Expanding Eight-Counts

“My life is a series of eight-counts.”

This was the opening line to the essay that helped win me the title of 2014 – 2015 AmeriDance Dancer of the Year.

Music has been a large part of the past four years of my life. Throughout high school, I became more involved in the Musical Theatre scene – performing in our high school Show Choir, the Fall Musicals, and even receiving solo voice parts in a variety of performances. Although reading music still is not my forte, it has helped me to better understand tempo and meter, something that I had previously just referred to as “the beat.” It helped me to develop a better sense of appreciation for the music that I move to, and the work that goes in to creating that. These past few weeks in Freshman Seminar have further helped me to grow in my musical knowledge.

Throughout the Music section of Freshman Seminar, we encountered a variety of rhythms, methods of creating music, and the ever-wonderful GarageBand. Personally, I was able to become more comfortable in hearing the meter of a musical selection. This being said, I am now more capable of moving in time to spontaneous rhythms because I have extended my musical knowledge far beyond the “eight-count” that I have been accustomed to. Before, six-counts and five-counts seemed foreign to me. In fact, my first semester as a Dance Major was the first time that I had performed combinations to these rhythms on a daily basis. It seemed as if it was a whole new world, when in reality it was only an extension my previous training. In fact, this new timing has taught and inspired me how to move in different ways.

From learning these new meters, I have learned the importance of filling out the music. When you have a small amount of beats in a measure, say three, you need to choose your movements carefully: not too many, but not too little. You need to use as much floor space as you can in those three counts to make your movement seem bigger than it actually is. On the other hand, you must continue to choose your movements carefully when you are given more time, such as in an eight-count. When given more time, you must distribute your motions carefully so that the phrase is aesthetically pleasing, while also keeping time. However, regardless of how much or how little time you may be given, it is important to recognize that music and movement go hand-in-hand.

Given this relationship, I was very interested in learning more about GarageBand and how I can work to improve my skill in this aspect of the connection. I have used GarageBand before to cut music for my old dance studio, but I had never used it to create music. This was something that I knew was possible, but never knew how to execute, nor did I think I was capable of doing so. Working with Elijah Aaron, I learned so much. Not only did I learn how to use the pre-made and uploaded looped instrument tracks, but I learned how to edit these “musical messages” – how to manipulate them and create my own. I found myself playing around with a variety of features, including reverb and pitch, and experimenting until I found a connection which I thought seemed right. I admit, I am still not a GarageBand expert, but I feel as if I am more musically knowledgeable because I understand this program. No longer am I limited to creating the movement that accompanies the music, but now I am capable of creating a musical score as well. I have a larger range of artistic freedom which I can use in the future.

In creating my tracks, I was inspired by the wide variety of sounds on freesound.org. FreeSound is essentially a musical database in which people upload “real-world” sounds, such as conversations, busy streets, and ocean waves. In perusing this site, I was drawn to the sounds of water – particularly the ocean. This being said, I chose to make a soundscape of the ocean, attempting to capture the sounds and feelings of a busy beach with calming waves. I think that as a dancer, I am drawn towards fluid movement. This being said, the fluidity of the waves caught my attention as an artist. I think that if I was to use FreeSound in the future for a type of composition project, I could see myself gravitating towards the same idea.

Although throughout the process I found myself stuck, I am thankful that I was able to have this music learning experience. Difficulties such as accidentally looping sounds, trying to develop endings to tracks, and trying to remember and manage all of the different options of the GarageBand program seem of lesser value to me than the confidence that I have gained. I am eager to work with the program more and improve so that I can create my own scores in the future.

For an insight to my work and to hear my musical creations, feel free to view the link below:


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