Continuing our guest blogs, here are some thoughts on the school workshops for Sounding the Deep. First we have some words from Karen Constantine (educational coordinator for the HPO Project Team), followed by the workshop notes of Niall Thomas (a postgraduate student at Hull University, delivering workshops with a group of fellow students).
Karen Constantine writes:
Sounding the Deep is an extraordinary contemporary music project that will culminate in a special performance on March 17, 2012, in Hull City Hall. The Hull Philharmonic Orchestra has teamed up with composer, Nigel Morgan, who has created a 20-minute piece for orchestra and bass voice, and six Shoals – shorter complementary pieces to be performed by local youth ensembles.
Students from the Hull University Creative Music Technology masters degree course are also involved, providing an electroacoustic dimension to the work. As part of the HPO’s extended constitutional aims to embrace music education, we have invited the students to share some of their exciting and innovative work with school and college pupils.
In order for pupils to gain most benefit from these workshops, Nigel Morgan has collated material with weblinks, developing the understanding of the potential role of electroacoustics and other such devices. This is located on the Sounding the Deep website at www.soundingthedeep.co.uk. It could be accessed independently by the students prior to the workshop and is, in no way, designed to form part of any lesson. There will be further material available to reinforce and develop this after the workshops have been delivered.
On behalf of the HPO Project Team for Sounding the Deep, I hope you gain insight into a new musical experience and also join us for the complete performance on March 17.
Niall Thomas writes:
Driffield Secondary School – GCSE/AS/A2 Music
Introduction to Computer Music
Driffield School was lucky enough to be equipped with 20 or more laptops for the music students to use. This was a great resource! This gave us another aspect to work on with the students; live improvisation of electronic music.
We have been performing as part of SEALE, (Scarborough Electroacoustic Laptop Ensemble) so we brought this experience to the workshop. We installed a simple Max MSP patch on each of the schools laptops which enabled a number of pitch and granular synthesis processes to be applied to a selection of samples. This again allowed us to tie into the Shoals project, using samples that we have used ourselves within the compositional process.
The patch, Granular Play, allows for scrubbing through sounds effecting pitch and time. This is great for the introduction of musical gesture in an electroacoustic process, which was the focus of this workshop.
We started with simple exercises. Each person would create a gesture using the same sound and process that the next person in the circle would then have to emulate, ‘Chinese Whispers’ if you like. This makes the students focus on listening to gesture and then recreating it in a hands-on way, using a laptop trackpad. The idea is start off slowly focussing on the gestures closely, then to pick up speed around the circle so it eventually becomes a continuous movement. This in itself plays on the idea of ‘waves’ and fluidity, something we considered to be important when composing for Shoals.
The Granular Play patch enabled for a number of sounds to be selected enabling the group to spend the rest of the workshop developing ideas and coming together for a performance to close the session.
South Hunsley – GCSE Music
Vocal Soundscape and Music Technology Introduction
This workshop consisted of a number of elements. The theme was to stick closely to the compositional work we had been doing for Shoals, as well as showing students the creative potential of simple technology.
To structure this, we worked through a series of Vocal exercises, building upon sounds we used as source material (crashing waves, animal sounds, creaking, wind etc). This was then recorded, and played back across a diffusion system, so that the group could hear themselves and the soundscapes they were creating with their voices.
The next part introduced them to the sound processing ideas and methods we used compositionally. As the vocals recordings were played back we demonstrated the creative possibilities, emphasising sounds within space and gestural elements. This involved using Ableton Live and a MIDI control surface to trigger sections of recorded material and mix in effects (granular delays, frequency resonators and live time stretch processes). This gave the students a hand on experience that gave them the opportunity to be creative with sound in a new way.
The penultimate element of the workshop was to introduce Robert Francis’ Poem Deep Sea Diver to the students. The poem’s significance was explained and we spoke about how it influenced our compositional methods for Shoals. We then had a number of students volunteer to read the poem into a microphone which was then controlled and processed with a Kaoss Pad. This gave the students another new way of handling sound, as well as being able to interact, on a creative level, with the words on the page. The pitch and stretching controls with the Kaoss pad seemed very popular!
The final part of the afternoon was spent attempting a performance with encompassed all elements that the students has learned. The group split off into the areas that each students personally found most interesting and improvised for a small amount of time. When a few interesting ideas had been found we led the students through the process of structuring the performance, considering dynamics, light and shade, gestures that were reactive and using the diffusion system to create spatial ideas. We had time to move the group around and came up with two different performances of the soundscape/narration that worked really well and had some really inspirational outcomes.
Wyke College – AS/A2 Music Technology
Introduction to Sonic Arts
In this workshop we focussed on the studio compositional aspects to Shoals. After liaising with the tutor it was clear that the students had an exceptional knowledge of Music Technology processes and computer based music. To expand on what they already knew we brought with us quick examples of all of our retrospective work. We gave a brief introduction to our progress from Undergraduate to Masters level degree and then introduced the Shoals project.
The task for the students was simple: using three selected samples produce whatever music you like, but consider gesture and think about the sound more closely than perhaps you would on first listen. The students were then left to work for 30 minutes on their pieces. Whilst they worked we asked how each student was getting on and tried to introduced the creative use of time processing/stretching and pitch layering to create layers of sound, but it was encouraging to see the students working effectively and independently.
The creativity was outstanding. Not one student produced anything similar to anyone else, with a really varied range of outputs. We had melodic pieces created from Seagull cacophony; with each shriek mapped to a keyboard and ‘played’, drum and bass using waves crashes and some really interesting textures and loops created from rhythmic selection of ambient sounds. The students were left with the samples and encouraged to consider working on the pieces more, really focussing on what actually constitutes a sound.
Read Niall’s earlier blog on Shoals here.