Urban Outdoor Sessions is a series of 30 improvisations played on double bass on 30 consecutive days at 30 different locations in Munich. Every day I uploaded a video of the music created that morning. I desigend it as a 30 day challenge to boost my creativity and to kick the day to day routine of my life in the butt, facilitate change, learn new things and maybe change the course of my life just ever so slightly towards new horizons.
Here’s what I learned:
Start with what you have
Session #1 sucked so bad I didn’t even publish it. The session I published as #1 is actually the second video I shot. What happened? I started this project with the equipment I had at the time. Since I didn’t have a USB powered audio interface I planned on using my Zoom H4 recorder. It can be used as an audio interface. After figuring out how to set it up, I went the next morning to record the first session.
The audio quality of the Zoom was so bad that I had to dump it. Couldn’t use it at all. So I bought a USB powered audio interface by Presonus. I would have gotten a cheaper one if there had been more time. But since I wanted to record the next session the following day, I went with this one. This is the only investment (other than my time) I did on this project. It cost 199 Euros.
Every project (everything in life) is like a riddle. Riddles want to be solved.
Start (which is the most important part) with what you have and without knowing how it’s going to unfold. After the first step ajdust and correct the things that didn’t turn out the way you like. Then continue with the next step, adjust, correct, continue and so forth.
Let Shit Happen
The goal is never to try to get it perfect or to be perfect but to constantly grow and improve. What sounds good today will sound bad looking back tomorrow. Tomorrow will sound better but looking back the day after tomorrow it will again have its flaws. Just accept what you do today and let it happen the way it does. It is perfectly ok if it’s not perfect yet.
Some things will have to be better. They will be better because I will continue to improve.
Don’t Plan, Do
I planned exactly half a page of my notebook making a list of the equipment I thought I needed and another list of locations I thought would be cool to play. I ended up modifying the equipment just one bit (the audio interface) and made up the locations as I went along (plus playing some locations my followers suggested), thus not really sticking to the plan, except for the general idea to publish 30 videos on 30 consecutive days.
Don’t plan more than nescessary. Don’t stick to the plan if you don’t have to to succeed. It’s ok to make stuff up as you go along. Always keep your focus on the initial idea, the big picture, as a general plan.
Master the Game
With every project it’s the same. When we start we’re novices, apprentices. Things go wrong and take way longer than we anticipate. By the end of a project, though, we’ve become masters. We’ve mastered the workflow, there’s routine, there’s knowledge. We’ve grown, learned new things and that’s one of the main reasons to do anything in life.
The first week of the project, I got up, frantically getting the equipment together, packing the bike, worrying I forgot something. Thigs did go wrong. The SD card of my gopro didn’t work (I didn’t know how to format it correctly), so I recorded sessions with my iphone. I learned about light, which I never thought about before, but which is essential to any film making. I was nervous playing public spaces (what would people think?). The first week it took me about 1hour to film/record, and a whole day to mix and edit the music and video.
The last week of the project it took me about 2-3 hours to record, mix, edit, and publish the videos every day. I had established a workflow and a new mindset.
Enjoy and Appreciate
In the beginning it seems scary to go into a project without knowing what the reaction of the community will be. Inviting comments, listening and talking to people online and in the street is easy, as it turns out, when you smile and portrait a yes attitude (playing an instrument helps as well). People generally smile when they see someone creating art.
Enjoy the smiles and the drunks who throw coins at you at 5am. Invite them in. Creating a welcoming hospitable atmosphere is easy and not scary at all!
Momentum is Adrenaline
The adrenaline came first. Setting up the second session in the tunnel on the sidewalk was the first time I would play an open space in the city at 6am in the morning. It can feel awkward to play while people are passing by. In the beginning I felt most uncomfortable taking a bow at the end of each session. People must think this guy is crazy.
The only way to deal with bursts of insecurity and vulnerability is to embrace them and do it anyway. Focus on the joy of doing it. That embrace pumps so much good energy and adrenaline into the system, you want to do more of it. It’s a drug that can be taken anytime with no negative side effects and it’s always available because we carry it in us everywhere we go.
Create your own Comfort Zone
Everyone talks about it to an extent where I think it’s BS, too hyped. Lying in my bed at 4:30am my comfort zone is so big, not even a magician with a crystal ball can imagine it’s vastness. To make myself get up in the morning I announced the project on all my social channels and to my friends. I didn’t want to face anyone I know having to tell them that for some reason the project didn’t happen. Social pressure works.
The second week I got up because I wanted to improve the sessions, play locations that were farther away from my house and to catch the early morning light.
Starting the third week I got up because it was 4:30 am and I woke up every day without an alarm clock. I had created a habit. Wooohoooo!
Even during the days I felt it was hard to get up and that I didn’t want to leave my warm bed, I only had to step out of my comfort zone for a little while because every time I stood somewhere in the city I took my bass in my hands a calm serenity washed over me, transporting me in a blink of a second into a blissful endless calm parallel universe, the place where I could be free and creative with no restriction. No better comfort zone than the one we create for ourselves.
People Love Surprises
Everyone, literally everyone, smiled when they saw me and realized what I was doing. I can’t imagine what they were thinking but they all showed the same reaction. They smiled, some greeted me, some (drunk and just out of the nightclub) danced and threw money at me. I like the fact that I put a smile on their faces, even if just for a short time, but I like to believe that they spent moments of their days a bit happier remembering the crazy bassist.
Always Want More
The adrenaline was pumping every morning. I wanted more. Not consciously, but I just started to do more naturally. I started to blog again, writing articles about Neuroscience of Music, a subject I’ve been interested for quite a while. I went running again more frequently, and just overall spent more time doing.
Creating momentum is key. Everything else comes naturally. Just let it happen in and with you!
People notice the difference. Maybe I composed myself differently. Even if they don’t like the music, and I know a lot of people don’t like my music, I’ve gotten so much positive feedback just about the fact that I get up every morning and see the project through. The doing, it seems, was received more positively than the music or videos. So it’s either action that sparks positive feelings or it’s the music, or the fact that someone is creating something. Whatever it is, the important aspect here is that it inspired people one way or another. That is the most important point here! Inspiration.
Outdoors is the new Home
For some outdoor people this is a given, the outdoors is home. For someone like me, a city person who spends most of their life indoors, it’s different. We use the outdoors only as a way to balance out the stresses of everyday life. And that no longer makes sense.
With this project, the outdoors became a new home, my workplace. Watching the sun rise every day prompted more positive feelings than almost anything else. We can literally see planets move in the universe, what an epic concept to start your day.
I loved doing the project and I’m grateful for every moment of it. If it put a smile on only one single person (and I know it did) it was a total success and I can’t be happier with it’s outcome.
I created 30 pieces of music that want to be developed further and I’m looking forward to doing more.
But the one ultimate lesson learned from it is that life is all about doing. It was a great experience to do it, to get up at 4:30am, to bike through the city, see the sun rise, meet people, create art and present it to you. It’s the experience that counts. Make it count.
Collect Experiences, not things. Share as much of yourself as you can with others.
If you have a project in mind, no matter how big or small, think of it as an experience that wants to be felt, done, given, collected, lived. Do it. Do it now. The world wants you to do it. We want you to do it.