Experimental Instruments: Chance Performance

Our culminating event for our experimental instruments unit was a mixed arts chance performance in the vein of composer John Cage. The entire 4th grade was split into four groups: Music, Dance, Costume Art, and Science/Technology. Each group prepared and rehearsed their own contribution to what was to be our cumulative chance performance. Basically, this means that the composition structure and elements were decided randomly (dice rolls) and that performers also can improvise when they are conducted to contribute.

In terms of my Technology class, this unit served as a vehicle to integrate computer science and programming into the larger curriculum. In order to make our various experimental musical instruments actually work, all 4th grade students had to grapple with common computational thinking concepts (loops, conditionals, variables, etc.) and practices (iteration, debugging, etc.) while designing their instruments. We also dove into physical computing concepts with the integration of sensors (distance, touch, loudness & motion) into our instrument designs.

Enjoy a short clip of our young technologists performing with their DIY instruments and links to sample musical programs that drive them.

Experimental, electronic instruments (coded in Scratch):

Students are calibrating an array of experimental instruments including a pencil-drawn drum kit, a distance-sensor theremin, a musical dance floor button, and a volume-sensitive animation for the LCD projector.

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