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Tell Me a Story

Authored By: 
The Beekman School

I’ve taught the course Audio Mixing Bootcamp for three years now.  I used to allow the students a lot of leeway in their choice of sounds they used in their mixes. I mistakenly assumed that this freedom would lead to great results. Although one or two students were especially gifted, most students were too enamored with their process to the point their mixes meandered and wandered with almost no point to sound decisions or any developed idea.  In order to get my students thinking and planning in a more effective way, I had to alter the projects.

The most recent project was called “Tell Me a Story.”  Quite simply, I asked my students to use sounds (both effects and musical) to convey an idea or series of events.  I had hoped this would make them more deliberate in their choices and more conscious of an end result.  I thought the concept was simple, but it took them a while to get it.  They are used to stories being either watched or read - not listened to.

Interestingly, the grades for the project flipped.  The usually excelling A+ student just refused to tell a story and stuck to his beats.  It was great work, but it wasn’t the project.  He earned a 70%.  Meanwhile, the student who usually earns a C- meticulously followed the project concept and got a 100% on his work.

More interestingly, the piece I gave a 100% to for its faithfulness appeared a rather uninspired exploration of getting up and going to school.  But a curious thing occurred in the gestalt of the mix that made the mundane sound profound. The repetition of sounds, such as brushing teeth, throughout the mix, transformed the whole thing to the point that I, along with the other students, asked what the deeper meaning of the piece was.  We asked the student what he was trying to say.  The student said the meaning was he brushed his teeth several times a day.

The next time I give this project, I will make it two parts.  I’ll keep the expositional first part but will follow it up by having the student embellish their mixes where a definite mood and statement is made.

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