Music, Technology, Culture Overview
In this introductory course devoted to developing music listening, analysis, and compositional skills, students learn to use an inexpensive audio recording package installed on existing computers, developing critical thinking ability in addition to listening and compositional skills, as we compare the computer to other technologies used around the globe to create and manipulate sound.
To increase awareness of global music instrument technologies, students complete weekly assignments, which require visits to free online data bases like the Northern Illinois University World Music Instrument Collection, the Wesleyan University Virtual Instrument Collection, and the University of South Dakota National Music Museum.
Here, photos, recordings, histories, and cultural backgrounds of instruments, from basic to unusual, are one mouse-click away. We assign free music theory websites like The Music Theory Minute and EMusictheory to introduce concepts of pitch, intervals, time, harmony and texture.
Students carry out specific tasks at these sites and report back in online discussions with classmates. In a more formal assignment they write critical reviews of a list of websites, increasing their ability to recognize reputable sources of music information on the internet.
Creating Original Instruments
Once students have become acquainted with the range of musical technologies humans have invented around the world, we ask them to create an original instrument.
This exercise gives students the opportunity to apply their musical knowledge in a meaningful, hands-on way, and once again we find the internet a useful source of information—we send them to a variety of free sites devoted to instrument construction and the physics of musical sound production, including Phil Tulgas’ Music Through the Curriculum and Crafty Music Teachers as well as HyperPhysics.
Creating Music Compositions
Finally, students use audio recording and mixing software to create their own music composition, which includes a recording of their original instrument.
Inexpensive audio recording software is available for between $49 (PG Music’s Powertracks) and $129 (PG Music’s Band-in-a Box) per package, depending on the functions included. For Mac users, Garage Band is standard on every machine, so no extra cost would be incurred for audio software.
In this final assignment, students creatively integrate music listening and analysis skills in a personally meaningful project.