Radio Plays ICT and music composition

The project we worked on with level four in term one was to create a radio play.
We initially looked at the Orson Wells version of War of the Worlds.
You can find the whole thing on youtube

This leads into interesting discussion on the use of sound effects to crate realism as well as talking about radio plays and how they work etc. why they were and still are very entertaining and acting and script writing techniques that  create a sense of reality.We also discussed the genre of Science fiction – which can simply be defined as stories about a science or technology that doesn’t exist and the subsequent consequences of if it did exist.

Secondly we looked at Jeff Waynes 1970s take on War of The Worlds

Here you can discuss the impact of adding music to a story, does it add to the story or overwhelm it.

From here the project fell into a number of steps.

1. write and practice your own science fiction radio play.

2. record it. This can be done in garage band. I tend to use the podcast template because it allows simplicity. It has a male and female voice preset that the kids can record straight onto. Just highlight the track you want to record onto and push the record button. Picture 1

3. add sound effects. Garageband has alot of great samples which can be accessed on the right hand side of the project window, they are labelled under the category of stingers. you can also use the jingles samples to add authenticity to your radio play, eg if you want to cut to an add etc. Sound effects can also be recorded in in the same method that you used to record your voice. This is always an exciting and slightly more authentic way to enhance the students projects.

4. Add a soundtrack. This is always an interesting part of the project and often it is advisable to discuss the role of music in soundtracks. It is used to enhance the main format which in this case is the narrative that is being delivered by the voice. It is being used to enhance the desired emotional state and if it is doing anything else it is being counterproductive to the project. Placing limitations at this stage of the compositional process is a useful thing for many students. The variety of choice that programs like garage band offers can become overwhelming for many beginner composers and quite often leads to boredom.

5. Finally render the project down into an mp3 format and upload it to your blogs.

The kids loved this project and created some amazing things. Here Are some examples
Robin and Eden
mary, alex, honor.

Some of the ICT skills that get covered here according to VELS are

Familiarization with basic skills programs (word)

Using spell checks

File Naming saving locating and file opening

In depth understanding of editing programs such as garageband

Understanding of networks

Use of concepts mapping programs and graphic organisation programs

Advanced web searching

Use of ICT equipment – microphones, mixing desk, etc.

Create products that document original ideas

Web Uploading ability

Familiarization with basic skills programs (word)
Using spell checks
File Naming saving locating and file opening
In depth understanding of editing programs such as garageband
Understanding of networks
Use of concepts mapping programs and graphic organisation programs
Advanced web searching
Use of ICT equipment – microphones, mixing desk, etc.
Create products that document original ideas
Web Uploading ability

Demonstrated Learnings in Movie Making

Since uploading the last movie I have been involved in a number of discussions with parents who are concerned that traditional learning methods are being forgotten when we focus on things like movie making.

So I took the trouble to create a list of demonstrated learnings according to VELS that are demonstrated in he movie example I have below. (This follows on from my previous post about film making in the classroom). The areas I looked at where ICT, Literacy and The Arts and while the initial learnings are quite low level skills based learnings it quickly develops into deeper learnings

Here is the list feel free to add or argue against it.

Demonstrated Learning According to VELS  in the areas of Literacy, ICT

Music and the Arts (Up to level 6)

1. Mouse Skills

2. Ability to locate websites (to upload video)

3. Ability to create graphics

4. File Naming and saving

5. Linking and communication between up to three different programs

6. Search engine familiarization

7. Use of Digital Cameras and tripods

8. Rendering

9. Use of concept mapping tools

10. Use of graphic organization program

11. Developing electronic portfolio

12. Understanding Networks

13. In depth use of formatting ideas to suit an audience

14. Demonstrates original ideas

15. Documents original ideas

16. Sharing information with peers

17. Demonstrate an understanding of 2 dimensional art

18. Use of code to imbed data

19. Editing to better represent ideas

20. Script writing with intended audience

21. Demonstrate understanding of narrative

22. Cinematography

23. Apply music and other abstract concepts to add meaning

24. Applying imagery to infer meaning

25. Working collaboratively

26. Student centred learning

27. Demonstrate problem solving skills

28. Storyboarding

29. Character, plot and setting development

30. Note taking

31. Summarizing notes

32. Analysis of a popular genre

33. Synthesis of a popular genre

34. Vocabulary demonstration and spelling strategies

35. Preparing a case

36. Annotated storyboarding

37. Use of visual symbols and camera shots

38. Editing to distinguish core from peripheral ideas

39. Contextual understanding

40. Cohesion

41. Viewpoint

42. Control of linguistic structures and features

43. Appropriate choice of language

44. Use of flashback

45. Resolution of a text

46. Inclusion of complex sentences with embedded clauses and phrases

47. Complex text which may include experimentation with different techniques

EYT MOVIE from North Fitzroy Primary School on Vimeo.

