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Can anyone make ambient music?

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  • Can anyone make ambient music?

    I teach music in a school for mentally challenged children. It seems that music is one of their few true pleasures in life. They love playing it, listening, dancing, singing, banging on drums, pianoes and whatever produces a sound. Some of the more well functioning ones even picked up some sequencing software where they make their own simple compositions. We do however have a few pupils that have very severe handicaps that disenable them to motorically perform what they want. Obviously this results in frustration. I'm sure these children contain an inner musicality and I want to help them express it. My aim is to have them produce something for themselves that they can be proud of and find some peace in. Another aim on a more grand scale would be if they could produce something that other people would actually find beautiful. We often talk about tolerance and acceptance but what if we could give them recognition? Wouldn't that just be a mindblowing thing?

    I did a couple of experiments with my own children. I defined a scale for them (white keys for diatonic, black keys for pentatonic), instructed them to play gently, not trying to create a melody. Then I fed the signal though a loop pedal. We ended up with a couple of unsync'ed loops which I mixed very rapidly. Just a couple of fades and applying some echoes and reverbs. I want my role to be as small as possible but obviously I would have to deal with the technical aspects of the recording process. Maybe there exist some intuitive mixing tools that they could operate themselves?

    I think it works! Atleast to some extend and I'm super excited to try this at work!

    So what do you think? Is it a provocation that apparently anyone, even severely handicapped, can make music? We often have this elevated idea of the genius composer who breaks the rules and thereby creates something new. Or is it the true democratization of music where the old hierachies are being challenged and the making of music becomes a decentralized right?

    All inputs would be very much appreciated. And if you have more ideas as to some techniques that could be useful for this little project that would be just awesome!

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by regonsch; 06-26-2014, 03:59 AM.

  • #2
    1) You're amazing.
    2) Humans are innately musical. While not everyone has the skill to produce music that all will enjoy, we all have a level musicality (except for those with amusia, I suppose). While in the womb, we hear sounds before we know how to process words, and those sounds are generally musical. One popular evolutionary theory is that humans communicated through musical tones before we developed the ability to form words. Music plays a much larger role in our lives than most realize.
    3) Prior to the invention of sound recording, nearly everyone made their own music...because that was the only means they had to hear it. As records and radio became more abundant, the "need" for people to create their own music declined--someone else could now do it for them. The democratization of music only exists as a concept in response to an industry that, in order to prosper, needs to convince you to buy their stuff--and only their stuff--instead of making your own. The right to make music is no different than the right to breathe.
    4) If you think this project will bring joy to children--regardless of whether or not others will appreciate the output--why hesitate? Do it!
    remst8 -


    • #3
      Thanks for the feedback, remst8!

      The only hesitation is if I can't convince the school leader to put some ressources into the project. Not sure it'll stop me though, haha!
      I really like your thoughts about the "democratization" of music. One could argue that democracy as we define it is very closely linked to consumerism and that it is just a way to consolidate the same hierachic structures it presumes to challenge. Of course music belongs to everyone!!! Perhaps it is even a language for all living creatures, is it music when the black bird whistles? or the crickets sing? or when the wind rattles the leaves of a tree? Does it have to be intended in order to be defined as music? Does it even need listeners? I guess we are diving into that Cage definition, that anything is music.


      • #4
        Indeed! If these topics interest you, I recommend reading these books:
        * "How Music Works" by David Byrne
        * "You Are The Music" by Dr. Victoria Williamson

        I found both quite enlightening.

        Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
        remst8 -


        • #5
          Thanks for the titles, remst8. I'll look forward to some exploration of the topic.