Updated: Mar 20, 2022
Skateboarding, art and music have always been intertwined. Skaters often use their board graphics, music choices for their video or even their clothing as a way to share what they are passionate about. Join us as we team up with Amazon Engineers to learn coding through music. Explore how artists use music to tell their stories and will examine how music can inspire change.
Below are some benefits of music from a recent article at Kiwi Co:
Music encourages self-expression
As you engage with music, you’re unlocking a new form of communication — and a new method for self-expression. Music is an open-ended language that gives you a way to share your emotions when words fail. Different styles and tempos of music might even help you to manage big emotions and calm your body down.
Music supports self-identity
Research shows that making up your own songs is a great way to promote creativity and independent thinking. Music lets you express your unique wants and interests through melody.
Music builds math skills
Music can be used to make tangible connections to different math fundamentals. You can count — or dance! — to the beat of your favorite song or explore fractions and proportions through more complex rhythms. The best part? Kicking off math learning through music lets you experience a seemingly non-creative subject through a creative outlet.
Music inspires creative confidence
There’s a lot to be said for exploring music on your own — through independent, self-directed freedom. From tinkering with instruments, creating beats, or writing lyrics, music gives you a chance to confront new challenges and investigate the unknown on your terms. Sure, it can get kind of noisy sometimes, but just think of it as the sweet sound of confidence!
What You will Learn:
Artists use lyrics to express a purpose to their song.
Music has a message; however, it is not as straightforward as you may think.
Often, it needs to be decoded.
Music has played a pivotal role throughout history in creating change.
Coding and composing music have many similarities. They are mathematical,
structured processes that allow for creativity.
Using code/EarSketch is one method that students can create a message to share
their voice through music. EarSketch allows students to customize their message.
Express Your Passions
Music plays a pivotal role throughout history in sharing things our culture is passionate about.
Performing artists use both lyrics and instrumentals to reflect their values and beliefs
Music can give us a voice!
Introduction - The Rules
Welcome to Your Voice is Power 2022! Your Voice is Power is both a learning experience and a competition. You will learn how entrepreneurship, music, and computer science are transformational pathways toward equity....all while competing for $5,000 in prizes. Wait... that’s not all.....you are not just learning about music and coding, but will have the opportunity to remix the actual song stems from three top recording artists. Yes, these artists want to hear your voice...and have you remix their music to promote a positive message. Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, and Khalid” That is right, some of today’s top recording artists want to you to remix their music. However, you won’t be doing this in a music studio, you will be remixing their songs using EarSketch a code to compose program. Let’s hear more about the challenge. Hope you are as excited as I am to start coding and remixing your songs. Let’s look a little deeper at the requirements. You will be coding a song that is between 30 seconds and three minutes, will include 5 unique musical tracks, and a sound clip from Pharrell. The song should be a remix of one the three featured songs (and for middle and high school students, you will need to show song structure through the use of custom functions). What is a remix?’ The technical definition of a remix is “a piece of media that has been altered from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item.” This may be a little confusing to your students, but it is simply “changing” something about the song so it sounds different from the original, but is still has some recognizable elements of the original . Examples of changes to remix could be changing tempo, pitch, beats, lyrics, sequence, integrating audio from different songs and/or adding your own sounds. Listen to the 2021 Winners (after listening to Entrepreneur) and see if they can identify how the song was remixed. Here is an example of a remix of four Elton John Songs by Dua Lipa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vodga3_Nog
Now that you know what you need to do to enter...let’s look at what you will be competing for.. - 5 Grand prize Winners - 2 Division Winners ($500 Gift cards for each round - Middle School/Elementary School) - 10 finalists each round ($200 Amazon Gift Card) - 100 Semi-finalists each round ($25 Amazon Gift Card) You can complete this song on your own or with a partner. Winners will be announced in summer 2022. Are you ready to be the next big music producer? Could you be the next grand prize winner? Watch the music videos of all three featured songs that you will be remixing:
Entrepreneur - Pharrell Williams (music video)
New Normal - Khalid (music video)
Underdog - Alicia Keys (music video)
Before we get started and dive deeper into these songs and the role of music, computer science, and entrepreneurship, let’s think about what we already know
to complete the challenge and what to still need to learn (or might be wondering about to complete the challenge)
Print out the student workbook: https://2feeae1a-1cd0-41cf-a9c1-cce331bd4e47.usrfiles.com/ugd/2feeae_1ae42bba39034df8aa4c2d053e8682e2.pdf
Complete the Know/Want to Know Chart on Page 7 of your Student Workbook.
