busy FAWM forum last year was "March is for polish" - which I took to mean, "favor the completion of some song placeholder in all cases." Don't worry about warts, let that extra track go. But more than the peculiar pride associated with that completion, there has somehow been cultivated this community of people who, even given the limited time and fleeting nature of the entity, manage to feed each others egos in just about the right way.

For instance, someone invented a thread about tear-invoking songs. One poster said "Men don't cry but this was almost too close!" about a song with this lyric:

I come from a line of good Kings
I've got to follow them

- and truly the sense of the "king for a day" applied here not uniquely among the 10,000+ songs that were created last month.

It may well be that in the 19th century, when those observing trends like Victor Hugo's "fiction factory" were bemoaning the loss of the age of minstrelsy and the kings who supported them, Hugo's guild was presupposing the advent of the everyman cult of fanzines of the last half of the 20th. But then, you had to be on a mailing list to get one, and deploy a mimeograph and give one. Now the minstrels sing to the world with the use of few, cheap, and common tools, and that ubiquitousness could only come with the Internet era.

This is definitely a project about singers and songwriters - although not necessarily requiring singing - rather than someone looking for a carefully worked-out band arrangement.(I think of that as being associated more with the RPM Challenge.) The suggestion is to target a three-minute length for most songs, and that has always felt right - and it represents an interesting constraint. How can you present something with three or four chords and a basic melody that sounds somehow distinct? It's more the sort of challenge that applies to folk and country than jazz or classical, whose palette has always been bigger.

So hats off to the visionary FAWM creators and hosts that gave us this uniquely effective way to both challenge and stroke ourselves - and to all my fellow FAWMers who made the trip that much more interesting.

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