Watching Green Day Create




I am a huge fan of Green Day, and I love to crank their last three albums (put out in a row) and now realize that their documentary of the making of Uno! Dos! Tre! (the documentary is called Cuatro!) is almost out. These teaser clips are interesting because I am always fascinated with the behind-the-scenes experiences, whether it is making an album, making a movie, or making a book. Seeing the creative spirit in action is inspiring.

I’m going to write a power pop song this weekend. That’s my goal. Seriously.

Peace (in the power chords),
Kevin

 

Women Who Rock and Write

women who rock lyric collage
I was able to get myself down to some great places in Seattle while on a retreat this past weekend, and one of those places was the EMP Museum, which I refer to as the Jimi Hendrix Museum because Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen put his money into this beautiful place to celebrate Hendrix and pop culture. I walked into the museum and on one of the largest video screens I have ever seen was footage of Jimi playing at Woodstock in full glory. Talk about larger than life …

Anyway, along with exhibits about Nirvana and Grunge, and display areas about Science Fiction Icons, Horror movies, and Fantasy, there was an exhibit about Women Who Rock. It was interesting but what I found most intriguing were the handwritten lyric sheets they had on display. I love when the layer of creativity gets pulled back and you can glimpse the mind at work. I spent a lot of time looking at the writing from Joni Mitchell, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Laura Nyro, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett and others. Even Taylor Swift’s words were on display, which I appreciated because I hope her work in writing her own songs (as opposed to singing someone else’s songs) will inspire a generation of kids to pick up the pen and start writing.

While I suspect these sheets are not all the first draft of songs (not enough scribbled out words, in my experience), there was enough there to make sense of the ideas they were going for in their songs. And even just to examine the handwriting of the artists (some neat, some messy — like me) provides an insight into the creative mind. Looking at their lyric sheets reminded me of how I look at mine when I am done writing a song, all the messy words and lines and rhythms that come and go, and how difficult it can be to make sense of it all.

Check out this song sheet of mine:

The Mess of Songwriting

And then, when the finished lyrics are finally in place, you think: that’s where I was going. But the journey to that point is almost never linear and almost always messy, and I suppose one could invoke the metaphor for life here right about now. I appreciated that these artists shared out their draft lyric sheets and that no one in the museum decided it would be better to type them up for display.

I enjoy the messy, and of all the areas of the museum, that was the best part for me.

Peace (in the power chord),
Kevin

 

Making Music with Soundation

soundation
I wanted to add a way to make music to the Making Learning Connected MOOC Make Bank, and I wanted to share out an online tool for music creation. This one — Soundation — feels familiar to anyone who has used Garageband or other loop-based music creating tools. You can even play around without an account, just to get a sense. Basically, you drag and drop loops from the library bank (lots of free loops and then lots more premium loops), and mix the song that way.

You can publish online, too, or download the files (if you have an account).

Here is a song I wrote for the MOOC:

Peace (in the tracks),
Kevin

 

A Collaborative Mix Tape

 

#clmooc #FF playlist from CollaboList on 8tracks Radio.

Our friend, Ian, turned the Making Learning Connected MOOC onto a music sharing site called 8Tracks, and then he generously set up an account that we could access for collaboration. The result is that a bunch of us are adding songs to the #CLMOOC #FF Mix-tape, which is a pretty neat idea. I started off adding a song that captured the summer (Get Lucky by Daft Punk) but then, thinking of this community, began to add song about writing to the mix.

Peace (in the mix),
Kevin

 

How I Created My Mister Rogers Remix

I promised the other day that I would walk through how I went about taking part in the challenge by PBS Media to remix loops for its Mister Rogers project. (You may know that PBS has created some great remix of Mister Rogers’ videos by using auto-tune and music loops — setting the television host’s messages to a beat).

First, when I was done, this is what I created:

In hopes that you might dive in, too, here is how I went about the remix process.

First, of course, I had to learn about the remix invitation. I can’t remember now where I first heard of it, but I think it was a tweet that someone in my Twitter stream shared out. I’ve had “remix” on the mind lately with the Teach the Web MOOC, so I was intrigued by what PBS Media was inviting folks to do. I headed to the site, and found that they had established a group in SoundCloud, where PBS was sharing out a collection of musical loop files. You could take one, or more, or the entire collection. I took everything as a .zip file to my desktop. It was pretty fun going through them – listening to drum beats, Mister Rogers’ voice talking about loving music (the overarching theme), and other things like tubas. Yep, a blast from a Tuba was in the mix.

