Performance, process and planning
This week our performance activity was based around O-Generator. I showed you some of the content from “Playing World Music” and taught it Orff-style, without speaking, teaching everyone every ostinato pattern, and we played right through the Soukous material that I’d usually spend 2-3 weeks teaching. Obviously your topic is music of another culture, but you could also use this material as part of another topic like popular music or music of the 20th and 21st century, or even Theatre Music where Latin and African genres have influenced core repertoire (e.g. in the order of the topics above: The Cat Empire; Daniel Rojas or Graeme Koehne (gosh, there’s Australian music too!); Bernstein’s West Side Story.
We then used the built-in teacher, which explains the background to the music, and gives instructions step-by-step for teaching the material. If you haven’t had chance to prepare your lessons, therefore, O-Generator is a pretty formidable teaching tool (although I wouldn’t do it the way it does all the time, such as beginning by breaking the class into four groups, which means 75% of your class have nothing to do during the learning process!). I also mentioned that when used as a composition tool the teacher can talk students through creating beats in different styles.
I explained that the O-Generator interface is a step sequencer (see Reason or a FL Studio) with the bar turned into a circle. It has always made total sense to me, although I know some educators who prefer the right-to-left flow, presumably because that’s more like written music. I then demonstrated how it can be used as a composition tool, setting each ‘pad’ around the circle to whichever sample you like. You can then compose whole songs right there in O-Gen, with quick tools to copy and structure your patterns together, or take out loops you make here into a program like GarageBand or Acid. I also mentioned that there are now O-Generator iOS apps in different styles, though we didn’t have time to look at these because we’d already spent so much time with the world music content.
There aren’t a lot of classroom performance apps available, so if you’re trying to integrate technology into performance in a really meaningful way, especially in Stage 4, I can’t recommend O-Generator enough.
Special Needs Music Education
Because we have only 2 in-person lecture left after this week, I thought it was a good idea to give you the Special Needs music education lecture now so you can begin to think about (if not actually start!) the second assignment. Unfortunately, the permissions I have for the majority of the material I showed you won’t allow me to post it online, so I can really only refer to it here.
I started off by showing you a video I’d made for an ADE camp which featured the Banana keyboard, a touch-sensitive MIDI controller keyboard that was designed for special needs classes but also has a great many uses in the primary classroom. The Banana keyboard can be used to play MIDI notes (via a MIDI module or a computer with any program with its own built-in sounds – yes, again GarageBand fits the bill) or to trigger samples (sound effects or beats or whatever). If you’re working in Windows there is some special software to do this, and on the Mac you can just use GarageBand.
I talked a lot about a series of pieces I wrote for three special needs schools for DET North some years ago, showed you video footage and also some of the resources. You can download all of the resources from here (scroll down to “The Australian Environment), if you like.
I explained that some high schools have support units on site, and told you about the excellent work going on in the support unit at Chatswood High School, where my friend runs a Soundhouse and does amazing creative video and musical work with the students every year.
I also spoke of my own experience teaching highly musically gifted children on the Autistic Spectrum, and encouraged you to use such labels as a ‘way in’ to understanding the child a little better, but not to pigeon hole any one child or make assumptions about their musical ability (or their personality, ambitions, reasons for being withdrawn, etc.). Getting to know all of your students is very important, and nowhere more than in the field of special education.
I then reinforced this argument by showing a little bit of Ken Robinson’s RSA talk (you may prefer the animated version), and finding his bit about ADD/ADHD at 34:35 too much of an over-simplification for my liking. I spoke about my own experiences with working with children with ADD and again suggested that you need to work with the individual child, not the label of the condition. With ADD you may also need to ignore the ‘surface’ behaviour to delve further into what motivates them or interests them, and become a really engaging teacher.
I encouraged you to begin Assignment 2, in which you must write another unit of work but this time include modifications for two students, one special needs and one gifted and talented, by telling me about the students (you could do this on a “teacher page”). We didn’t talk about G & T today, but we will, and we didn’t get into the syllabus yet, but you know enough to start investigating into your imaginary students’ abilities. Describe what they can and can’t do, and then I can see your strategies for involving them in the unit that everyone else is doing, but differentiated. And, of course, you need to resource the hell out of those differentiated lessons, so start thinking now about what you could make for them…
In the tutorial we looked at aural and musicianship training software. We started by looking at Ricci Adam’s MusicTheory.net, and excellent free site for learning and drilling on music theory and aural skills. I mentioned there are lots of other commercial solutions, but that the Rolls Royce of all of these is the Australian-made Auralia and Musition. I also told you about a special offer just for you, and you can read the details at this password protected page by clicking here.