This is a movie created by North Fitzroy Primary School grade 6 students as part of a Extend Your Talents program.

Movie Making and literacy skills

In term 3 this year I worked with a group of year 6 children with the idea of creating a movie. Movie making is fantastic because it works on so many levels that I think are important in regards to education.

The most basic level it works on is ICT skills. Kids will learn how to use hardware such as cameras, lights, tripods, zooms, microphones, mixing desks etc. They will also learn how to use software programs such as IMovie, final cut etc.

I Movie is a great place to start but if your moving into some more indepth learning in regards to multipl camera, the importance of sound etc you will quickly become frustrated with it and that is where a far more powerful program such as final cut express will become very useful. I was initially doubtful about the kids ability to use a more high end product such as FC but once again I was surprised to discover that with a very short introduction by myself the kids were all over the program instinctivly.

Other ICT skills include uploading, downloading, saving to a server, cutting of files, manipulation of files, integration of different software etc etc all part of the VELS expectancies for ICT.

But that is all base level learning on a far deeper level kids will be expected to create a narrative, manipulate that to suit the format of film, storyboard, gain an understanding of the language of film which includes ideas such as power that a camera angle can generate, rule of thirds and other film concepts. They are also learning the importance of music to the medium of film. Music is fulfilling a very different role to what they might be used to and should be treated differently. Also this is a great time to use sound as music that they might not normally associate with music. Scraping or scratching sounds or anything you like can all be arranged in a meaningful and powerful way to enhance the visual concepts. These are all powerful literacy concepts.

But beyond that againg there is the ideas of student centered learning. The kids are creating personal, meanigful things not another task set by the teacher. The teacher is acting merely as the facilitator, guiding the learning to a deeper place. The ownership of the product gives the students motivation and a greater sense of enjoyment which always enhances learning. In my role as teacher for this project I introduced the idea, showed them some simple concepts and ten basically handed it over to them, always assisting when needed and giving guidance when appropriate

Kids also need to learn how to create as part of a group. One person needs to be the director or leader who takes ultimate reponsibility, others need to fulfill important roles, such as actors, camera men editors etc for a successfully created product.

Finally filmmaking is a great way to use ICT to provide another medium for children to express their creativity and their thoughts. Creative expression is one of if not the most iportant part of life.  Humans have a desire to create and if we can use ICT to better enable children to do that while effectivly communicating their creations to others than that is fantastic..

Here is the movie.


This is a movie created by North Fitzroy Primary School grade 6 students as part of a Extend Your Talents program.

The Success Of Student Blogging

The success of student blogging.

As the joint ICT coordinator at NFPS along with Andrew Williamson we initiated a blogging program this year. In the space of six months we have managed to have every staff member start their own blog, every class room has its own blog, most departments have a blog and every student in the 3 to 6 levels have their own blog. While the process has been a large one in regards to organisation and PD it has proved to be extremely successful in a number of areas.

We have been looking for a way to integrate ICT across the school curriculum. Where it becomes an integral part of each curriculum strand rather than being a separate unit. This is how it is in the world and how it should be within a school structure as well.  Blogging has been one of the platforms that has helped us achieve this aim.

Secondly we were trying to move the school to be much more in focus with Web 2.0.

While the world has rapidly understood and accepted this change, bureaucracies are always slower on the uptake merely because of the way they are set up. Issues such as control and fear are constantly hindering the effective teaching of up to date practice in regards to ICT. While our school was doing OK in regards to creative use of computers (making movies, animations, podcasts etc.) these things were merely taking up server space and students and teachers were never sharing their learning and teaching. Blogging has become the platform that has allowed us to instantly overcome this issue (along with helping us solve our space issues). Teachers and students are now constantly posting their work weather that be in text form or using more of the digital literacies such as film, music etc. All of a sudden our podcasts became real podcasts that people from all over the world could hear rather than merely simulations.

This has had a flow on effect into other areas of interest to me. I am a big believer in not teaching applications. Applications should only be learnt at a point of need. When there is a demand the learning becomes more effective and real. Staff and students are now demanding more use of the digital video cameras because there is a real use for them rather than the trite reason of doing some subjects in teaching IMovie. All of a sudden cameras that have been still for years are now constantly booked out and we are needing to buy more.

