March 10, 2011
— education, installation art, music education, sound art
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. This is slightly different from arch forms by composer like Bela Bartok where he is dealing with sections of music. In place of large musical sections, I am asking them to consider timbres. This is to structure and limit the assignment. I want to keep the pieces short- just one to two minutes.
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.