Your challenge is to use your voice to promote a positive message through your music. So let’s explore how artists throughout history have used music to tell their stories and inspire others. Answer these questions:
How is music a unifying force?
How can music be an effective way to share a message or communicate with the public?
What do you think about when you listen to music or after you listen to music?
How does music/songs tell a story?
Music has played a role in the woman’s movement, support for/against wars (protest music), and helped unite groups for a particular cause. Music has brought people together for generations to call attention to societal issues. One example is “We are the World” composed in 1985 by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson (in a collaboration with over 45 artists) that raised money for African famine relief and conveyed the message that everyone in the world is connected. The song and its message raised over 50 million in donations.
Songs have also played an important role documenting the cultural, political, and social landscape of our nation (and even globally). After 9/11, country music stars such as Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn took to the airwaves to share their emotions over a life changing event. Even one of Taylor’s Swift’s most recent releases “Only the Young” was inspired by a political event - 2018 Midterm elections. Now it is your turn to think about a song that tells a story/conveys a message through music.
Here are some examples but before you listen, let your parent review the songs below. Some of these lyrics are very powerful and may not be appropriate for younger audiences. So, make sure you have your parent’s permission.
“Strange Fruit” by Abel Meerpol - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DGY9HvChXk
“We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhnPVP23rzo
“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWwgrjjIMXA
“A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBlaMOmKV4
“Imagine” by John Lennon/Yoko Ono - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNnFFKv_NyI
“Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and the Wailers - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv5xonFSC4c
“ Where Were You When the World stopped turning?” - Allan Jackson - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj6rMcVNQbw
Listen to each one of these songs and think about the messaging in the song and
the inspiration for the song. On page 7 of your workbook write down the answers to these questions:
What is the social/political/cultural landscape that the song describes?
What is the story the artist is telling? Write down whatever comes to your mind first.
While you might have heard about the relationship between music and how you can impact others, you may not be familiar with how coding/computer science can also be a pathway to make a difference. How many times have you said-- I wish there was an app for that? Computer Science has become a mechanism in how we solve problems. The use of code our daily lives has reshaped the way we live, work, and communicate. As we write the code or programs, we have to consider how the application or technological solution will affect diverse populations and communities. It can be easy to write a quick program to solve a problem, but it is important to make sure that code is free from bias and is representative of the community it is is trying to help. The algorithms (A process or set of rules to be carried out by a computer/person ) that are written in code may often determine where a someone is interviewed for a job or receives a financial aid or a college scholarship. Therefore, code can be a tool that positively impacts people. Using code to solve problems is very important.
Let’s get started:
Go to Earsketch.gatech.edu (EarSketch will not work on a mobile device or offline, so you will need to have access to a computer and reliable internet access.)
Click the “Get Started” button
Create and account and login
Click on “Click here to create a new script!”
Name your script: Your Voice is Power - Your Initials - Surf Skate Science
Your new script is open in your code editor.
Let’s explore the role of comments in code. Comments are signaled by the pound sign (#) and are in gray. These lines are not executed when you run your script. You can use comments to make notes in your code. You can also use comments to explain the purpose or message of your code. Think about comments as a way of providing hints to decoding.
You should also see how the comments in this sample code explain the organization of the song to the viewer (intro, verse, outro etc.). These lines of code are not executed by the computer but provide a method to include notes or descriptors in the code. They are also a way to explain their message or purpose of each line of code. You will need to include comments in the code you submit for the challenge. It will help the judges understand the organization and purpose of your code and the meaning you were trying to convey.
Awesome work today, start the next lesson at your own pace.
There are many connections between coding and composing music.
An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be carried out by a computer. Algorithms can be written with computer code.
DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) are specialized computer software for recording, editing, and playing digital audio files or clips. EarSketch is a DAW that allows audio clips to be placed on a timeline using computer code.
Sections are related musical units consisting of multiple measures. Each section expresses an idea or feeling
A script is a series of instructions that is executed in a specific order by a computer. An EarSketch script consists of comments, setup, music, and finish sections.
The API is a set of tools to accomplish a specific programming task.
Wait, have you guys coded before? Do you know what it means to code? Maybe you used Scratch or Code.org before and have done some coding. If you haven’t, no worries — we are going to start with something I know you do know: dancing! Is everyone ready to learn how learning the steps of a dance is like coding? Get ready to Cha Cha!
