Over the next few weeks, we’re running guest posts from participants in this summer’s Go Compose project. First, here’s Caro C with her reflections upon running the Introduction to electronic music production weekend.
On my weekend of the richly packed programme of Go Compose 2019 courses, I wanted to offer a space to develop some of the core skills for being a music composer, electronic music producer and sound engineer. Yes, all that in one weekend.
For this I use the GarageBand app – now free on iPad and iPhone. I have found this to be the most accessible platform with its touch screen and therefore more kinaesthetic approach to composition, production and engineering.
I think it takes time to make a computer musical and want the experience to be as hands on and actively working with sound as possible. I also hope participants are most likely to be able to carry on and further their study and passion for sound and music after the weekend if they can access an iPhone or iPad. Apparently Gorillaz made the demo of their last album on GarageBand, so it can be a powerful sound engineering tool.
I was graced with a wonderful cohort of keen participants who were able to collaborate well. I encourage collaboration for creative and technical peer support: one might remember how to do something like change the settings of an audio loop whilst another might have a great idea for a sound to record – such as biting into a crunchy apple.
We approached sound via found sounds: recording, sampling and creatively manipulating sounds of non-musical objects. Another reason I like to work with GarageBand is that you can create audio loops then change the speed (and therefore pitch) and you can reverse them to create some quirky loops and atmospheric textures. For example, that apple crunch could end up being a snare drum sound once the pitch (frequency) has been shifted and some reverb added.
Reversing sounds is generally entertaining and pleasing as popularised by the tape composers of the 1960s – George Martin (The Beatles) and Delia Derbyshire who produced the original Dr Who theme (BBC Radiophonic Workshop). I was particularly excited when I discovered GarageBand has a pitch shifting sampler. This means you can record a sound – with your voice or objects – and then change the pitch to make it sound like a zombie or a munchkin. You can also reverse the samples too which can make for some surprising and entertaining effects.
The main output created was a piece of sound design or a track using GarageBand. Maybe a cover version of a favourite song – which is a great way of understanding how music is put together. Or more likely an original track, thinking about musical ideas, the musical elements they wanted to include (bassline, melody etc) and then structure (intro, build up etc).
Participants tended to use the virtual instruments alongside their voices and samples. Which meant they basically became electronica producers in a weekend. Whether they were studying music or not, they all had a developed sense of personal taste and production formulas from being consumers of music. And they all produced unique and individual pieces that they seemed to be proud of.
One thing I love about this work is that I hope it is an opportunity for participants to be creative on their own terms, thereby building self-esteem and self-confidence through self-expression. Through the use of technology, in one weekend, we saw confidence blossom as well as friendships through creative collaboration and technical peer support. I also love how the participants are developing their creative voice whilst also mastering fundamental audio engineering and production skills, with confidence in using technology with this approach.
Many participants reported wanting to carry on developing their music and sound skills, with some saying they could see music and sound as a career option. The more diverse the potential workforce or hobby producers we have, the richer our musical culture is, in my sometimes humble opinion!
26 March, 2020
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