The first digital music production workshop took place this past Saturday (1/10), and it was an absolute blast!
This first class was meant to introduce youth participants to the possibilities of digital music production, specifically: what it means to produce music digitally, a glimpse into some methods of digital music production (specifically a discussion on sampling and remixing), a discussion on the historical uses of sampling and the remix, and what distinguishes sound art from popular music. Resources from the workshop can be found here.
To kick off the workshops and help the youth participants get to know one another, each participant was asked to talk about their musical interests and their musical background (if any). There was a range of tastes represented: from Bobby Shmurda to MF Doom, Flying Lotus, and Drake. Some participants had little musical background, some were learning traditional instrumentation, and some were already experienced in creating digital compositions.
To bring everybody together, SpazeCraft One (Aaron Lazansky) led the group in experimenting with vocal sounds in an "Organic Orchestra." After playing conductor and building up a composition using sounds made by the group, SpazeCraft One handed the reigns off to P.U.D.G.E. (Reginald Sinkler) and youth participants to lead the group using only hand gestures to 'conduct' the different groups of sounds and build a unique piece of music. The group had a lot of fun experimenting with this exercise, and it helped bring up the energy in the room.
SpazeCraft One, MegManMusic (Manny Oquendo), and P.U.D.G.E. led a discussion on sound art vs pop music (how the two can be distinguished and how they are indelibly tied). They also covered a history of sampling and the remix, interpolation, and an acknowledgement of the role copyright plays in today's world of sampling, remixes, and mashups.
This discussion seamlessly transitioned into a demo in which teaching artist Matt Aronoff played a variety of sounds using his upright bass. The demo included bowing, plucking, and percussive uses of the upright bass. Matt expanded the range of sounds elicited from the bass further by employing pedals to send effects on top of his playing. SpazeCraft showed how Ableton Live allows one to record these types of sounds and build a track by looping, distorting, and augmenting the recorded sounds with other samples and adding MIDI based sounds & drums on the Quneo controller. He also turned a single recorded bass note into a group of bass notes able to be played as a digital instrument and provide a melody.
This all provided the foundational knowledge needed for youth participants to begin exploring. The participants, teaching artists, and peer mentor artist “1120” (Brandon Bennett), were split into groups and began building on the track that Spaze had started. Some recorded lyrics overtop using a station running Propellerhead Reason. Others built on the track further by recording MIDI loops and adding samples, and a third group remixed the track to give it a new direction. This initial experimentation gave participants a chance to start using the technology in the workshop, and set them up to develop these skills further throughout the rest of the sessions.
The next workshop session will be held on Saturday, January 24th.