A Month of Music: Hundreds Meet Record Challenge March 1 marks the end of the Record Production Month Challenge, which gave participants 28 days to produce and record an original album. Organizer Dave Karlotski and Bob Boilen, a entrant, talk to Melissa Block about the challenge.
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A Month of Music: Hundreds Meet Record Challenge

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A Month of Music: Hundreds Meet Record Challenge

A Month of Music: Hundreds Meet Record Challenge

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Last month, we told you about the RPM challenge, the challenge to make an album in a month - 10 songs or 35 minutes of material to be recorded over the month of February.

Well, it's March. The challenge is over. There's no judging or winners, just the pure satisfaction of making an album in a month. Here's a small sampling of the CDs turned into the folks at RPM headquarters in New Hampshire - this from a trio out of Brooklyn who call themselves Brooknology.


BROOKNOLOGY: (Rapping) And when you (unintelligible) and your Brooknology. I want the crowd to scream, oh, yeah.

BLOCK: Now, a song from overseas. This is Monopoli in Amsterdam, who calls himself just a bloke in a room with some instruments and a computer.


MONOPOLI: (Singing) I got a place in Amsterdam where you can stay. No one will be staring at you here, or make a fuss about your hair.

BLOCK: Here's the "Forever Machine" that 17-year-old Jonathan Weisz(ph) from Voorhees, New Jersey.


JONATHAN WEISZ: (Singing) The sound grasping my attention. I walk down the waterway...

BLOCK: And, not to be outdone, Max and Jake Grazier - get this, ages 8 and 10 -of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, they call themselves the Poo Poo Platters.


POO POO PLATTERS: (Singing) Rocket Man, oh. Rocket Man. Rocket Man, oh.

BLOCK: Those are just some of the many, many submissions sent in to Dave Karlotski, who organized the RPM Challenge. And Dave, how many did you get?

DAVE KARLOTSKI: Well, we're still counting. But according to the Web site, there are 575 CDs on their way to us from around the world.

BLOCK: You know, I remember when we talked, just when the challenge started, people have been writing entries on their blogs saying, I'm exhausted. I stayed up all night composing my first song. How did it sound as the month went on when people were writing about the experience?

KARLOTSKI: More and more frantic and desperate. In the past week, the activity on the blogs has just skyrocketed as people - announcing that they're done or announcing the latest catastrophe to befall them, or something that's gone wrong with their equipment.

This morning, folks who are within driving distance of Portsmouth, New Hampshire were encouraged to drop off their CDs to us in person. We had almost 100 people come through the door this morning just between 9 and noon. One guy was deeply apologetic. He said he would have been there earlier. He hadn't meant to sleep at all, but he fell asleep on his keyboard for an hour, and that held him up.


BLOCK: I would bring Bob Boilen into this conversation. He directs our program. He also hosts NPR's ALL SONGS CONSIDERED. And Bob, you were part of this RPM Challenge. How did it go?

BOB BOILEN: I was, and I have to direct at night.


BLOCK: (unintelligible) little sleepy.

BOILEN: That means I got as little sleep as always. But it's okay. It went incredibly well. I found this more than just about making music. And it had to do with how you deal with your life and how you deal with deadlines in life. And everyone I talk to about this, who did it, thought the same thing.

It is, the deadline seems to be a kind of magic. I think a deadline helps anyone get their work done - the challenges to record 10 songs or 35 minutes of original material in 28 days. We encourage people who also write in February, but it's not absolutely required. The main thing is that it'd be new material that's recorded.

One exception that I really enjoyed was a man who said that the songs were 30 years old. He had written these songs in the '70s and never done anything with them. And because of the RPM Challenge, his son told him about it. And that gave him an excuse to finally sit down and develop these songs and record them and produce them and put them on CD.

BLOCK: So, they've just been sitting there all that time?


BLOCK: Bob, let's listen to some of what your band came up with for this challenge.


Unidentified Woman: (Singing) (unintelligible)

BOILEN: This was the one song that I couldn't figure out what to do with. And this was two days before the challenge was about the end, and it was my favorite piece of music, but I hadn't added anything to it. I thought what could I do? And the wonderful thing about the deadline is I just - I have to do something completely out of character. And what's out of character for me would be putting a horn section on a tune. And the horns worked.

BLOCK: Now Dave Karlotski, at the end of March - March 30th, you're going to have a listening party. How does that work?

KARLOTSKI: The listening party is going to start at the Music Hall here in Portsmouth, and we're going to get everybody who wants to come here. We're going to get them all together in one room. And then, we're going to fan out across the city, and we're going to have six simultaneous venues all playing tracks from the completed CDs.

If you can't make it here to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, you'll be able to log on and listen to the music wherever you are, and hopefully, throw your own party and just celebrate all of this music that was created.

BLOCK: Well, Dave Karlotski and Bob Boilen, welcome to March and thanks for being with us.

KARLOTSKI: Thank you.

BOILEN: Thank you.

BLOCK: Dave Karlotski's an organizer of the Record Production Month Challenge, and Bob Boilen is the director of our program and host of NPR's ALL SONGS CONSIDERED.

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