This past Saturday we had another great session of the The Digital Music Production workshop, which focused on synthesizers. Resources from the class can be found here.
Matt Aronoff and Reginald "P.U.D.G.E" Sinkler led the session, beginning with a discussion and demonstration of synthesizers. They touched briefly on the history of synthesizers, and then showed the youth participants examples of synthesizers like a Micro Korg Fingerboard, and an Arturia MicroBrute. Matt discussed different types of waveform shape filters like the sawtooth, square, and triangle waveshapes. The teaching artists also demo-ed the arpeggiation and other effects like the Low Frequency Oscillator that are available on synths. One of the things that TA Charles Burchell stressed was how important it is to use these types of tools to craft an original 'sound' or 'voice' as an artist. Unique sounds are especially important for artists because it can help them stand out in today’s world of canned sounds.
After the demo, we went into a 'memory toggle' version of the Organic Orchestra exercise. Each section of students was divided up, assigned an instrument, and given 2 rhythms to perform: a "Memory 1" rhythm, and a "Memory 2" rhythm. P.U.D.G.E. directed and conducted the students and would toggle the group between the two 'settings.' It was a fun way to bring a concept found in production equipment into an improvised and acappella context.
The youth participants were then split into 3 smaller groups so they could get hands-on experience with the synths, and begin to craft tracks with the guidance of the teaching artists. There were some great things going on in these sessions. There were successful role reversals in which the students drove the DAW stations while T.A.'s performed. In one group, a youth participant improvised on her cello, which was recorded, looped, and filtered to become the main melodic element of the track. Teaching Artist Saskia Lane also laid down a baseline with direction from a youth participant. The students found that crafting sounds directly with the synthesizers took a bit more time and exploration before they could create in a sound that meshed well with the rest of the track.
At the end of the creative time, we came back together to share the small group work. Two participants from Aaron "SpazeCraft One" Lazansky's group described the process of creating their track in detail - including sampling the cello and having T.A. Matt spit lyrics. Two other participants presented a track they had begun at home, but continued to hone during the session's small group time. During the share session, several students relayed their initial frustrations when working with the synths. They found the results grating and lamented the unpredictability of the arpeggiation. To some degree, it was good to hear that the synths had forced them to reconsider their expectations and required them to pour effort into honing a sound to make it pleasing and compatible with the rest of the tracks. This session was all about experimentation, and the students came away with a new appreciation for different types of synths and how they can be utilized to craft a unique sound.
The next session will be held on April 18, 2015.