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A Global Music Experience


The haunting melody drifting from the music technology lab was unlike anything that had ever occupied the halls of the Visual & Performing Arts building before.

Soaring vocals. The heavy beats of a late-night radio after-party. Edgy futuristic instrumentals. Thumps and clicks, drums and guitars, balloons and sandpaper.

Balloons and sandpaper?

Yes, balloons and sandpaper.

These were just some of the everyday objects students heard as they listened to their classmates’ original compositions during the final week of the Fall 2009 semester in the Music, Technology, and Culture course (MUS 281/SOA 281) at UIS taught by Dr. Sharon Graf and Mr. Brian Pryor.

In a room filled with keyboards, computers, and sound boxes, students spent the semester developing their music skills. The course gives students the opportunity to explore the relationship between musical symbolic sounds and technological innovation.

Once students were familiar with the myriad music technologies humans use around the world, they faced a challenging—albeit fun—task. Each student created his or her own original musical instrument. The students then shared their creations, which relied on all manner of objects from boxes and rubber bands to string and bottles, with their classmates.

Yet their work wasn’t done. For their final project of the semester, each student used audio recording and mixing software to create an original music composition, which included a recording of their handmade instruments along with tracks featuring various combinations of vocals,
instrumentals, nature sounds, and even pop hits.

Before playing their original compositions for their classmates, the students spent a moment explaining their inspiration and the techniques they used to create the songs, speaking a language they’d learned through a semester of immersion in global music.

One student’s composition was a spiritual meditation inspired by her grandmother, which included lyrics based on Psalm 23 as well as

Another student composed a song for his niece in memory of her father, who was killed in Iraq.

When the music began, it was at times startling, beautiful, intriguing—and in many cases downright artful.