Today, 14 October 2020, is the day of release of the long-awaited Sketch Collab, and also one of two reasons why I have not updated with a newspost. (The other being my emotional frame, which I will touch on in a bit.)
On my socials I posted this picture to heighten anticipation for this long-awaited potpourri of animating talent.
There were two major hints to this image -- the parchment paper resembled the background of the Sketch Collabs of a good few years now, and the artwork was that of the sleeve cover to A Stroll Down St Pancras, which serves as the background music for this year's Sketch Collab.
All the reasons behind my delaying of this post are deeply intertwined, and I feel I can't talk about one without talking about the rest. Please bear with me.
I am going to be dealing with some very painful emotions in this post.
I want to underscore, for a moment, the fleeting feeling of being unstoppable.
It is a feeling that you get when you are surrounded by people who believe in you, and who enable you to do the things you aspire to do.
@ninjamuffin99 approached me in mid-August informing me that the host of this year's Sketch Collab, @NickConter, was looking for a musician, as @Geoplex would normally do this but he was reportedly swamped this year. I jumped at the opportunity; I was free, and I took it on.
I don't think very many know exactly how much this means to me, and I think I ought to come out and say this.
In years past, starting in 2014, I looked longingly at the Sketch Collab. I knew that Geoplex was relatively active on NG back then, at least on the audio forum, and I wanted to at least have a shot at scoring the Sketch Collab, or at least having my music used in there. I believed enough in my musical ability even if I didn't know how to mix. I remember approaching one of the previous hosts for it. I don't know if @TheMAM took me seriously back then, but I have great reason to doubt it. Thoughts coursed through my heart back then: how can I even get a chance if no one will believe in me?
Years passed, and I forgot about it. I vaguely knew of its existence but the memory really only hit me hard once I had been asked to score it.
By that point, I'd already felt like I'd outdone myself this year, having done the orchestral and vocal heart-wrencher that was please take care of this star. I felt I couldn't outdo myself any further, but sure, I'd give it a try, I thought. When NickConter spoke with me about what he and the others were looking for as far as music was concerned, he was looking for something catchy. It was then that I looked at previous Sketch Collabs and listened to their music, to try and gauge what it was that they were all looking for, and what I could introduce. Once I had finished scouring through past videos, I scoured through my past tracks.
One track in particular stood out to me, and that was the fragment of A Stroll Down St Pancras from five years ago. After having smashed please take care of this star out of the park, I felt I could believe in my own musical ability again.
@AkioDaku and I had previously had a long chat about what makes us tick as musicians, and in that chat we had heavily related to each other's struggles. At the end of that chat, we had offered each other the possibility of collaborating with each other. Once I had laid down most of the instrumental for Pancras, I felt the time had come for me to collaborate with him. I wasn't sure, but at least with him I found someone who believed in my ability, as much as I believed in his. He happily agreed to lay down the bass for Pancras, and him doing so opened up the window for me to include a second collaborator -- my very own friend and bandmate, Greg Slater, who had recorded guitar for a number of tracks of mine that had previously been submitted to Newgrounds.
Greg was willing to record the guitar, and so he sat down to doing it, feeling his way through the track. To me, aside from a bit of direction on dynamics and performance, it didn't matter what the end result was, so long as my friends' souls were injected into this thing. And they were.
Their passion amplified the passion that was already in the piece and transformed it into something far beyond anything I'd imagined.
Then came a third collaborator, who recorded his violin in a pinch after being moved by the melody I'd written for it -- Juan D. Cruz, jdcviolin on Twitter. Initially, I'd written the violin parts with the solo violin out of alpha Versilian Studios Chamber Orchestra 2 -- the same build of that series of samples that I had five years ago when I first dreamed up this piece. I stayed past midnight on 15 September to await jdcviolin's recordings and then mix them in, because I was determined that 15 September 2020 would be the day of release of this track.
It was originally meant to have been done for earlier, but there were a number of deadlines set for the animators, some of whom were struggling to get things done on time -- one of such deadlines was 15 September, which coincided with a major anniversary, i.e. ten years since I set foot in the UK for the first time. (I spoke about it at length in the description to A Stroll Down St Pancras.) The resulting song would be one of passion and freedom and experimentation and joy.
Those of you who know me well enough, and who know my situation well enough, know that I have been battling awful bouts of depression and post-traumatic stress, and that I am still in the thick of it now. When critics of people like me invalidate me on a daily basis, telling me that I shouldn't be here, that I have nothing to give back to this country, that I am not going to amount to anything worth a damn, it only brings back traumatic memories. It only makes the pain and suffering worse. The depressive, post-traumatic black Rottweiler is there on an almost daily basis and sometimes, it does more than bare its fangs at me: it bites me in places that are way too painful for me to bear.
There were even people who told me that I would never surpass Geoplex or (insert any name here), or do anything they did.
This all seems lesser compared to the dehumanising treatment I receive from some people and parties. None of it, however, can measure up to what came before.
When I finished Pancras I felt a deep sense of joy and relief. I also felt unstoppable. For the first time in a long while, I felt free -- as free as I did back in September of 2010. I felt that with people by my side who believed in me, I finally didn't need to feel like I was alone against the world, and I could finally thrive. It showed in my music. Pancras would turn out to be one of my best pieces to date, if not my personal best to date. With it I finally could sing with the same emotional literacy that I yearn for, that I look for in pieces I judge in competitions such as the Art-Inspired Music contest or the Newgrounds Audio Deathmatch. Compared to what I am still going through, it is a tiny sliver of light, but a very important sliver of light for me nonetheless.
It finally showed me, and others listening in, what I'm truly capable of -- and it's only going to get better from there.
It finally showed me, and others listening in, what a joy it has been to make music with these friends of mine.
And now, for the first time, my name is on a Sketch Collab -- as are the names of a small selection of the many musician friends and others who stood by me, believed in me, and felt together with me.
Never underestimate how unstoppable you feel when you have the good fortune of having people by your side who believe in you and want the best for you. Never, ever, underestimate that. It is an incredible privilege -- and I wish it were not so, because I remember how small I felt all those years ago, and I empathise with those people who desperately wish they could do something like this but, for whatever reason, feel they somehow can't. If you are feeling this way right now and reading this, I want to do everything I can, and I exhort my friends to do everything they can, to make sure fewer people feel that way. It's no good for me to simply rest on my laurels feeling satisfied that I did it, while others are feeling the way I once felt. It's time everyone got a chance.
It's time we believed.
MUSICIANS: Please stop selling yourself short. If the world doesn't cheer for you and you know you have something to offer musically, do not lose sight of that for a moment. If you want to score an animation or a game, make it known! Put it on your newsposts, talk about it, mention it in the Collaboration forum. Heck, if you are the annoying kind, perhaps even bug @TomFulp in a reply to the news forum posts every time he does something, I don't know! So long as you're speaking about your dreams, people will know that you exist and know you have dreams, and some people just might act on those dreams.
ANIMATORS AND GAME DEVS: If a musician out there really dreams of scoring animations or video games and makes this known on their newsposts and forum posts, it's time we believed in them. Imagine the wonders this belief would do for their confidence, their self-esteem, their willingness to put themselves forward for further projects!
Time for the Audio Portal to finally see the use that it's meant to see once again. Because let's not forget that the Audio Portal is full of incredibly gifted and determined musicians, many of them with dreams of their own -- and the AP is also designed for seamless integration with NG game and movie credits.
I remember what it's like to have begged for a chance to score a game or an animation.
I remember being brushed off so many times; I remember not being given a chance.
I think it's time we stopped that for as many musicians as we can find.