This sharing of learning and knowledge is also something that excites me. As teachers we can move our profession on to a far deeper level if we combine our knowledge and it is through blogging that our teachers are able to simply and effectively do that. Successful lessons are filmed and instantly uploaded. This has also had the effect of introducing new communities to many of our staff and students. Social networking is the way the internet has moved in regards to communication yet it is still something that is frowned upon by our educational institutions.  The blogs have been a great introduction to many of our staff into the world of social networking and how it can be used beneficially.

The blogs have also been really beneficial in helping to link the various curriculums through the school. In my other role as a music specialist I have always been keen to find ways to link specialist programs into the who life of the school (rather than merely be seen as and APT provider for classroom teachers). Now the students are happily blogging about what they might do in my classroom or their art programs and specialist teachers can video or record classes or work upload those files to what ever file sharing program you use (we use fliggo for our school but if you have utube unblocked use that) and then email the classroom teachers the relevant URLs which can be passed onto the kids. This has greatly increased the profile of the work the kids are doing in specialist classes. Parents can see, classroom teachers can see and plan accordingly. This also applies to our support teachers and their programs.

There are numerous other benefits such as pushing towards student centred learning, authentic learning, allowing for greater display and pride in work, helping those with ICT phobia to get onboard etc and there are many ways to go about setting up your blogging program at school. We chose to go through the globalteacher global teacher program which I cant speak highly enough of.

Feel free to comment or pass on any advantages or disadvantages you have found with similar

teaching compsoition to kids

Over the term Andrew and I have been working with the level four kids devising their own compositions for mixed percussion groups.

The key concepts that we taught were:

1. The need for a bassline and its role – to hold the piece down harmonically and rhythmically.

2. A Melody line and what it does – adds character and individual taste to a composition – it’s the thing on top that gives spice.

3. An accompanying part either using a counter melody or chords and what it does – it enhances the melody and provides some substance.

4. An A section and a B section for interest sake – to provide variety for the listeners ear.

5. A Rhythm part.

The kids all worked in small groups of 5 and co-composed all the parts and then each person performed one part. Finally we filmed all the performances and did some quick editing using Final Cut Express

The kids love this and are all very confident in their ideas and with the idea of being able to compose. Marimbas and basic metalaphones are great to use when composing with kids because they are generally diatonic (all in the same key center) so allow kid to instantly play and sound quite good.

I often just encourage them to hit a couple of notes and decide if they like the combination of sounds and then they are off and running.

Children’s Compositions

Over the term Andrew and I have been working with the level four kids devising their own compositions for mixed percussion groups.

The key concepts that we taught were:

1. The need for a bassline and its role – to hold the piece down harmonically and rhythmically.

2. A Melody line and what it does – adds character and individual taste to a composition – it’s the thing on top that gives spice.

3. An accompanying part either using a counter melody or chords and what it does – it enhances the melody and provides some substance.

4. An A section and a B section for interest sake – to provide variety for the listeners ear.

5. A Rhythm part.

The kids all worked in small groups of 5 and co-composed all the parts and then each person performed one part. Finally we filmed all the performances and did some quick editing using Final Cut Express

The kids love this and are all very confident in their ideas and with the idea of being able to compose. Marimbas and basic metalaphones are great to use when composing with kids because they are generally diatonic (all in the same key center) so allow kid to instantly play and sound quite good.

I often just encourage them to hit a couple of notes and decide if they like the combination of sounds and then they are off and running.

Grade 6 Original compositions from Kynan Robinson on Vimeo.

Minimalism, Clock Time, Stasis and Repetition in The music of The Escalators


As the sampler/turntables were the instruments that were the key to the music being composed, the music that was written for all the other instruments had to be subservient to the sound produced by the them. One of the roles of the other instruments was to set up a musical environment that the turntablist could work within or over. While the parts of the other instruments also had other roles to play, those roles could never overrule the sampler’s sound. The idea for the band’s repertoire and performance style was to play a number of quite long pieces (over 20 minutes in length) interspersed by short ones that lasted no longer than about two minutes. (The reason for the short pieces will be better explained in chapter 2.4.) Much of the music written for the other instruments contained the characteristics of minimalist music. These characteristics include the notions of stasis, repetition, nonlinearity and time stretching.

