There is always a moment when doing a large, multimedia performance when I think, “what was I thinking?” Remix Interactive had many components to complete the performance and, as a result, an extraordinary amount of moments of concern. It probably would have been enough to have students remix a piece selected by a well known composer, create the soundtrack and new score, and rehearse the orchestra, but we also decided to add an interactive light show to the mix. This project could only be completed with the patience and trust of great partners at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Drexel University ExCITe Center, Play on, Philly!, Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Science Festival.
This project was important because I believe that large scale collaboration is an effective way to gain understanding amongst students from different backgrounds by providing a purpose for students to collectively create something meaningful. It is important for students to think big and be carried away with the details because they learn to be discerning and have to project their ideas into the realm of the unknown. They asked profound questions when creating the music like, “does this (their arrangement) work?”, “will the audience get bored of this?”, “how will the audience hear this part?”, “are there too many layers?” Having a purpose is the best way to motivate students and not only do they lose track of time, they also find common ground and build relationships in this mode of learning.
This project was also important because I believe that students want to be original. The creation of a light show app provided a reason for a number of SCH Academy students to venture into uncharted territory under the direction of Dr. Youngmoo Kim at the ExCITe Center. There is nothing like hearing students say, “Oh, cool!” when they see the technology work. When another student worked to create the sequence of colors and patterns for the light show and provide the graphics for the app in one short afternoon, I realized that each student contributed based on their passion for the different media necessary to make Remix work. The need for diversity of talent was important for students to recognize as a component of multimedia work.
Every student learned new skills. The students of the orchestra learned how to play along with a pre-composed track and balance their sound with an electronic sound. They also learned how to play while there was visual content playing above them on a screen. More importantly, they were exposed to a way of rethinking the musical traditions of the orchestra. It is my hope that this experience will help expand their ideas about what is possible as a musician. One the flip side of this, the students who remixed the music discovered the craft of classical music. They learned how Leonard Bernstein created “Mambo” by manipulating the parts, analyzing the melodic and harmonic content and finding sequences that spoke to them.
I am extremely proud of the work of the students and the magic that was created in performance was more than enough to remind me to ignore my own moments of concern…next time.
For more information on Remix Interactive see: