Assignment 20: Teaching Music Through Participatory Culture in Contemporary Society

Drawing Connections:
One of the primary connections I made to the project based learning with convergence is the scaffolding that takes place, built in or not. In doing a project such as a remix, mash-up, arrangement, etc., there are requisite musical and often technological knowledge bases that students must know or be guided towards in order to achieve. For example, to create an arrangement of a song, students must know: the affordances and constraints of the instruments involved in the new version of the song (timbre, range, technical execution), how to execute aural skills (for melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic content), and how to express music beyond notation. Therefore several smaller projects or assignments could be planned and executed to scaffold student learning in hopes for setting them up for success in a larger scale project, like a full-on arrangement of a song, or whatever it may be. Engaging in musicking in non-traditional ways is another aspect in which project-based learning can connect to the approaches mentioned in the article. The students are engaging in music and applying skills in a manner not consistent with traditional band, choir, or orchestra, yet they are still learning about and engaging with all of these musical concepts that are taught in traditional music classes.

Project Proposition:

Generative Question: How are the dimensions of music able to express different styles of music?

Music Problem: Which are the main musical dimensions that you found constitute different styles?

(Target) Musical Concepts Engaged With: timbre, instrumentation, texture, and articulation

Project Idea: Have students assess musical dimensions of a song, and through repetitious active listening and aural and written stylistic research, create a cover of a song in another style. Example: My song “Jet Black Heart” is a pop punk song, but I’d try to do it in a big band style. This type of project engages the students in multiple dimensions of music, links to topics that they enjoy and are personally interested in, and provides an alternative manner for musical expression; all of which are covered in the article and project based learning.

Billboard Hot 100 Selection:

Rap and Place Project:

To continue such a project on rap and place, one could start having students experiment with beat production. Being able to produce an authentic background track that has a rappable form to it. Then, once the beat is formed, have students begin writing their own lyrics to a rap utilizing a different sense of place than their original rap. (Example: If their first rap was about Arizona in general, make it specific to their city of residence.) Then the students would have to submit some final product as a testament to their understanding of the content. That could take form in submission of: just the lyrics and just the beat, a recorded performance of the whole rap, or a live performance of the rap.

Assignment 10: Musical Problems and Planning

With our class project, a bulk of it consisted of musical problems that we had to solve through creating and listening, which are key concepts from Wiggins Chapter 6. In our class project, like in Wiggins, the project gave us opportunities to explore various media for composing such as instruments, notation media, and recording software. We explored guitars, a new experience for us all, singing, piano, autoharps, and tambourine. Within the songwriting aspect, much like stated in the chapter in regards to first-time songwriters, we found it more comfortable to start with writing lyrics before adding a melody. After we wrote lyrics, then we decided on a chord progression, and fit a melodic line into that using the lyrics. Although not explicit, our project allowed us to explore multiple dimensions of music, which is something the chapter discusses. We had to make decisions in regards to dynamics, timbre, texture, form, articulation, and such; while we weren’t told to, we naturally explored those facets. In terms of dynamics, we decided to stick to the side of mezzo forte for the intro, verse, and bridge, and save forte for the chorus. We had to decide what instruments we wanted to use to create a different timbres. We encountered a decision to not use guitar for block chords, as that was a function of the autoharp, so we stuck to picking. As far as texture, the intro was thinner, and the verse had all instruments incorporated. However, for the bridge, we had all instruments, but made all of the parts have “less busy” rhythms to create a suspense and lead into the chorus. Something different I noticed is that different about our class is that for us, our knowledge of music vastly helps our ability to create and perform. Much of the text refers to first-time musicians or in a general music class where there is a limited experience with music beyond listening. While many of us were first-time songwriters and/or lyricists, we still managed as we are college students who have a capacity for learning and thinking.

If we were to move forward into the project, finding ways to make it more expressive might be limited with our experience in vocal performance and limited knowledge on certain instruments such as guitar. Also, recording the full song¬†using recording technology might take quite a few class periods at the rate my group was going. I really enjoyed how little teacher influence there was in the project. I believe the older the student, the less the teacher needs to be involved. Clearly the teacher needs to be present at some level, and provide some sort of guidelines. However, having students have more control will engage them in the content more, which will help them learn more successfully. In our project, having Dr. Tobias pop in halfway through the project and telling us we needed to add guitar somehow was a great way to get us learning something he wanted us to learn without disrupting the flow of our project. Having the teacher observe a group’s progress and make the call to interject with a new project requirement like that can be beneficial when having a more open-ended approach to a project and ensuring that all students are learning what you want them to. Students will often have more fun while learning when the teacher isn’t “breathing down their necks,” and creates a fun community for learning and socializing.