When dealing with memory in composition I believe it is important to create an atmosphere that attempts to play on the notions of clock time. Memory is so placed in a notion of time that providing an atmosphere that alters clock time assists in the rearrangement of those memories (memories that have been triggered by the samples). Music that goes for a long period of time and is of a repetitive nature starts to alter people’s perceptions of real time. What might seem like 5 minutes can easily be 20 minutes. What might seem like 20 can have actually have been 20. As Bob Snyder states, “Time is an abstract construction of the human mind based on aspects of memory and the concept of an enduring self. Time isn’t experienced in the same way that physical objects are experienced. Rather as humans our subjective notion of time is constructed from our perceptions of objects and events and its qualities at a given moment depend on the relationship between these perceptions. Indeed what we perceive in a given amount of time to some extent determines our sense of the length of that time” (Snyder 2000, 212).
As humans we tune out behavior to the environments we live in and events within that environment act as clocks for us to synchronize to (Michon 1985, 28-32).
Effecting factors on our memory and perception of time include:
1. Duration.
2. Succession.
3. Temporal perspective or the construction of a linear ordering.

In writing the music to be performed by the other instruments (apart from the turntables) I was attempting to work with all three of these factors. Musically there has been much work done in this area with compositions that include all of these concepts. Compositions that are long in duration, compositions that play with the natural idea of an ordering of events and nonlinear music.

Iannis Xenakis Bohor (1962) is a piece that is both nonlinear in construction and works on the notions of duration in an attempt to effect perceptions of clock time. In describing this music Jonathon Kramer says, “ It seems to have adopted the requirements of moments (via stasis) as their entire essence. When the moment becomes the piece, discontinuity disappears in favor of total, possibly unchanging, consistency. The result is a single present stretched out into an enormous duration, a potential infinite now that none the less feels like an instant…Thus I called the time sense invoked by such music ‘vertical” (Kramer 1988, 55).

After reading of Morton Feldman’s Triadic Memories (1981), described as surgery of memory I started to think how I could effectively lengthen my pieces. David Toop says about Feldman’s piece “their organization of lengthy durations is compelling, yet the divisions between notes, those absences we call silence, demand a huge effort of memory in order to retain a grasp of this unfolding structure (Toop 2004, 90). This gives it an accumulative effect of time frozen. This was the effect I was after with the parts written for the other instruments. If I could play with the notion of memories within the structure of the music as well as through the manipulation of samples themselves it would give the music much more strength.

Steve Reich and Terry Riley’s idea of time contradicts traditional Western Music, in which the musical argument is the result of a subdivision of time. A lot of their music is ‘vertical’ in nature. When explaining vertical music Kramer states “ A vertically perceived piece does not exhibit large scale closure. It does not begin but merely starts. It does not build to a climax, does not purposefully set up internal expectations, does not seek to fulfill any expectations that might arise accidentally, does not build or release tension and does not end but simply ceases. A vertically conceived piece defines its sound world early in its performance and stays within the limits it chooses. Respecting the self imposed boundaries is essential because any move outside these limits would be perceived as a temporal articulation of considerable structural import and would therefore destroy the verticality of time (Kramer 1988, 55). In a similar way to these composers I am attempting to move to what Wim Mertens describes as “the idea of time as being an empty one so that a higher level of macro time can be reached” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 311).

For instance I attempted to deal with the notion of “timestretching and memory” in what was composed for the trumpet and trombone in the piece Log Lady. The basic structure is: the brass instruments play a melody and then rest for as long as I, the leader, can mentally hold out before bringing in the second melody. In using the phrase “mentally hold out” I am referring to the onstage pressure one feels as bandleader to move the music forward and to bring in the next section. That pressure can emanate from the audience, the musicians on stage or from ones own self and preconceived ideas of what makes for good music. In the rest period the remainder of the band continues to play as instructed. Their parts are repetitive in nature. They achieve stasis by never altering in regards to intensity of playing and dynamics. Each melody (written for the trumpet and trombone) is an expansion on the last. I took the opening 2 phrases, a B flat leading to C and started interspersing them between each new phrase. The idea of the new phrase is to build in length as another note of the 12-tone scale is added. Each phrase also develops rhythmically on the previous phrase. So I interspersed them with the beginning two notes and always stretched the length of those two notes out as well. Each phrase or melody is referencing the previous phrase and the phrases that have gone before. This gives the listener the feeling of familiarity while stretching that idea and subsequently stretching time.

