THE FAWM.ORG CHALLENGE: 14 SONGS IN 28 DAYS
International Songwriting Event Gears up for 7th Annual Event
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky once said, "work brings inspiration." Or, as writer Jack London put it, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." For songwriters, February Album Writing Month (FAWM) is that club. Thousands of musicians worldwide are preparing to brandish their guitars, pianos and notepads to participate in FAWM, the annual challenge to compose 14 new songs in the 28 days of February. This year, the organizers are upping the ante, setting a collective goal of songwriting of 14,000 new works in all.
In 2009, over 2,000 musicians signed up for the FAWM challenge, penning 7,375 new songs, instrumentals, and works of sound art in the shortest month of the year. Since its inception in 2004, FAWM participation and musical output has roughly doubled annually, so the 14,000-song mark seems well within reach. By January 12 of this year, nearly 3,000 have registered from all U.S. States and dozens of foreign countries including Norway, Australia, South Korea, France, and the United Kingdom. FAWM is the largest songwriting challenge of its kind.
Some so-called "fawmers" are musical hobbyists, while many are professional touring musicians and recording industry professionals who use FAWM as a much-needed creative exercise. The idea began when Burr Settles, a singer/songwriter and then-graduate-student in computer science, completed a short novel as part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge in November 2003. Realizing that there was no songwriting equivalent, he and three friends challenged each other to write a song every other day in February 2004, using an informal weblog where they posted demo recordings and constructive comments throughout the process. Due to the public interest that followed, Settles opened the challenge up to over 100 participants in 2005, which continued to grow steadily ever year since.
The website, FAWM.ORG, serves as the hub for the project, where fawmers can post audio or video demo recordings of freshly-penned songs, and give one another feedback. Participants can track the progress of songwriters they know and admire via the website�s �watchlist� feature. A real-time jukebox, allows fawmers to listen to new streaming music as it is added to the site, organized at random or by musical genre.
Collaboration is also rampant in the FAWM community. Many songwriting novices receive help by joining forces with more seasoned songwriters whom they meet through the website. Other collaborations spring from a desire to try something different. For example, Seattle jazz pianist Becca Palm casually expressed interest in writing a heavy metal song on the website forums. Within 24 hours she had composed and recorded a track (entirely by passing files over the internet) with a speed-metal guitarist from the Netherlands called Sapient Network. The track, titled �All I Am,� can be heard on 14 Songs In 28 Days (Vol. 5), the latest and a series of annual �fawmpilation� CDs released by the project to raise operating funds. Last year, over 500 of the songs born out of the challenge were collaborations.
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