Over the last several years I have undertaken various artistic self-Challenges that have been great experiences with many benefits. Beginning with the Charlier Challenge in 2012 and including the Solo Album Challenge in 2014 and the Creativity Challenge in 2016, these public challenges have been a great opportunity to push myself past my limitations and great encouragement for artistic productivity.
Back in late February of 2017, I began my biggest personal Challenge to date: the 50-50 Challenge. The idea was to produce 50 original works of music at Lamma Studios. The music was also to be "socially conscious" and as an added Challenge, in the course of making those 50 works I was to perform on at least 50 instruments! It was an audacious Challenge and my friends told me I was a crazy to try.
The original Challenge was to complete the work in one year, in the Chinese Year of the Rooster. The idea was that the Rooster is vocal and hardworking and gets up every morning to sing. The hardworking Rooster was a good example of the diligence and hard work required to take on such a project.
Well, the year came and went, and I didn't make it! By February 2018 and the Year of the Dog I had only released 40 works. But I kept working, and finally this September 18, after 18 months of work, the 50-50 Challenge is complete with the upcoming September 18 release of work #50, my mammoth first symphony, "Chakra Zero" with sound ensemble 2084. I also achieved the 50 instrument goal of the Challenge with 56 instruments played, but many of those instruments were just little shakers or various versions of trumpets. Still, 56 instruments is a lot to play!
This was such a terrific Challenge and the results of making all this music changed my life and my career path. Let me take stock of all the great benefits this Challenge brought:
I was motivated to start (and finish) many more projects and create MUCH more music than I would have done otherwise. Without this Challenge I doubt that I would have even produced half the content that I did. Thanks to the 50-50 Challenge there is much more good socially conscious new music in the world now as as result.
I made great progress as a producer over the course of this project. The first several projects were good but not great and are quite flawed from a producing standpoint. But as I went on my skills improved, and I am today a much improved music producer and ready for a new career as head of Lamma Studios.
I also made great progress as a player on many instruments and especially as a vocalist. Not only was it a great motivator to have to record on these 50 instruments, but I also made great progress on many instruments as a result of this studio work. On many tracks I recorded scratch versions of bass, drums, vocals and keyboards to serve as a framework for recording. Often later my playing was replaced by that of other musicians, but it was great learning getting to lay down solid tracks on all these rhythm section instruments.
I couldn't have made these works without a lot of help! Over the course of making the 50 songs, I had the good fortune to have the help of many other great musicians. I am super grateful to all my good friends who contributed their talents to this project, and I am very proud that the total cost of the recordings was $0! Everyone on this project worked for free and I am so grateful to be part of such a fantastic network of collaborative artists. Thank you so much to everyone who participated, especially: Candace Lee, Shirley Magic, Andromeda, Geoff King Luk, Miriam Ma, Richard Kimber, Soujit Guitar, Seraphim, Ola Milena, Kaze, Martha Collard, Jimmy Pittman, Szombie, Minnie, Bloomsbury, Felix Tham, De Kai, Pragnya Wahklu, Rose Winebrenner, Nate Wong, Driek Storms, Poh, HakGwai Lau, Davide Pasquallini, Chris Polanco, Gretchell Yaneza, Tombo da Ladeira, Vera and Valeriy Frolov.
Over the course of the last 18 months, Lamma Studios has progressed from a amateur bedroom studio to a legitimate boutique studio with increasing name recognition and much improved artistic and audio quality. The 50-50 Challenge was the beginning of that project of improvement and the result is a project that looks to be my main new source of career post orchestra.
Here's a final list of the 50 songs, and the 50+ instruments of the 50-50 Challenge
EP: Farley’s Angels: First Originals
1: We Gotta Let Go: UBass (1) Lead Vocals (2), C Trumpet (3)
2: Crazy Train: Euphonium (4)
3: Blues for Modern Life: Backup Vocals (5) Alto Trombone (6), Acoustic Bass (7)
4: Earth: Conch (7), Shaker Rattle (8), Shofar (9)
5: Air: Mini glockenspiel (10), ocarina (11), whistling (12)
6: Thunderstorm: Palms (13) ocean drum (14)
7: Water: Udu drum (15)
10: Worm Moon Rising
11: Mr Porter: Bb Trumpet (16)
12: Dubai City Shuffle
13: Oh How Creative: Flugelhorn (17)
15: Kat in a Hat
16: The Everyman
17: You and Me: tenor trombone (18)
18: I Wanna Stop Right Now: shaker (19)
19: Everybody - organ (20)
20: Welcome: woodblock (21), bongos (22), small hand drum (23)
21: Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo: tambourine (24), crystal bowls (25)
22: Om Hari Om: tom-tom (26)
23: Be Like a Child: woodblock (27) tingsha (28)
24: Zambo: Cajon (29), Djembe (30)
25: Aad Such: Bass Drum (31)
26: Aad Guray Nameh: Frame Drum (32)
27: I Am the Infinite: Rap vocals (33)
28: Sa Ta Na Ma
30 Prelude - Hapi Drum (34)
31: Interlude: PreZENce- Chinese Bowls (36), gongs (36), bellman disc (37)
33: Journey to the Center of the Earth: hand bell (38)
34: Meditations for Gratitude, Compassion, Forgiveness and Love
35: Meditation for Forgiveness: Shell Rattle (39)
36: Meditation for Self-Healing
37: Meditation for Relaxation
38: Shamanic Journey to the Center of the Earth
39: Visualization for Success
40: Meditation for Relieving Anxiety: finger cymbals (40) 5 string electric bass (41)
41: Lamma Island Shoes: Baroque soprano recorder, (42), Drum Set (43), ukulele, (44)
42: The Sun is Shining Somewhere: Eb Trumpet (45)
43: The Magic Bean: Cardboard Box with brushes: (46)
44: True Friends
45: Sa Ta Na Ma: German Rotary Trumpet (47)
46: Looking for Her Smile: piano (48)
47: Another Day
48: I’ll Be There For You :D Trumpet (49)
49: Why Oh Why: claves (50) guiro (51), suspended cymbal (52)
LP: 2084: Chakra Zero
50a: Attunement: Tibetan Bowls (53)
50b: The Hunt Within: Thunder tube (54)
50c: Songs of the Old Masters: piccolo trumpet (55)
50d: Lament of the Inner Child
50e: Attainment: synths: (56)
So what's the next Challenge? That will be creating a new place for music and healing at Lamma Studios with my beautiful and talented new wife and partner Ola Milena. So thanks for checking out the 50-50 Challenge, and please look for new Lamma Studios releases coming soon!