There is repetition in the melodic structure but only after a long time (approximately twenty to twenty five minutes) and each repetition isn’t quite exact. Log Lady as well as the other lengthy pieces also apply the common “Aleph” type techniques which are a type of texture that transcends time by juxtaposing fast tempi and slow melodies (Trochimczyk 2002, 278). This is a technique used by Louis Andriessen in his masterwork De Staat (1972 – 1974) and De Tijd (1979-1981).

De Tidj (1979 – 1981) is Andriessen’s attempt to capture the essence of timelessness or where real time stands still (eternity). He devised many techniques in an attempt to replicate this ambience of eternity or timelessness. He speaks of attempting to create a situation of “sustained, glorified musical motionlessness…. A feeling that time had ceased to exist; the sensation of an eternal moment.” (Trochimczyk 2002, 113) . His inspiration for this was the writing of St Augustine. Augustine says,

“ If only their minds could be seized and held steady, they would be still for a while and for that small moment they would glimpse the splendor of eternity which is forever still. They would contrast it with time, which is never still, and see that it is not comparable. They would see that time derives it’s length only from a great number of movements constantly following one another into the past because they cannot all continue at once. But in eternity nothing moves into the past, because they cannot all continue at once. The past is always driven on by the future, the future always follows on the heels of the past, and both the past and the future have their beginning and end in the eternal present.”

This feeling of stillness or stasis is what Andriessen is attempting and what I also am attempting in my music. It is obviously an impossibility but the illusion is achievable.

Referencing some of Andriessen’s investigation’s into time manipulation I have built slight accelerations and decelerations into my drum patterns across almost all of the pieces written for The Escalators. There are moments where the drum pattern pushes slightly in front of the beat and others where it deliberately falls off the beat while the bass is unmoving. The drums circle the beat as it were, but over a great space of time so it is virtually unnoticeable. Andriessen speaks of the need to fix attention, since without attention time doesn’t exist at all. He built scarcely noticeable accelerations into the motion which precisely create the impression that everything remains the same but not quite the same; more in the way cathedral towers are the same and yet not the same. (Trochimczyk 2002, 124)

When talking about repetition in hip hop music Paul Miller states, “The repetitive nature of the music allows for the unfolding of clock time in a recursive spatial arrangement of tones that has parallels in the world of architecture where structural integrity requires the modular deployment of building materials to create a buildings framework.” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 350).

Repetition as a technique is also being used in my music for all the same reasons that many minimalist composers use repetition. Composers such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Phillip Glass as well as Techno producers Derrick May, Carl Craig and Kevin Saunderson who have popularized the technique. By using repetition these composers are discarding and challenging the traditional harmonic functional ideas of tension and release as well as the musical narratives that go with them. It is used to try to eradicate the expression of subjective feelings through the music. It is used to move beyond the linkages of clock time and real life experience with the music. As stated by Ron Rosenbaum, “It is trying to create an extra historical experience of time brought about by discarding teleological and dramatic elements” (Ron Rosenbaum in Cox and Warner 2004, 309). It is attempting to express nothing except for itself. Minimalist music tends to restrict itself to a small number of ideas while stretching those ideas over a long period of time. Kyle Gann says “The length of the work actually underlines the intense restriction of materials: you might write a four minute piece using only seven pitches and no one would notice, but write a 30-minute piece, and the austere limitations become a major phenomenon of the composition. (in Cox and Warner 2004, 299).

In the use of repetitious grooves I am allowing the listener a way in, giving their ear something familiar as an access point. However by locking the groove completely, almost in the way electronic instruments loop, I intend the listener to move into an area of discomfort. The music becomes vertical in nature rather than linear. This repetition can be found in the way the drums are performed on Log Lady. The ride cymbal was to be played in a fast continual fashion. The drummer was instructed not to move from the original dynamic setting and technique used on the ride cymbal. Only after 10 minutes is he allowed to add a second drum (say the bass drum) and this must then lock in the same fashion as the ride cymbal. While doing this on percussion I want the bass player to play sliding grooves that both move the time and placement of the ‘one’. These types of parameters for all the instruments were set to avoid clichéd ‘groove’ sounds.

Sampling and Memory within The Escalators

Chapter wo from my thesis relates to Sampling and Memory. If you want to hear the music you can go to the bands myspace page. Click on the link.

