Found sound compositions in the style of Andrew Huang
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Welcome to another blog post written by a guest author. The author of today’s article is Mike Dimin – a music teacher at The Charlton School in Burnt Hills, New York where he has taught a technology-based music program for vulnerable and “at-risk” high school students in a residential setting since January of 1991.
In this article, Mike shares a his unit of work: The Andrew Huang Challenge – Sampling and Composing with Found Objects that he uses with his secondary students.
As an aside – Andrew Huang’s Youtube channel (the subject of this unit of work) is one of my favourite sources of musical inspiration for students and teachers alike. He takes a simple object – or group of objects – and makes an amazing, creative composition from the sounds of that object. It’s a great example of what one person with a mic, a laptop and creative flair can accomplish.
– Katie Wardrobe
Andrew Huang is a YouTube sensation, with millions of views of his Song Challenge video series. Andrew’s music uses multitrack recording to create musical pieces with a single object (an apple) or objects from a single family of objects (kitchen utensils).
In our school, the Andrew Huang Challenge challenges our students – working in small groups – to create a similar project (less the video aspect) using a single object or a family of objects to create a rhythm; a rhythm that can be a piece of music, in and of itself, or as a foundation for a recorded instrumental, lyric or rap.
- Recording – students will learn to set up for recording based on available equipment, connections, etc. Students will learn about different types of microphones, microphone placement and line level settings. Students will learn the concepts of multitrack recording and learn how – on a practical level – to set the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for recording on multiple tracks.
- Sampling – students will learn to obtain and edit a “sample” of a desired sound for use in the project.
- DAW editing – students will learn to edit sound samples, copy and paste samples and arrange the samples to create a rhythm in the DAW.
- Meter and tempo – student’s knowledge of meter and tempo will be reinforced through the creation of rhythms through the editing process
- Dynamics and song development – Students will introduce dynamics through the addition or subtraction of samples to create a cohesive piece of music from beginning to end
Technology required (multiple options!)
- Computer with DAW software: there are many DAW applications available, many for free or at nominal cost. Our studio has 5 MacBook Pros with either Studio One Pro or Studio One Prime (free) from Presonus.
- Audio interface: many computers have built in microphones and internally convert the audio to digital. However, for better recording quality and the ability to alter microphone placement, we use an external audio interface and a quality recording microphone. As an alternative, a USB microphone plugged directly into the computer is a less expensive option to having both a microphone and an interface. We have a Presonus Firestudio Mobile Firewire interface for each of the 5 workstations.
- Microphones: again, many computers have built in microphones. However for both quality and flexibility we use external microphones. We have a number of MXL 770 Cardioid Condenser Microphones. In addition we have one Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone for directly connecting to the DAW via the USB port which negates the need for an audio interface.
- Finally, headphones with a headphone distribution box allows multiple students to hear and edit in better quality than they would using the computer speakers. It also allows separate groups to be editing simultaneously.
Hardware used at Mike’s school (left to right): MXL 770 microphone in shock mount, Presonus FireStudio Mobile audio interface, Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphone, headphones
Rolling out the project
I introduce the project by showing some Andrew Huang videos.