Technology in the music classroom:
1. At an after-school computer club, a small group of students created some ‘techno samba’ pieces for a joint performance with the school drumming group. The were asked to concentrate on some of the more esoteric Latin sounds which would complement rather than compete with the live percussion. Highly rhythmic sections were interspersed with freer-flowing, ambient sections which gave some of the percussionists the freedom to explore short improvisations where they were not chained to the metronomic beat created by the computer. The recordings were also passed on to a dance group in the school who prepared some Latin dance-style movements. The whole thing was put together to create a stunningly rich audiovisual performance.
2. A primary school set up a local-global project on trees – looking at trees in their locality and the Brazilian rain forests. Part of the project was on songwriting. When they had written the words for their songs, they used the software program Words & Music to help create melodies for their lyrics which could be saved as MIDI files. The MIDI files were imported into Band-in-a-Box and appropriate accompaniments were created where consideration was given to style, tempo, key, etc. For performance, the files were played in vanBasco so that eh lyrics could be scrolled as the children sang. This helped the younger performers who were struggling to remember the order of verses/choruses, etc. Appropriate video backdrops (mainly trees!) were displayed behind the lyrics to provide an effective focal point for the performance. Some live instruments were added to some of the songs.
3. A secondary school used elements of music technology incorporated into an ‘acoustic’ performance using real-time sound processing and working with a laptop computer as a musical instrument. The musicians using the technology were playing alongside a guitarist, percussionist, saxophonist and keyboard player. Using a laptop running AudioMulch and a USB MIDI controller, they created an ‘instrument’ that gives the user control over elements of pitch, duration, dynamics and timbre. The laptop musician sat with the rest of the ensemble and responded to the visual and audio cues that arose in the ensemble performance. They used independent amplification, located close to where they were performing, so that the players became associated with the sounds they were generating. Balancing the sound was done by ensuring that students listened to each other and worked together, so that the ‘technical’ musician developed the same listening and ensemble skills as the ‘acoustic’ performers.
4. A composition and performance project at a secondary school involved elements of art, mathematics and music. Students analyses the works of the painter John Wells and discovered that there was a mathematical basis underlying the structure of many of his paintings, making use of prime numbers and patterns based on the Fibonacci series. Music Generator was used to translate some of this mathematical data into musical fragments or motifs for use as building blocks in the final composition. Various software applications were used for developing and arranging the musical materials generated in this way. Sections of the paintings were scanned and animated using Microsoft Photo Story and these video projections served as a backdrop for the performance. These projections also functioned as a graphic score, providing a series of cues for those musicians performing live.
Check it out…
If you are looking for some teaching tools and ideas for your elementary music class, you might find some great things here:
Here are a couple of useful apps you might turn you music students to. The first is ihearit, an app designed by an old musician friend of mine to slow music down so students can learn a tune by ear easier. The second app, irealpro is an app for students who like to work on their improvisation skills.
In The News…
After a week of news about the attack on Parliament and our Canadian soldiers, I found this refreshing and humbling. Most schools have at least one piano somewhere in the building, often tucked as out of the way as possible, sometimes rarely if ever used. Is there a piano in your school? Does it’s current location encourage or discourage its use? Anyone out there care to challenge your school to relocate your piano for a period of time and see what happens?
Kendra’s Road Schedule (this week):
Monday – AM DO, PM Waldheim
Tuesday – 9:00 DO music meeting, 10-12 DO, PM Blaine Lake
Wednesday – AM Colonsay, PM Uke PD @ Hepburn
Thursday – AM Blaine Lake, PM DO
Friday – DO all day
Monday – Open
Tuesday – Remembrance Day
Wednesday – AM Langham (uke pickup), PM – Open
Thursday – Arts Ed meeting all day @ Saskatoon Public School Board
Friday – Saskatchewan Music Conference all day @ Saskatoon Inn