Second, I considered using Garageband, but to be honest, I still find GB a bit funky to use at times. So I turned to my old trusty Audacity for loop editing. I choose a bunch of loop tracks (not all) and moved them into Audacity. Here’s where the real work and the tricky part began. The fact that the remix probably should have a consistent beat puts the remixer into the role of music composer — lose a beat, and the effect can be pretty jarring to the listener.

Mister Rogers Audacity View

I spent a lot of time moving, shifting, repositioning, listening, re-repositioning, moving again, lining up and doing all sorts of tinkering with the tracks to make them fit. There was a moment when I could sense that it was coming together finally, and that the pieces were fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle of sorts. As a remixer, that’s a glorious moment, right?

Finally, I was done, and I uploaded the track into my Soundcloud account, and then shared it over with the PBS Media group (as they requested for remixes). I also played around with Popcorn Maker as a way to add my remix soundtrack to the video, but in this case, my music was not in sync with the movements in the video. Of course, my intent with the remix was for audio, not for video, and I realize now that my process would have been different if I had video on my mind.

All in all, it was a fun experience. Sure, it took some time, but it was time well spent. Now, I have my Mister Rogers Remix. How about you?

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

The Mister Rogers Remix

PBS Media puts out some interesting remix versions of classic Mister Rogers clips, and it recently invited folks to borrow some of the loop tracks from its archives, including the voice of Mister Rogers, to create a remix version. How could I resist? I’ll share out the process of how I created the remix tomorrow (and offer up some suggestions for your own remix). Today, here is the remix that I created:

I also took the audio remix and used Popcorn Maker to layer it in as the audio track for the video from which the loops come from. Unfortunately, it does not sync as well as the original. But still …

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

 

Teachers Who Rock the Stage

At our school talent show this week, a group of us teachers learned the Philip Phillips’ song, Home, and performed it live (with bubbles!) on the stage after all of the students had performed their own magic. The kids love seeing us teachers in the lights, and in a different light, too.

Peace (in the live music),
Kevin
PS — That’s me on the left side of the screen, playing guitar.

That’s a BIG guitar

Kevin at Guitar Exhibit
I took my son and a friend to an exhibit at a local museum. The theme of the exhibit was the guitar, in all of its glory. It was pretty cool — they had a bunch of famous electric guitars on display, a history of the guitar and a bunch of hands-on activities for kids. The best was “the biggest playable guitar” in the world (according to the brochure) — a 43-foot-long Gibson that you could pluck and make notes on. I won’t say it sounded all that great but that was beside the point. The guitar was HUGE!

I shared the photo with my band, and then it was put on our Facebook page with a snarky comment about saxophone players needing to learn to play guitar on big instruments.

ūüôā

Peace (along the strings)
Kevin

The Animated (GIF) History of Music

1999. ¬†Napster is launched. ¬†Vast amounts of music had never been closer to peoples’ fingertips. ¬†Also it had never been free-er. ¬†This made many bands very angry, especially Metallica, who filed a lawsuit against Napster.
The lawsuit ultimately succeeded, and Napster declared bankruptcy.  But it was too late.  The music industry would never be the same.

I am loving this site. Music History in GIFs, in which a musician tracks the development of pop music through animated GIFs that resemble old 8-bit gaming systems, is fun and informative, and just cool to check out when his updates come through my RSS feed. Yesterday, he posted an image about Napster and music file sharing, and how it upended and continues to upend the music business.

But this other one from last week, about Prince, was pretty nifty, too, and a nice use of animated art.

1993. ¬†Prince changes his name to an¬†unpronounceable¬†symbol later dubbed¬†Love Symbol #2. ¬†At first everybody laughs, but then they remember he’s Prince and he can pretty much do whatever he wants anyways.
Also, Prince’s label had to mail out a bunch of¬†floppy disks with the custom image on it. ¬†That fact makes me laugh.
And a little DEVO anyone?
1978.  Devo releases their debut album, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!.  Their stage antics are full of wacky dancing, sci-fi outfits, and just all around amazingness.
Also their songs are so, so good.
 Check out Music History in GIFs and get rocked.
Peace (in the music),
Kevin