Speed Composing:Latin

In my last two blogs, I explained the new game/contest we are playing in my most advanced class called “Speed Composing”. Basically kids have 30 minutes to write a minimum of 16 measures of music in a specific style. For more information on this game/contest, see my blogs Speed Composing and Speed Composing 2. The kids wanted to add “Latin” as a genre for the competition. I gave them three days to pick a specific Latin style and do the research on that style.

For the last three days, students who never come to the Lab any time but during class were showing up and asking for help. “Miss, is this Mambo”? “Can you play that samba bell pattern for me”? “How slow is Cha Cha Cha”? When it was time for class, they came running in to get a head start on the contest. Hey, I had a $15 iTunes gift card going to the winner! We had nine kids participate but not all of them did the research and used authentic beats. You know, add a shaker and a conga part then call that “Latin”. So, those were disqualified. This time, instead of the “applause meter” as a means of voting, the kids cast their votes for the winner on slips of paper.

Did they learn something? You decide. Hold your cursor on a name below and click to hear the music!

THIS MUSIC IS NOT PART OF THE CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. ALL MUSIC IS PROPERTY OF THE COMPOSER AND SUBJECT TO ALL APPLICABLE LAWS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO USE IT ALL OR IN PART, PLEASE CONTACT ME SO I CAN PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH THE COMPOSER.

Mike: Flamenco

Kenny: Tango

Zach: Cha Cha Cha

Evan: Samba/Danzon

Chris: Samba

Gia: Samba

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Speed Composing 2

We just completed session three of “Speed Composing” in my advanced class. This is going really great! It’s very interesting to hear what they consider a particular genre. Yesterday was “Classic Rock” and today was”Industrial”. For more information, see my first blog on Speed Composing.

Here are some pieces from today’s competition:

THIS MUSIC IS NOT PART OF THE CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. ALL MUSIC IS PROPERTY OF THE COMPOSER AND SUBJECT TO ALL APPLICABLE LAWS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO USE IT ALL OR IN PART, PLEASE CONTACT ME SO I CAN PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH THE COMPOSER.

Mike’s Industrial

Karol’s Industrial

Zach’s Industrial

Chris’s Industrial

Common! Add a comment and let me know

which one you liked the best!

I decided to slip some authenticity into our next contest. The kids wanted to add “Latin” as a genre for the competition. I just can’t have them add a shaker and a timbale solo and let them call that “Latin” (I studied congas in Spanish Harlem with Frank Malabe)! Do you think at this point in the semester they want me to teach a lesson on the different styles of Latin music? So,I decided to trick them into doing a little research and learning something on their own. To prepare for our next class, “Speed Composing: Latin”, we listed a whole bunch of “Latin” styles on the board; Mambo, Samba, Rhumba, Tango, Cumbia, etc. and the kids have a couple of days to research the style of their choice and have some idea of what they might compose when they get here. The parameters are that they can’t bring in a file composed outside of class, they MUST use authentic rhythms of the genre they choose but they can “update” the style with contemporary instruments available in Logic Pro (we use version 8/Studio). In other words, it must be authentic in the rhythms used for the specific genre but it doesn’t have to sound like Rick Ricardo’s band is playing it! To sweeten the pot (to encourage them to actually do the research), I am throwing in a $10 iTunes gift card to the winner! I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Teaching Basic Audio Through Podcasting: Part 1, The Speech Project

Podcasting is a great way to introduce students to the basics of recording, editing and mixing audio. By the time my students get to podcasting, year 2 or 3 of my class, they have had a lot of experience composing and mixing MIDI sequences created in GarageBand and Logic. Recording, editing and processing audio is a whole new ball game. I break it down into a few projects that teach the basics of everything they need to know about audio before they produce their own podcast.

The Speech Project introduces students to prerecorded audio and how to edit, process and mix audio for clarity with music underscoring. Basically, the assignment is to incorporate one or more prerecorded speeches into self-composed music. The music needs to be appropriate to the speech or the point of the piece. They cannot use the speech in its entirety so they need to make selections and edit the audio files. I distribute a few dozen pre-selected speeches as aiff audio files via our Mac Network shared folders. The speeches cover a wide array of topics including politics, early sound recordings, poets reading selections of their works, baseball, the moon landing, space travel and Civil Rights era speeches. Students listen to them via iTunes and can then import the ones they want into Logic. The assignment is very open-ended and allows students a great deal of leeway and creativity. Students can underscore parts of the speech, combine different speeches, use snippets of the speech rhythmically, any combination or any other means they can think of. The results are amazing as students often transform the original intentions of the words into a new idea they create in the piece and highlight their new creation with music.

Additionally, students now need to learn about plug-ins. Compression, EQ and Noise Reduction are just a few of the basic processing tools needed to clarify the audio so it can be heard over the music without pushing the volume. Students can then explore effects such as Reverb and Delay. How about using a Guitar Amp Simulator on the spoken word? They are only limited by their imagination and the amount of RAM on their computer!

Next time, The Commercial Project: An Introduction to Recording Audio.

A technical note: It is best to have the highest quality audio files, aiff or wav, for students to edit and manipulate as opposed to MP3. When you load an MP3 into an audio editing program, it will automatically convert it into aiff or wav. That means it will extrapolate the missing information in the MP3 and fill it in according to the conversion algorithm. You might as well start with the best source file you can rather than leave it to the program to “fill in the blanks”.

A legal note: You can use these speeches for educational purposes but be careful if you want to use them in a podcast. They may not be public domain.

Sources for speeches:

  • I went to the local library and borrowed a collection of speeches on CD/DVD. I could choose the ones I wanted to distribute to my students and download them in the highest quality audio format.
  • http://bclacademicaudio.blogspot.com/ This is the Bloomfield College (NJ) Library’s blog for audio & video files that may be considered “academic” in nature: lectures; readings; literature; and, discussions.
  • http://www.americanrhetoric.com/ A database of and index to 5000+ full text, audio and video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two.