The sampler/ turntablist was the key position in The Escalators and in many ways his sound was the most important sound in the ensemble. Broadly defined, turntabilism is a musical practice in which prerecorded phonograph disks are manipulated in live performance. DJ Babu a member of the DJ crew the Beat Junkies introduced the term in 1995. The name distinguishes the turntablist from the traditional DJ, someone who plays records but is not traditionally thought of as a musician. Although turntablists consider themselves musicians their originality is sometimes questioned because they perform on machines designed for automatic playback. The use of the term “ism” therefore, lends weight to the practice, suggesting an art form with a cohesive doctrine it confers a seriousness that demands respect. (Katz 1970, 115-116)

John Oswald described the art in this way: “A phonograph in the hands of a ‘hiphop/scratch’ artist who plays a record like an electronic washboard with phonographic needle as a plectrum, produces sounds which are unique and not reproduced — the record player becomes a musical instrument.” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 132).
The choice of a turntablist DJ Element was ideal. He had developed a great number of technical skills through his years as a “battling” DJ but he also had a wide appreciation of art and art practice, sensitizing him to the need for collaboration. Many of the DJs I had previously worked with had developed their own sound and technique or set of DJ tricks and were unwilling to adapt to new ideas presented to them. He was a turntablist that had the capacity to develop new techniques depending on the sounds required from him. Many DJs develop a personalized library of sound sources and are reluctant to move beyond them. These sample libraries are comparable to the collection of “licks” used by jazz musicians. The escalators project required a DJ that would bring his own library but would be willing to add to it on my request. DJ Element was perfect for this role. We spoke at length about the differing sounds required.

For a number of years now, I have been creating music that is reliant on digital samples, both in a live context and studio context. Katz defines digital sampling as “ a type of computer synthesis in which sound is rendered into data, data that in turn comprise instructions for reconstructing into sound. Sampling is typically regarded as a type of musical quotation, usually of one pop song by another, but it encompasses the digital incorporation of any prerecorded sound into a new recorded work” (Katz 1970, 138). The sampler as a machine has a long history that started with the Singing Keyboard made in 1936, a machine intended to store sounds that could be linked to film, as well as the Noisegraph, the Dramagraph, the Kinematophone, the Soundograph and the Excelsior Sound Effect Cabinet, all machines that employed some sort of disk or other mechanism to store various sound effects and were all put to work in the Hollywood cartoon tape editing techniques developed by film editors (Chanan 1995, 143). Appropriating hundreds of bits and pieces of other peoples work to generate new sounds by remixing them is a technique very common in the hip-hop community. This includes artists such as DJ Shadow who released a seminal sample based album entitled Endtroducing (1995). However, prior to that it is a technique used widely by composers such as Pierre Schaeffer with his musique concrete compositions of the 1950s, Gavin Bryars in his piece Plus Minus which incorporates a collage of the slow movement of Schubert’s C Major String Quartet and Barry Ryon’s pop song Eloise (1969) as well as John Oswald’s seminal recordings entitled Plunder phonics (1989).

My interest in sample-based music arose from my work with Des Peres, a Melbourne based band in which I participate as composer and leader. Des Peres recorded and released a number of albums that are either sample heavy or entirely created using samples which have been garnered from my own and others record collections. Sampled based music is a music that allows for great freedom. A composer can take sounds from anywhere, mix them together and then apply their own touch. The restriction of the samples themselves is offset by the manipulated recontextualisation that can take place. It is a form of music that ignores the rules of genre. Rather it leads to the creation of new genres. Style is placed upon style, classical is placed upon rock beats, folk or country is placed all over jazz drumming, fusion bass lines are interspersed with blues guitar and its all mixed together.

The main limitations with what might happen, is the creativity of the composer. One’s limits usually stem from ones imagination rather than one’s talent. It is an idea that seems to build on the statements made by Cage with his piece Imaginary Landscape (1939). His composition consisted of chance recontextualisations using turntables and radios. In his famous essay, “Experimental Music” he says, “Any sound may occur in any combination and in any continuity.” For Cage the sounds of one environment were meant to be taken out of context and shifted through many new ones.

My interest in sampling with respect to The Escalators has narrowed to its relationship with human memory. The questions I am interested in include:
1. what takes place in perception when a person hears a sample?
2. what is happening within a persons memory when sounds that are familiar to them are recontextualized?
3. whenever a turntablist or sampler is used in music are they making a direct correlation to a human memory?

The primary sound source for the instrument is past recordings. These recordings are chosen because of the direct link they have to memory makeup of both the performer (turntablist) and the listener. Paul D Miller states “DJ culture is all about recombinant potential. It has as a central feature a eugenics of the imagination. Each and every source sample is fragmented and bereft of prior meaning – kind of like a future without a past. The samples are given meaning only when re-presented in the assemblage of the mix” (in Cox and Warner 2004, 349-350). The meaning held in memory is being remixed, changed, altered, made new, given new meaning, bettered or worsened.

