It’s easy to be dazzled by what we can achieve with technology. However, there’s a lot to be said for keeping it real, especially when working in the digital realm.
A Little Bit if Grit
Music production has benefited, for several decades, from the ability to sample natural sounds. The waveform of anything that can be recorded may be manipulated and used to produce everything from percussion loops to soaring melodies. And the little bit of ‘grit’ this provides can greatly enhance what may otherwise be a rather mechanical sound.
The other day, my daughter showed me a YouTube clip of a contemporary music producer, who works with big-name pop stars. He was demonstrating how some of the sounds within what has become a chart-topping hit come from surprising everyday sources. Few would spot these within the mix but once they have been pointed out, it’s hard not to then listen to the track and say ‘oh yes!’.
A Different Approach
I had just been invited to create some music for a video project when I saw this. And it led to me taking a different approach to my composition. The video features people being interviewed in a variety of settings. Each clip ‘suffers’ from quite a lot of ambient sound spilling-through on the recording. So, rather than see this as a problem, I decided to work with it.
Listening to the background noise, I was able to identify and isolate sounds that suggested rhythms and phrases. I sampled these and blended them with instruments with similar tone and pitch. Each element was then introduced as the source sound appeared within the video. This is still a work in progress but I’m quite happy with the results.
Potentially distracting noises-off have, therefore, become part of the soundtrack. What may have been seen as a problem has been turned to good advantage. Not only does this mask a technical flaw, it actually means there is a deeper connection between the spoken words and accompanying music.
As we have previously discussed, every creative project is defined by a set of limitations. This may be a physical space, a time limit, a colour pallet, a theme or – very often – a combination of factors. When additional constraints are imposed, these can actually be helpful, from the point of view of defining a creative composition.
Working digitally can create the illusion that anything is possible. And, perversely, this overwhelming freedom can be stifling. So, introducing a little reality into the equation can help narrow your options. Any art form is, arguably, a reflection of the real world. By taking real-world sources as a starting point, we can immediately root our creative work in that reality.
Consequently, our output will then be more likely to resonate with others. They will recognise, consciously or otherwise, the ‘realness’ of what they are witnessing. And its effect will be enhanced.
Working creatively with children, we want them to be expressive. We also want them to be up to speed with the latest digital technologies. The latter can be a great vehicle for the former. But we need to be careful not to make everything too ‘clean’. A little bit of messy reality can make all the difference, breathing life into what otherwise may be safe and stale.
So, encourage your pupils to get their hands dirty. Allow them all the freedom that digitial creativity provides. But also instill in them an awareness of the benefits of keeping it real.