Wait, I have to put music with science?
That's right! This week we really pushed ourselves as amateur music technologists and explored different ways that sounds can be produced. We looked at some of the physics involved in sound production and how computer coding can be used to create music.
So before we create sound, it's probably important to understand what sound actually is.
James posed the idea of thinking about sound as oscillation, rather than vibration. Yes, when you play a guitar you strum on the strings, which then vibrate, but that's more of a physical way to describe sound. Once the strings vibrate they produce waves, which are best described as oscillation as it is something you hear rather than something you can see (at least that's how I interpreted it). The tympanic membrane (eardrum), located inside our ear, moves sympathetically when air molecules pass through. In more technical terms, it causes for the tympanic membrane to oscillate.
Next, we compared sounds with shapes.
There are four main sound shapes:
We then looked more in depth at synth sound waves. Within a synthesised sound wave you have control over four elements of the sound.
One more thing we looked at with our particular synths was how we filtered our sounds. We used lp12, or a lower pass filter set at 12, which basically lets lower frequencies pass through and cuts out higher frequencies.
So now that we've covered the physics of it, lets move on to the coding!
We were lucky enough to meet guest lecturer, Rowena Stewart, who is an advocate for coding in education and has volunteered her time and her knowledge in coding clubs to teach kids how to code.
Rowena showed us how to use code to create musical melodies using the program Sonic Pi which is free to download for mac or windows online. So of course, keeping with my 1D theme, I re created One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" (bridge + chorus), on sonic pi using written code. To get a note to play, all you need to do is type "play : (insert note name and octave)".
E.g. if I want to play middle C, I would type: play :C4.
If I wanted to sustain the C for longer I could type, "play :C4, sustain 2"
Right, so to create a melody, I would have to put many notes together consecutively right?
To avoid two notes playing at the same time, the first note will have to "sleep" before the next note plays. So you would just type "sleep (enter length)."
To choose the sound that you'd like to produce, choose from the "synths" menu at the bottom of the screen.
To listen to what you've coded, click on the "run" button at the top lefthand side of the screen. You'll also see the sound waves on the top right of the screen as it plays.
Once, you've got the hang of it, it's pretty easy to use and there's so much more you can produce with this program as well!
To be completely honest this whole activity took me back to my Primary School Practicum last year when I observed a year 3/4 class in their tech class. I watched as they learnt to code and felt quite helpless and irrelevant as a teacher, but also as a member of society, like my generation had been left behind and we were already out of date with what technology can offer us in life. I struggled to incorporate technology in my lessons, purely because I felt insecure about my proficiency with technology and music education - I didn't want my students to suffer through a lesson where I struggled to use technology I didn't even understand! So I steered clear from it completely. After taking this session with Rowena, I have a sense of assurance when it comes to making music education more relevant in today's society. Kids love to code! They love to create! What a great way to encourage students to manipulate their coding skills into music composition skills?! It also works as a fantastic cross curricular activity. No student will walk out of that lesson and say to their parents "We didn't learn anything today in music," because they will have physical proof from their code and the self satisfaction of being able to do something so incredible.
I'm so excited to see how this new skill translates into my teaching career!
As always, thanks for reading!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know in the comments.
See you after the Easter Break for some more musical adventures!