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flute & percussion

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Greg and Erin performing for the Putney Central School community.

Our visits out to Vermont are evenly broken up into three parts - morning, afternoon and evening.


In the AM, we spent time with students at BUHS - namely the choir, the band, and flutists and percussionists in group lesson settings. The choir and band will join forces during our third visit in April to perform Greg’s berimbau concerto, “Vou-me embora”. The band director at BUHS, Steven Rice, is an incredibly well-organized, intelligent and friendly human being. Also a percussionist, Mr. Rice and I “talked shop” in the moments in between sessions, and he turned me onto a wonderful old book by Mitchell Peters, “A Rudimental Primer.” An excellent resource for my own teaching at NIU.


* * *


Our afternoons are spent at the Putney Central School. This wonderful institution for K-8 sits on 160 acres of meadow and forest preserve. It is overseen by the principal, Herve Pelletier, who is also a photography enthusiast. He took these wonderful photos of Erin and I playing in the gym for the PCS community!

With the sounds of water and rocks, I initially made minute-long recordings of the water, of my hand moving slowly over the stones, and of myself percussively knocking two of the stones together. I scanned these recorded samples for the best  portions of the minute and then cropped these down to 5-second samples. I then simply alternated them in ABAC fashion (see the ORANGE ARROWS). For an extra bit of “magic”, I also included an ample bit of reverb.


With the bell, I first found the best sounding bell from the minute long recording and cropped the sound down to a 5-second sample. I similarly made it sound “magical” by adding the maximum amount of reverb allowed by Garage Band.


I was then able to create a melody from the single pitch by copy/pasting the bell sound into three other tracks and subsequently pitch shifting those tracks.


Now, to be sure, pitch shifting isn’t called pitch shifting in Garage Band. It is called “monster” (shifts the pitch lower) and “chipmunk” (shifts the pitch higher). You can see the icons for chipmunk and monster next to the RED ARROWS above.


When I shared this instrumental version of my miniature with the group at PCS over Facebook, everyone was excited. Mary Anne Deer was especially so. She shared the recording with the students the very next day and used it as a setting for “Coolness” a haiku by the Japanese poet, Yosa Buson:


“Coolness-

the sound of the bell

as it leaves the bell.”


And this note came in from Mary Anne after she read this in class along with my recording:


“The sound of your song as I recited the Coolness poem was amazing.  The kids really "got" how the sounds and the poem could compliment each other. Kudos.”


Well, Mary Anne, KUDOS right back at you! Thank you so much for thinking to share the piece in this way with the students!


It should be said that Mary Anne has completely embraced this project and is a pleasure to work along side to make this a success. She and Wally are getting on famously and she is bringing him into her classes to make their experience of haiku even more rich and immediate.


Reading Wally’s book of haiku, “The Silence Between Us,” I find it fascinating that haiku poet’s are aware of the history of their genre and take pleasure in writing haiku responses to the poems of the venerable Japanese poets of the past. Here, for example, is a poem by Basho and Wally’s subsequent response:


“on a withered branch

a crow has perched--

autumn evening”


***


“early autumn evening

crows standing

among the stones of a field”


With this as a model, I felt compelled to respond to Mary Anne’s gift of the Buson poem. Here is my response:


“Autumn’s bell sounds clear:

remembrance of time’s passing

calling us back home.”


The “unused track” in the image above was actually used to make an unfortunate recording of one of the boys in the class scraping his feet across the gravel parking lot just outside of the building and the Japanese garden. I had hoped it would come out full of texture but it ended up being essentially unusable. I subsequently met the boy’s mother who had been watching us “at work” and pointed out that that was her son. My apologies to you both!


I have instead used this track to record myself reciting my haiku response to Buson/Deer and have taken the liberty of adding significant reverb and cutting the words up to allow for repetition at various points for “emotional effect.” Here is my finished assignment, then, “Autumn’s Bell for the Putney Central School.”


A

B

A

C

Our principal contacts at PCS are the creative writing teacher, Mary Anne Deer, and the music teacher, Dan Seiden. With Mary Anne and Dan, Erin and I developed a game plan to see our project idea for the students come to life:


As Due East is working concurrently on a large-scale project with composer, Elainie Lillios, and poet, Wally Swist, that will result in an evening-length electro-acoustic work in four movements (one for each of the passing seasons in the yearly cycle), we are introducing the students to seasonal haiku poetry, Wally’s expertise!, and the techniques of electroacoustic composition. The students have been assigned to create 1-minute electro-acoustic miniatures that will musique concrète settings for their own original haiku based on seasonal themes.


We are using the amazing PCS campus as collecting ground and inspiration for found sounds and inspirational experiences to write the pieces and the poetry.


The tools to be used?


The Apple iPad and Garage Band!


As PCS owns two sets of 20 iPads and their own amazing power station cart for the collection, the school didn’t need to make any investment to make this happen. Dan Seiden expressed a preference for the Garage Band software platform, and so it was decided.


In preparation for the project, Erin and I invested in iPads and Garage Band. We came to the first meeting prepared!


After our assembly performance (see photos above) we headed to the music room to gather with the students. For the sake of time, Dan suggested we use the Japanese style garden immediately outside the music room as our initial hunting ground for sounds.


It proved to be incredibly fertile ground!


Below is a screen shot from my iPad along with a recording of my own Fall EA miniature. Alongside the students, I made minute long recordings of the water fountain, the rock garden immediately below the fountain, and the iron bell at the entrance to the garden.


After listening deeply to these recorded sounds, I decided to take a bi-partite approach to the sounds - focusing on the water and rocks as an ambient texture (see the ORANGE ARROWS) - and on the bell as a possible melodic figure (see the RED ARROWS).



New haiku vocal track.

Visit One: FALL. September 19-20.2012shapeimage_12_link_0