camper down and bug music

yesterday was an encouraging day at camper down, the most recent school site for the digital music project. the program is clearly buidling momentum here. it appears that students have been using the lab during the week to work on building rhythms and some have downloaded the fruityloops demo to practice at home. a few students already have come up with beats that get their classmates dancing, DJing, and congratulating the young producers on their "bad" and "tough" work.

we were connected to camper down by marvin hall, one of the enthusiastic local teachers who sought us out after the first meeting of the harvard-jamaica association. marvin used to teach at camper down and maintains relationships with the school's administrators and students. knowing that many students at the school have considerable talent for and interest in making music, marvin thought it would be a good place for us to conduct workshops. we agree. camper down is a downtown school in a primarily PNP area, which once again provides some socio-political balance for our program. moreover, it has adequate resources for the program, especially after marvin purchased several additional sets of speakers for the computer lab.

we have been going to camper down on tuesday and wednesday afternoons for a few weeks now. at this point, there are definitely some regulars who are eager to play me their latest rhythms and get feedback. i offer tips and tricks when i think they are useful, but usually i let a student's creative inclinations lead him or her. yesterday there were a few girls bravely joining the male-dominated activity, which was a promising sign. often girls will offer encouragement, but rarely--in a co-ed situation--do they assume the role of producer. i was glad to see this. the field of music production, and musicking more generally, is much too segregated along gender lines. ironically, but not surprisingly, i find that girls frequently master fruityloops as quickly as boys, if not more quickly. here's a beat from kandy, made on her first day, to prove it. (kandy should have more to share soon. she was working on another banger yesterday.)

lest i misrepresent things, i'll let orlando cooke's "alien cooke" rhythm show that camper down's boys are no slackers. there are several other standout rhythms that students have produced at camper down, and i hope to share many more in the coming weeks. unfortunately, although the lab is functional enough to run fruityloops, it does have its technical drawbacks: many of the computers have faulty drives and networking problems, meaning that some of the music that students have been producing is effectively "locked" in these machines. i plan to find a solution soon, for these beats are not to be missed.

we also hope, as schools like camper down, tivoli gardens, and st. andrew continue to produce tough rhythms, to get the interschool aspect of our program going. currently, a module is in development that will allow students to upload their music, along with comments, and will permit visitors to rate the rhythms and provide their own comments. this kind of activity could really provide a push to the program, allow some of the more exceptional rhythms to receive due praise, and give some exposure to the students and schools that produced them. as .org browsers may have noticed, the remix page has been knocked out. it will be replaced shortly by the interactive online space i describe. i have high hopes for this aspect of the program. i believe it will motivate people through the joys of collaboration as well as (good natured) competition.

finally, in a little rhythm-building news of my own, i offer up some bug music as promised in the last blog. i was really struck by the chirping of crickets, cicadas, and possibly tree frogs (i never saw any of the culprits) while in ocho rios this weekend. for some time now i have wanted to record some of nature's night noise, as it often sounds to me like a wonderfully polyphonic, polyrhythmic chorus. one night shortly after dusk, with minidisc and microphone in hand, i walked around the grounds of the crane ridge estates, where we stayed with my mother, capturing chirps, clicks, and other transmissions. in this re-presentation of the sounds, i have attempted to be fairly faithful to their original character. i cut a few loops and a few discrete chirps from the recordings i made and assembled them in something like song form. i also added some understated dried-beanpod percussion to provide a stronger rhythmic framework. the song ends with the sounds of me climbing some stairs and closing the hotel room door behind me.

i then created a second rhythm from the same sounds, this time taking greater liberties with the samples. in my bug riddim, i slow some sounds down (which lowers the pitch and alters the timbre), add some slight echo to a couple chirps, and throw in a kick-drum pattern. hope you like it. don't mind me. i'm only buggin'.