The Cha-Cha slide is just like Code! Code is a set of instructions for a computer to perform, and the Cha-Cha slide is a list of dance moves to perform! Coding is also just like a recipe! It’s just a set of directions for a computer to follow.
Using code or “functional notation,” you are going to code a dance, just like the Cha-Cha slide. On your paper, I want you to describe one dance move instruction on each line, using the following format: action(body part, direction, number of times). Come up with a dance that is at least 8 lines long.
When you are done, pass these instructions to a friend or family member and have them follow your algorithm line by line. Does your algorithm work as expected? If not, place a “#” on the line where your program “crashes” and improve it!
The steps of the Cha-Cha slide are an algorithm. An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be carried out by a computer/person. Algorithms can be written with computer code. Your code will simply be a set of instructions, and in EarSketch, that set of instructions will tell the computer how to play music.
Hopefully, you are inspired listening to some great songs created by students just like you. Click the yellow “Start Coding” button (on the EarSketch home page) to enter the EarSketch Platform. When you enter EarSketch, you will see a "Welcome to EarSketch Quick Tour" popup, click "Skip" and the bottom to continue to explore the platform.
You learned all about the connections between code and music....and as you explore EarSketch, you will learn more. EarSketch is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) with special tools that allow audio clips to be placed on a timeline using computer code. A DAW is often the main tool for producing music on a computer and is used in most recording studios. A DAW is specialized computer software for recording, editing, and playing digital audio files. Pharrell’s studio uses DAW Pro Tools and you may have heard of Garage Band or Logic Pro as examples of other DAWs
Check out how a top music producer uses a DAW and his laptop to mix and record songs from some of the most popular musical artists.
Producing from your laptop (Warren "Oak" Felder) https://youtu.be/FUHcYX1-9Y8
What are the advantages to producing music on a phone or laptop? (Produce from anywhere)
What DAW is Oak using? (Logic Pro)
How does the DAW help Oak produce music? (Layer the tracks)
What is surprising about the Gospel Choir in Demi Lovato's song "Sorry not Sorry"? (It's the vocals of the producers, writers voices stacked 40x)
How is the technology the great equalizer? (no need for a studio, equipment-- It's all about creativity)
A laptop is a pretty powerful tool to produce music. Let's look at the EarSketch DAW and see how you can apply your creativity to be the next great music producer. Clear on the gear icon in the top right of your screen (right next to the bell). Click "Start Quick Tour". After the quick tour, you will explore the workspace in more detail.
OPEN A SCRIPT
Creating a Script
It’s time to create your script. How many of you have heard that word before? You may have heard it used in your English Language Arts or Theatre class. A script is a written text with instructions of what to say in a play/TV show/movie. A script in coding is similar. A script is a series of instructions carried out in a specific order by a computer. Your script in EarSketch is your list of instructions for the computer to play your music, just like a script gives actors/ actresses instructions on what to say when they perform. Let’s learn how to create a script in EarSketch! Follow along .
Click on the blue text “Click here to create a new script!” in the middle of the screen to create a new script.
If you are new to coding, we recommend starting this curriculum by choosing Python as your coding language. Python is a general-purpose computer programming language that is used by many large companies, and is one of the ten most popular programming languages in the world. Python has been used for web development by companies like Yahoo and Google. In addition to web development, Python can be used for game development, science, education, and graphics. Games that have been created with Python include Civilization 4, Battlefield 2, and Crystal Space. Other well-known companies that have made extensive use of the Python programming language include The National Weather Service, NASA, IBM, Disney, and Nokia.
Let's go over some important sections in your script. • Comments Section: Notes about your code • Setup Section: This code tells the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) how to prepare to make music. • Music Section: The most important section. All of the details of your code and composition go here. • Finish Section: It tells the DAW that you are done composing and are ready to play your music.
We will be diving into each of these sections throughout the “Your Voice is Power” remix competition. This is just an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the parts of your script. All scripts are automatically saved in the scripts browse in the Content Manager (left menu). If you click on the scripts browser right now, you should see the name of today’s script at the top of the list in the scripts browser.
You will never lose your work in EarSketch. When you close your web browser today, you can open up EarSketch tomorrow, login to your account, and find your script in your scripts browser. You can also recover any scripts deleted by accident or search script by owner or name.