Furthermore, Miller “considers sample mixes to be mood sculptures operating in a recombinant fashion. Based on the notion that all sonic material can be manipulated with the same ease that computers now generate composite images, the DJ or sample reliant composer combines the musical expression of other musicians with their own and in the process creates a seamless flow of music. The sampler can be seen both as a custodian and questioner of aural history, constantly crashing different voices and traditions together to give a reinterpretation of history (or memory) that is a contemporary and personal commentary” (in Cox and Miller 2004, 351). The choice of the samples is always significant. This was so for The Escalators.

A human memory is, in the phrase of eminent psychologist Daniel L Schachter, a “temporary constellation of activity” – a necessarily approximate excitation of neural circuits that bind a set of sensory images and semantic data into the momentary sensation of a remembered whole. These images and data are seldom the exclusive property of one particular memory. So when one hears a familiar sound, for example a two second excerpt from Madonna’s song Like a Virgin (1985), what the memory of that consists of is a set of hardwired neural connections among the pertinent regions of the brain, and a predisposition for the entire constellation to light up when any part of the circuit is stimulated. The sound of a Madonna sample acts as a trigger for the memory that is deeply rooted in each individuals life experience and acts as a kind of oral history. Each time it is heard it enforces the constellation of images and knowledge that constitute that memory and each hearing further strengthens the dendritic connections among its components, further encouraging the firing of that specific set of synapses. (Franzin 2002, 8-9) . Each human memory is deeply locked into a system of personal referencing, i.e. a network. Ken Jordon states, “Once every sound had a distinct source. A door slammed shut, a horn was blown, a guitar was strummed. Audio came from a discreet event; it was tied to a discernable action. Networked music challenges this notion by displacing sound from its origin, moving audio freely from one location to another, giving it a presence in and of itself” (in Miller and Jordon 2008, 104). Sample-based music is a form of networked music, linking into the networks of the past and creating new networks to be referenced in the future.

The conditioning of each individual through genetic, cultural, religious, psychological, and linguistic information forms a separate and unique unit. These can be known because of their differences and their connections to those outside themselves. Each fragment has its own network with its own intentions, time, space and history. (David Shea Arcana p146). Sample based music connects into this idea as it is music of arrangement rather than direct invention per se. This is true for all acts of creation but sample-based music is one of the more obvious. Sample based music takes its sound sources from an original setting and then places them within a new one. It rearranges the meanings given to the original sound source based on each individuals network of understanding related to the original sound source.

Human memory consists of three processes: echoic memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. Bob Snyder in his book Music and Memory links these three phases with three corresponding time levels of musical organization
1. level of event fusion
2. the melodic and rhythmic level
3. the formal level (Snyder 2000, 3).

At the echoic level the inner ear converts sound into trains of nerve impulses that represent frequency and amplitude of individual acoustic vibrations (Buser and Imbert 1992, 156-171). At this moment the data is uncategorized and raw but through processes called feature extraction and perceptual binding the data is perceptually categorized. (Bregman 1990, 213-394) ( Bharucha 1999, 413-418). These categories or events are placed into groups based on similarity and proximity. These events subsequently activate the parts of long-term memory, which are activated by similar events in the past.
As Snyder states, “Called conceptual categories these long term memories comprise knowledge about the events that evoked them and consist of content usually not in conscious awareness, which must be retrieved from the unconscious” (Snyder 2000, 4).

The formal level is where the music for The Escalators is attempting to work especially with regard to syntax. Syntax is sets of relations between identifiable patterns (Snyder 2004, 200). Musically that can include ideas of genre/style or expected patterns within a piece. Snyder states “primary parameters are central to the creation of syntax because they are the aspects of music by which patterns are identified and related to each other” (Snyder 2004,200).

Syntax is made possible by categorisation and memory. Musical syntax consists of learned rules that generate certain types of patterns or gestures that in turn can signify specific types of musical functions. Sampling is primarily concerned with the syntax of genre. Genre or style is a syntax that depends on the perception of patterns occurring at different times as very similar or identical. Syntax depends on the perception of identity.
Sampling through the means of displacement would alter a person’s syntax within their memory. Music provides a sensory experience that activates memory. Meaningful reception of a musical message depends on appropriate context in memory, a repertoire of schemas and categories that are both personally and culturally activated (Noth 1990, 176-180).

