Preparing to Culture Jam again

This Friday I return to Elsternwick Primary School for the second stage in our Culture Jamming project, part of this year’s Artists in Schools program. Culture Jamming is all about using music to develop skills in another language and to explore different cultures – at Elsternwick the language of choice is Mandarin. During the four-week first stage last term, we prepared a performance of a Chinese folk song that I’d learned in 2010 in Hangzhou (see video footage below of this lesson in singing the Love Song of Kangding), learned to use Audacity‘s recording features, and made a field trip to the ‘Melbourne English Language School’ (where I teach on a different day) to do a music workshop with the students there and record interviews and conversations with the Chinese students.

It felt like a rather rushed beginning as we had a number of challenges to contend with, but the 15 grade 4 students who are working with me are bright, fun, curious and thoughtful, and we’ll have more time this term to stretch out into our project.

Our overarching question is, how can music help us and other students improve our Mandarin language skills? We are going to use our field recordings (from the language school interviews and another planned field trip to a restaurant in China Town) in compositions. The plan is for each child to make at least 2 individual projects and for us to collaborate on a third project that will use classroom instruments rather than computers.The children have access to NetBooks and iPads at school, though some also own iPod Touches, iPhones and other technology at home.

Project 1: Introductions

Our first task this term is to go through all the Chinese interviews from the language school and make short clips of phrases like, “what is your name?”, “my name is…”, “how old are you?”, “I am ten years old”, etc. We’ll then create tracks (using loop-based software) that repeat one of these phrases, with as many different speakers as we have recordings of, setting the phrases to a beat. That’s one project – each child can make one (or more) Introduction pieces.

Project 2: China Town Q&A

Another project idea is to get the children composing using the Mad Pad app, on the school iPads. (The Mandarin teacher is very innovative in her approach to teaching and she was awarded a grant that allowed her to buy a class set of iPads – so we can access these). Mad Pad is a sampler program where you record 12 different sounds, then tap any of the 12 squares to create rhythms or melodies from the combination of sounds. I want the children to record into Mad Pad on their China Town field trip. The main parameter is that two of the squares must feature a Question and Answer combination (one phrase per square) in Mandarin. The remaining ten squares can be sounds and images that they see on the trip. They can then improvise with the squares, create a piece that features their Q&A, and upload it to YouTube.

Project 3: Traditional Chinese Music, recontextualised

The last part of our project is about Chinese music. We are very fortunate that living near the school is a Chinese musician who is keen to come and perform for the children and show some of his instruments. I’m not sure yet how we will utilise these sounds (as I haven’t yet met the musician) but I’m hoping that we might be able to create a piece of music to perform with him – the children play a range of instruments including keyboard, drumkit, recorder and guitar. We just need to hope that his instrument tuning will be compatible with our Western instruments. (Or maybe we can make a feature of the different tunings…?)

Alternatively, we could sample his sounds and create a final electronic piece each. Another free software we might utilise is SoundPlant, which “turns the computer keyboard into a playable instrument and versatile sound trigger”. But I am really hoping we will be able to play some music together on instruments as our final project, to keep us developing and connected with these skills too.

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2 comments so far

  1. chinn on

    what are receiving songs.

    • musicwork on

      I’m not sure! Is it something to do with this post?


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