Last week I was listening to a lot of NPR. Like many people, I’ve been trying to make sense of what is going on in this country and the world. In between stories of voter fraud, alternative facts, and anti-immigration policies, I kept hearing a commercial for NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. Every year, they invite unsigned acts to submit a video of themselves performing in front of a desk in the hopes of finding a new talent to feature on their popular music program. As an avid listener of NPR, this contest really got me excited. However, I’ve been in the depths of writers block for over 6 years, and I felt sheer panic when confronted with the idea of submitting a video of myself performing one of my unfinished compositions. Add to this the pressure of having a deadline for submission only three days away.
In spite of my fears, I did something on Thursday that sounds like something you’d see in a movie: I wrote a song completely from scratch. I sat down at my synthesiezer, started noodling around, found a few pleasant chords, started humming a melody over it, and then brainstormed for a hook. The music I came up with had a Cuban feel to it, so I felt inclined to make the hook of the song something in Spanish. Next, I got on Google Translator and put the words “tiny desk” in and started working on lyrics to a new song called “Un Pequeno Escritorio”. Due to a misunderstanding, I actually thought the song had to be about tiny desks, so imagine my surprise after the fact that this wasn’t so. However, I will say that I work better under pressure and limitations, so giving myself a theme ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Next came the lyrics which, if you watch the video, were directly reflected by what I was hearing on the NPR newscasts. It was hard to avoid turning the song into an all out protest song, but in the end I chose to use humor and love to get my point across. Since I chose to write the song in Spanish, I was completely dependent on the playback function of Google Translator to learn how to pronounce the lyrics I was composing.
The next day, I rehearsed the song for a few hours, and after figuring out the arrangement, I set up some smart phone cameras on tripods and recorded myself performing the song a few times in the hopes of editing together the best footage into something watchable. I was happy with the audio, but lets just say that seeing footage of myself in an ill-fitting T-shirt has inspired me to start going back to the gym!
The following morning, I had an out of town performance scheduled, so I had to edit the video on my laptop while my girlfriend drove. When we arrived to our destination, I was about 60 percent completed with the edits. On the ride back I continued to edit and discovered that the program I was editing in (iMovie) started glitching; small edits in the time line would knock things out of sync with the audio, fade ins would make add footage to other clips, etc… The pressure was on at this point because I had to submit something in a few hours, and as the deadline drew closer and closer, I began to panic: not only did I have to finish the edits, but I had to upload the finished video on YouTube by midnight.
And if the glitches weren’t maddening enough, I looked at the contest rules and realized the the deadline was Eastern Standard Time, which meant that I was Three hours behind on Pacific Time, meaning I didn’t have 3 hours and 28 minutes to finish the video, I had just 28 minutes! This might seem like more than enough time to finalize an edited video and upload it, but for some reason, iMovie decided to take 40 minutes, and by that time I missed the deadline. I felt so devastated. It was so anti-climactic. The whole weekend I was electrified by this project. It not only got me out of a writing drought, but it inspired me to do voice my feelings on the world without sounding preachy. I literally spent every waking moment working on it, and in the end I clicked on the wrong button in iMovie and my chances were dashed.
However, I’m now back in the studio working on my own music again, and I’m working on an album to include this new song onto.
Here’s the video: