Several years back, I was introduced to the music and creativity of Lasse Gjertsen at a conference. When I started teaching a music technology class in Autumn 2012, I thought that my students would really enjoy trying to create their own version of his music. As the projects started coming in, I was blown away by the creativity on display. Every student took a different direction on the project, and everybody ended up with something musical.
We decided to use Audacity for this project. It’s free, feature-rich, and easy enough for middle school students to pick up and use. I also decided that for the first time through the project, I’d provide everybody with a “sound bank” from which they would create their composition. The students had to import the sound bank as an MP3 file, and copy/paste their desired sounds into new tracks to create their composition. Students were free to modify those sounds as they saw fit, but they had to figure out a way to use them all at least once.
The unit started with a basic tutorial on Audacity. Students learned how to import MP3s, cut/copy/paste, use the envelope tool to control volume, and how to apply various effects. After a couple classes of modelling and working together to create some short pieces as a class, the students were unleashed to work on their own projects.
Every student in class was working from the same set out of sounds: a bank of eight percussion sounds, and a recording of the C major scale played on a piano. With such a limited number of sounds to choose from, I was a little worried that the submitted projects would end up being very similar.
I could not have been more wrong.
Here are two examples of student work on this project.
This student generally steered clear of all of the effects available in Audacity. Instead, they elected to create a melodic hook using the piano sounds available to them, and build their composition around that.
This student decided to explore the effects in great depth, and used them to create unique timbres and complex rhythms.
Both projects are examples of great student work, and yet working from the same audio palette, both projects ended up on very different ends of the spectrum.
The Trombonist’s Mouthpiece by Joe Guarr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License