My residency at St. Peter’s School in Hyde Park, NY, in conjunction with the Dutchess County Arts Council continued with the students working on the computer with the sounds harvested from their playground.
After having gathered the sounds from the playground, I went into K-Town Studios with Ron Kuhnke, our engineer, and cataloged them according to their tones. We had over 100 sounds, some more interesting than others. The diagonal poles holding up the swing set had piercing, bell-like sounds and the chains on the swings themselves made for a nice guiro or washboard-type effect….very good for rhythmic sounds.The slides, rock wall, and various bridges between sections of the playgrounds provided myriad thumps and even surprised us with some deep melodic tones.
Heading back to the classroom, I played the raw samples to the class, I showed them how to use the free software Audacity, to modulate the sounds. Then we went into the computer room and began work.
One young man took a simple, nondescript thud, cut and pasted it sequentially many times, added reverb, modulated the frequency, turned up the volume and VOILA! A machine gun!
Others of the budding sound artists provided more poetic sound expressions, but most of it was a wonderful exploration and experimentation with the software. As the students get more facile with handling the sounds, they are discovering radically different alterations of the same material. Like seeing paintings of the same subject matter from artists of different aesthetic styles, they are experiencing their own musical personalities by hearing what they and their friends have chosen to keep as their finished work.
We closed our time together with a lesson on formal structure in music (i.e.: ABA form or ABBA, ABCA, etc.). We broke down a simple tune into its components and re-arranged them from their original ABCCAB form into such permutations as BBBCAAC, CCABAC, etc. Two young men got up and acted as the “conductors,” pointing to each section as I played it on the piano. When the kids saw how easy it was to identify simple verse-chorus structure within a familiar song , one boy shouted “THIS IS EPIC!” To which everyone agreed. Ah…mission accomplished.
We have one more session together and then we present our work to the parents at the annual Christmas concert. More to come!