Making Music for Dance: Conquering GarageBand

Music and dance have always been inevitably linked in my world. Although I enjoy choreographing to words and ideas, musicality is almost always the most pleasing element in performance to my specific eyes and ears. I do not believe that music shapes dance, but I do believe that it compliments it. Music helps establish mood and tone in choreography the way word choice establishes mood and tone in writing. When I learned that we would be learning more about music (how to interpret it, move with it, and make it) I was immediately excited. Over the past few weeks, I have developed skills that I will likely use throughout my entire career.

Although I truly enjoyed the overall experience of enhancing my knowledge about music, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with Elijah throughout this process. My first experience with dance was almost completely with live music, and with musicians who understood how to accompany dancers at that. I was privileged: music and movement were produced at the same time, resulting in musicality from both ends. This sort of simultaneous collaboration results in an incredible product. Elijah is similar to the group of musicians who I first danced with because he is the kind of talented accompanist who can play for dancers, but also for himself. Working with him reminded me of why music is so valuable to dance, and the vice.

In each GarageBand session, Elijah taught us fundamental knowledge about the program, but also gave us a few pieces of knowledge about understanding music and making it in a more inventive and explorative way. He taught us how to identify time signatures beyond a basic four; about base, medium, and high levels of basic scores; he even threw some elementary beat-boxing skills our way.

Considering that I had no previous knowledge about GarageBand before this class, I must say I have come a long way. I now can say that I have created a musical composition and a soundscape in GarageBand, and have the skills to create slightly more developed versions of these two forms of sound projects. I think the most difficult part of this process, for me anyway, has been making decisions. I struggled with the unbelievable number of options I had for each element of the program, and deciding which choice would create the best overall product. In creating a musical composition, it was a question of which loop I preferred: Conga Groove 03 or Conga Drums 01?…Uplifting Disco Guitar or Velvet Lounge Guitar? are just a few examples of the questions that came to mind. Then I had to make choices about volume, pitch, order, ambiance‚Ķthe options were endless. Although I came to conclusions, it took me a great deal of time to create an interesting project that I was pleased with. When it came to creating a soundscape, I also had a hard time with decisions: freesound.org had a lot of options as well. When there were five different forms of the sound fruit makes when it is placed on the counter, I had to let my meticulousness go and just pick one.

Despite my perfectionist nature, I really enjoyed creating my soundscape. I initially decided to mimic an environment that I was very familiar with: an art museum. Shortly after making this decision, I realized it was an unwise decision. While art museums do have a very specific auditory element (reverb) there really are not that many sounds in a museum. They are generally pretty quiet. I quickly halted my progress and switched to a kitchen at home, an environment I am also familiar with. I had lots of fun creating a kitchen soundscape because it was easy to create a scenario in my mind: I could easily identify who was in the kitchen, what they were cooking, and if there was anything else happening outside of the kitchen. This made choosing sounds pretty simple since I had a very specific idea of what this kitchen would sound like. After putting all of the elements I included in order, I came to the realization that volume is very important. For example, the footsteps should not be louder than the eggs sizzling in the pan, chopping vegetables should be equally as loud as whipping eggs, and so on.

I am thrilled to have the skills that I have developed and I plan to continue using them in the future. I hope that my dancing and dance-making will also benefit from this experience. Please enjoy my soundscape, Sunday Morning, below.

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