Exploring England Through Music Technology

I was asked to produce resources for music teachers to deliver in their schools to tie into the up-coming Great Exhibition of the North, a UK-wide celebration of the North of England.  The exhibition centres around several trails around Newcastle, my hometown, with stops at various museums and cultural venues and events celebrating all that is good about our region in the past and present while also looking ahead to the future.  My brief was to plan a lesson to be included in a pack of lessons which could be downloaded by schools across the country which would allow them to take part in the Exhibition even if they couldn’t make the journey to Newcastle.

I was keen from the outset to have a music tech focus to tie into the more forward-looking elements of the exhibition and was inspired by a lesson I’d seen from Australian teacher, Katie Wardrobe, whose Midnight Music website and podcast is a constant source of inspiration.  The Midnight Music lesson saw students manipulating free samples released on the NASA Soundcloud page and working towards a musique concrète-style piece.  For my lesson, I compiled a bank of non-musical samples designed to represent the North of England; football crowds, pouring tea and the sea amongst many others; and asked students to adapt them using music technology to initially form a drum kit-like loop and possibly take on to develop a full piece of music.

This has a really strong link to the rest of the Exhibition, Sage Gateshead have commissioned a captivating sound installation that weaves throughout the building, transforming the public spaces.

Created by Rotherham artist Mark Fell, Protomusic #1 fills the impressive interior with sonic structures based on real-world sounds from the North.

The work draws on Mark’s passion for exploring relationships between popular music styles and algorithmic and mathematical systems. In this installation, he asks how the sonic, rather than the visual, is at the heart of who we are.

The plan had always been to plan a lesson that could be accessible to all music departments regardless of their equipment/software or level of experience in music tech.  As such, Soundtrap seemed the obvious solution as music departments with little or no music tech provision would only need access to the Internet. I am really grateful to all at Soundtrap for their support for the project and hope that it will be useful to all who come across the lesson.

To find out more about the Great Exhibition of the North, head to the website at www.getnorth2018.com.

To download the lesson plan with details for how to access Soundtrap please head to the website here: https://getnorth2018.com/get-involved/schools/schools-resources/