For the past couple weeks, we have been working with Elijah Palnik (check out his incredible TEDTalk here), the music director here at the Department of Dance. We’ve been exploring and learning Garageband, as well as some basic sound design. Having never played an instrument or had any sort of formal music training, I was skeptical of my potential to be a music creator. But Garageband is truly a software marvel of modern technological times. Absolutely no talent or skill or knowledge of music whatsoever is needed to compose a perfectly good song. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely amazing things can be created in Garageband when you DO have any or all of those things, and I am sure they would be infinitely better than what I have created and shared with you today. However the point is, Garageband allows ANYONE to make something, furthering one’s creative accessibility.
The song I included at the beginning of this post was created using mostly Apple Loops. They exist precreated in Garageband and are part of the public domain, meaning anyone can use them in any capacity and there are no copyright issues being infringed on. They’re 2, 4, 8, and 16 bar phrases that can be repeated over and over as many times as you’d like. From there, you can layer as many loops on top of one another as well. GB automatically syncs them rhythmically and tonally, and after just a couple minutes and a few clicks, you’re left with a pretty advanced sounding song given the minimal effort put in.
From there, the real “under-the-hood” work begins. You can control which speaker each individual instrumental “track” is fed through, be it right or left. You can control how loud each track is within the context of the song itself. You can limit or boost the frequencies of the tracks, changing what it sounds like altogether. You can add reverb to any track, making it sound like it’s happening a tiny room or a stadium sized arena. The options are literally never ending.
My inspiration for this song was one single electric guitar loop that I found. I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it, and from there built a song around it in the style of music I most often listen to. My favorite genre music is hard to define, but I would probably call it indie/electronic r&b. I love songs that have an atmospheric vibe, a low-key bass, with melodies that touch you and make you feel some sort of way. For some examples of my favorite artists and songs, check out these links: Basecamp EP, Consoom by FTSE, or The Wheel by SOHN.
The potential future applications of my new Garageband skills are not hard to ascertain. Being able to edit my own music for choreography has always an item on my list of things to learn how to do, and now I can scratch that off! But not only can I edit existing music into a soundtrack for my movement, I can create something custom from scratch–with the structure and tone of my piece in mind from the beginning.
Although it might end up being slightly cliche, I am now thinking about how I could use the simple, straight-forward technique of layering loops to explore “accumulation” choreographically. If I were to assign each dancer or group of dancers to a specific loop, I could bring them in and out of movement at the same time that I added and retracted loops from my track. I’ve found that although my process often leads me away from the initial prompt, if I have a very literal task as a launching pad the generation phase of choreographing is much less intimidating to me. So far, I have only ever choreographed on myself, so seeing my movement on other bodies is definitely something I’m itching to do and I’m definitely considering using a song I make in Garageband as my first try. Granted, GB does most of the work in composing a song and there’s no computer putting all of my potential dancers and their movement in perfect sync, but I’m up for the challenge!
Keep up with the music I create by following my SoundCloud here.