In the original choice of samples made for The Escalators a statement is made. I am attempting to influence the listener to make a selection from their memory schemata that is hopefully similar to mine. I am presuming they will all be able to identify the samples from the culture from which extracted. It is through the use of memory principles such as similarity, proximity and continuity that various pattern units are marked out. As higher-level relations between basic pattern units involving long-term memory enter the picture the listener’s personal and cultural schemas begin to have an influence (Snyder 2000, 208). It is in the recontextualisation and displacement of the sample that memory sabotage occurs.

Snyder states that music can be divided into two categories based on the use of memory:
1. music that attempts to exploit long term memory by building up hierarchical and associative mental representations of large time structures
2. music that attempts to sabotage recognition and expectation by frustrating recollection and anticipation, thereby intensifying the local order of the present.

Sample based music falls defiantly into the second category. The continual genre bending of the music creates a kind of anticategorisation technique that creates sounds that cannot be easily framed in the listeners memory system. The rapidly changing samples in new settings create a nuance overload where every sound is a new event and cannot be easily identified as being in the same category as the last sound/event (Snyder 2000, 236). Discontinuities are commonplace in Western art of the 20th century, from the cubist art through to the splicing techniques used in film.

With The Escalators I have injected a significant number of chosen samples into the framework of the music. These samples that play with the ideas of discontinuity and recontextualisation have been sourced from the world of popular culture, things such as pop music, film soundtracks and TV bites. I have also used samples obtained from field recording. These are to be used as “Sound Markers” (Toop 2004, 94). The field recordings were of sounds such as fire, church bells, doors opening and shutting and footsteps. Each sample has preconceived meaning to most audience members.

Michael Forester describes “sound markers” as certain sounds or sound conglomerates that become lodged in memory as markers of security “The sound of the family moving around the house gives me a sense of security and belonging,” sounds can exert a powerful sense of centeredness, or perhaps push a door open within a darkened mind, offering a faint sense of escape. (Toop 2004, 94). The sounds of the church bell, fire and footsteps were to be my own sound markers to be used within the framework of The Escalators. These common sounds, have meanings for every member of the audience and would provide a sense of aural security. They also could be manipulated in the context of a musical performance.

What happens when these sounds are inserted into the musical performance while constantly manipulating and distorting them? A sense of the familiar shifted sideways should result. Of the piece Jesus Blood Never Fails Me Yet (1974) in which Bryars sampled the singing of an old London tramp, looped it and then composed an accompanying chamber orchestra score, he says the methodology was ‘the idea of assemblage, and taking iconic things and recycling them.’ (in Toop 2004 161).

The music of The Escalators was to be always creating a sense of the familiar simultaneously always pulling the listener into a state of unease. The recontextualising of memories through sampling will naturally have this effect.

Always shifting things slightly off the axis they are meant to sit on.

Movie making, soundtracks, literacy the whole lot

I’ve uploaded a video (below) that gives you an example of something I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.
This was a task I was doing with grade 6 students that used Imovie and Garageband, two great programs that come with the ILife bundle for macs.
The kids imported photos into IMovie, they wrote a short story that related to their selection of photos and recorded that story in using the recording facilities within IMovie. finally they wrote a soundtrack in Garageband to accompany the movie (in Garageband) exported the music as an MP3 dragged it into I Movie and off we went. We talked a lot about the appropriateness of the music to the film, the role of the soundtrack and how it was to enhance the visuals not overwhelm them.
We also had a huge number of technical issues which is often the case and actually quite beneficial for the students to experience.

There was so many things involved in this project such as literacy skills (creative writing), editing, music composition, multimodal learning, authentic learning, investigation and presentation, rendering, teamwork, saving to a network, folder creation, troubleshooting technical issues, leadership, importing and exporting of files, learning different file types.

Music ICT Art Literacy the whole bang lot

A great idea that works on so many levels that Im doing with my Level 4 students at North Fitzroy Primary School Thanks to Andrew Williamson for the initial idea

The kids spent some of time choosing photos that they could use to create a visual story. I created a folder and placed about 100 random photos in there. The kids then copied and pasted the photos they wanted to use  into a folder they had created on the server. I think it is a really important  to teach ICT organizational skills and saves lots of headaches down the track.  Once that was done, the kids are going to import the photos and organize them in IMovie so that a clear narrative can be followed.

Soundtracks will then be created in garage band that will be used to enhane the narrative and finally if it is required audio recordings will be made directly into I Movie that will further enhance the narrative.

I guess the way to expand this is to hav the kids take their own photos.

Finally the project will be rendered down and placed into the kids own personal blogs.