Bringing local music into local schools

This year I created Remix Portal which is an online music remixing and sharing application that runs in Google Chrome and Firefox.

The motivation behind this work is twofold. Firstly, I thought (and still think) that music education within schools could do a much better job of inspiring students to get involved in music making activities beyond the classroom. Secondly, I had noticed an emerging trend for music to be released in the form of ‘stems’, where separated audio files are provided for each musical component, such as the drums, bass, vocals etc. Stems allow music remixers to create new versions of songs and as these propagate through social media they serve to promote the original band/artist and help them reach new audiences. I think they could be of real benefit to music education too as they allow us to look inside, take apart, tinker with, and rework music.

I deployed Remix Portal within Year 8 music classes and used it to support the teaching of music production skills. Despite the complex looking interface (which was due to it being modelled on an analogue audio mixing desk), the students all got the hang of it by the end of the first hour-long lesson.

Remix PortalI chose to use music sourced from local bands in order to try and help the students gain an understanding that musical talent isn’t the sole preserve of X Factor finalists but can be found within their local communities too. Interestingly, whilst many of the students did not like the music on offer they all acknowledged the talents of the musicians and were encouraged by the fact that they operate within their local area.

During this project I learned that remixing activities can promote deep and active listening (which is highly relevant to the music curriculum). For example, being able to isolate individual parts of the music, such as the vocals, made the students notice things about the music they might not have otherwise. I also learned that remixing activities can be highly engaging for students so long as either the music they are remixing matches a style they like, or they are able to remix music into a style they like.

The next step is to scale the system up and get lots more musicians involved so that there is a much greater range of song options for the young people to choose from. I also want to create a range of ‘lesson idea’ packs to try and encourage more teachers to use Remix Portal within their teaching. I should then be in a good position to take a deeper look at the possibilities that music remixing and sharing can bring to formal education, and also start to look at how it may be used within informal learning contexts.

For more information please contact Colin Dodds.

Author: Colin Dodds

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