My students have uploaded their arch form compositions onto their own Soundcloud Accounts. After the students liked their accounts to mine, we spent the class period sharing and evaluating the pieces to develop critical skills.
This was most valuable in helping the students examine what makes a good composition and what might be less successful techniques for expressing their musical intent. We will jump right back into composition with a piece about cars. I will cut
down the timeline to about 4 days from start to finish since they have acquired the necessary skills to create the loops from scratch.
I also had the students download the free Soundcloud app for iPhone/iPod and Android. This wonderful app allows you to record, geotag, and upload recordings from your mobile device onto your Soundcloud account. This allows almost anyone to use Soundcloud for capturing sounds much like Flickr or Picasa lets you deal with images. Very exciting!
Some of the best features of Soundcloud include the ability to store any size file online, embed customizable players into wikis and blogs, and the social networking connectivity of the site. Like many sites, Soundcloud offers their services for free up to two hours of storage.
I think I will have the kids make simple movie versions of their songs to host on our YouTube channel since there is no limit to how much we can put there.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
By Kelly Martin (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
My Music Appreciation classes will be finishing up their first compositions tomorrow. After making piezo microphones, sampling various instrument and noise-makers, and uploading the resulting meta-tagged loops to Soundcloud accounts, they are experimenting with various combinations of their sounds to write a piece.
I am using this technique to introduce them to the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), in this case, GarageBand. Each day, I begin by demonstrating three aspects of the DAW, then letting them experiment with their loops and the sound.
Yesterday, we listened to a number of examples of electronic music composition from the soundtrack to "The Social Network" by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor (aka Nine Inch Nails).
We listened critically- especially using our "reduced listening" skills, to evaluate the timbral qualities of the music. Especially interesting is how economically the opening track, "Hand Covers Bruise", uses it's material. We discussed how some sounds harmonize or complement each other versus sounds that might antagonize, and what the resulting effect is. We tracked the pacing of the musical material and how many sounds and at what dynamic level Reznor lets you hear at any given moment in the piece.
The students were then challenged to use the additive process exemplified by "Hand Covers Bruise" to create an "arch" of music. Care is to be taken to consider the timbral effects of consonance and dissonance with the choice of loops and effects. Their forms are to be palindromic in nature- where the sound is subtracted in the reverse order that it appeared.
So far, their bag of DAW tricks includes manual beat-slicing, meta-tagging the transients so the loops beat-sync, reverb, volume, echo, panning, and the various effects included in the GarageBand software. Currently, they are not allowed to use any pre-fab loops or MIDI- with the exception of a drum beat. I let them import one beat so they can hear if their loops sync properly, but I do not let them keep it in the piece.
Friday, March 4, 2011
First, this year's OHM Festival of art, music, and new media will be hosted in the Berendo Building! The plan is to have a kind of circus, with art on the hallway walls, music in the orchestra room, video looped in the video lab, sound art installations in nooks and crannies, and film in the choir room.
During the week of April 18th, classes will be invited to walk the exhibition during the day. On the evening of the 19th, we plan to have an open house style exhibition in Berendo. I am especially excited to have parents see the work of all of our art students and hear the music classes sing and play.
Over the past week in class, we have been refining our Audacity skills and cutting loops. My students have been generally getting progressively faster at creating the material. I have stumbled upon something that may fall under the law of unintended consequences, however. Because multiple students use the same computers over different classes, some students are stealing other classes loops and uploading them to Soundcloud as their own. I may have to require that everyone save their loops on their own media. When I get administrator privileges for the lab, I can batch erase the computers daily.
An immediate problem I see with this is that students may only have one backup of their work. They could back up to the cloud, I suppose, but with slow upload speeds, it may not be a practical solution. I will have to experiment with this. until then, I need to be extra vigilant on their behalf.
My student have created Soundcloud accounts to upload their finished loops. This is a wonderful service! They get to store 2 hours of soundfiles in the cloud for free. The site provides an mp3 preview player, either as a single track, or a jukebox. You can download them, or play them online.
The accounts also have a social networking aspect to them. We will all link our accounts together so we can share tracks. I will use it as an opportunity to teach about Creative Commons Licensing as well as how to attribute work.
An easy test for a cheater will be to have them create a loop right in front of me- from start to finish. This first time a student makes a loop, it seems to take somewhere around 20 minutes because of their unfamiliarity with the software and especially the counting of beats. The overall workflow between recording, using the editor, and properly placing metatags in the Apple Loop Utility is a bit complicated.
By the end of this portion of the assignment, they should have created and uploaded 25 loops. After 25-times through the process, they should be fairly expert at creating- at least understanding the workflow. Any student who hasn't gone through the process all 25-times will not be able to produce a loop on the spot.