Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Noise vs. Music

Homework: all instrument making materials due Thursday.

Today's classwork: What's the difference between music and noise?

We started by listening to a mysterious recording. Some students thought it was pots and pans blowing in the wind, some thought they heard wind chimes. Actually, it was the Thai Elephant Orchestra! The photos above are of the elephants in action. From the album website: "The elephants improvise the music themselves. The Thai Elephant Orchestra was co-founded by Richard Lair of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang and performer/composer Dave Soldier."

After listening, students shared their responses to the question of noise vs. music and discussed where we can draw the line. One class ended up inventing new words: noisic (closer to noise) and moise (closer to music). Another section just had a category in the middle for both. I don't think we've nailed down a shared definition of either, but we're getting to understand our thinking a little better.

After discussion, the classes took a listening walk around the school. Each person wrote down all the sounds they heard and tried to put them in either the noise or music category on their paper.

Back in the room, we discussed what we had heard and came up with a more refined group list on the board. It seems like we can somewhat agree that music is characterized by repetition of sounds (rhythm), intention (somebody meant to make it, or at least meant for it to be heard as music), and organization (not just random sounds).

Finally, we tried out some group music-making, using a rhythm grid to clap together.

Tomorrow: more music making! I'll be bringing in some unusual instruments to play. Students will get their own blank rhythm grids to fill out and the whole group will try out their rhythms.

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