Music - Run and Play
EarSketch is all about coding and composing, so let’s add a few lines of code that will insert sound files into your script. These lines of code will be tracks in your DAW. Type (or copy) this code into your script on line 13:
fitMedia(RD_UK_HOUSE_MAINBEAT_8, 1, 1, 9)
ffitMedia(RD_POP_SYNTHBASS_6, 2, 1, 9)
fitMedia(YG_FUNK_CONGAS_3, 3, 1, 9)
These three lines of code insert sound clips into our script. Now, let’s learn how to run our code and listen to our sound clips.
Click “Run” in the upper right corner of the code editor.
If your code does not run, you may have an error. You can check the console (space below the code editor) to look for errors. If you have an error, check to make sure that you copied the code correctly. The error message in the console identifies the line of code with the error. An example of an error in the console looks like the image below (in this example, I left a letter out of the sound clip on line 16):
If your code ran successfully, you can now view your code in the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Your audio clips are shown in colorful rectangles along a timeline in the DAW.
To listen to your music, click the Play button (green arrow). You can also use the other buttons at the top right of the DAW to control play of your song such as reset, mute, volume, and loop. Take a few minutes to practice using these buttons.
Did you like your beats? Ready to add some more? It is time to let your creativity flow and add a few more beats to your code. The sounds that you coded are from the EarSketch Sound Browser. EarSketch has over 4,000 audio clips, made by artists and producers such as Young Guru, Richard Devine, Ciara, Common, Pharrell, Alicia Keys, and Khalid. You can choose from instruments such as drums, vocals, bass, guitar and many more in over 23 genres. Follow my directions and let's start layering those sounds
1. Starting with line 17 (or the line below their last fitMedia() ) type:
fitMedia(sound, 4, 1, 9)
fitMedia(sound, 5, 1, 9)
fitMedia (sound, 6, 1,9)
2. Highlight "sound" on line 17 . (You must highlight the whole word sound!) 3. Open up the content manager. Click on "Sounds" . This opens up the sound browser
4. Use the filter to search for a sound that you like or click on any sound listed in the collec- tion. Use the green play button to listen to the sound.
5. If you like the sound, click the blue clipboard and paste the sound clip in to your fit- Media(). The name of the sound clip will take the place of the word "sound" in your code. (The "name" of the sound clip replaces the word sound in their fitMedia() function. The word sound is just a place holder)
6. Click Run and then play to listen to your code.
7. Repeat this on lines 18 and 19.
You have now coded six tracks of your own song. This is a great start to using EarSketch. We hope you are hooked and ready to start the "Your Voice is Power Experience."
Before you take off coding, we want to provide you will a few more tools to help you in your journey. You learned that EarSketch is a DAW with extra features. So what are those extra features?
These extra features allow you to place audio clips using code. EarSketch adds extra tools within its programming languages to accomplish the goal of creating music. The code you copied above had one of those tools: fitMedia(), which inserts audio clips into the code.
This collection of tools is called an Application Programming Interface, or API. Other examples of APIs include the Google Maps API (a set of tools for embedding maps into websites or apps) and the YouTube API (tools for embedding YouTube videos in websites).
Open up your Content Manager (Toggle the left menu) The open book icon is the API folder.
Click to view the EarSketch API and explore EarSketch functions.
In addition to the API folder, if you need any help coding in EarSketch, you can toggle open the right menu to view icon the curriculum . You can search by topic to watch videos and tutorials on EarSketch content. There is a student self-guided version of Your Voice is Power that is linked here.
Toggle to right menu open to view the curriculum.
It’s time to show your new role as a coder in your final EarSketch Task to print a command. On line 20 (or the next open line), type print "Your name is a coder". For example, if my name was Pharrell, I would write on line 20: print "Pharrell is a coder" See the code below as an example.
from earsketch import *
fitMedia(RD_UK_HOUSE_MAINBEAT_8, 1, 1, 9)
fitMedia(RD_POP_SYNTHBASS_6, 2, 1, 9)
fitMedia(YG_FUNK_CONGAS_3, 3, 1, 9)
print"Pharrell is a coder"
Click “Run”. Look at the console — your print command should print there.
Congratulations, you are a coder and are ready to start Module 1!
You learned how to:
Create an EarSketch Account
Open a Script
Find the sections of a script
Run your code
Play your music
Look at the console for errors.
Use the resources in the API and Curriculum folder
For the next lesson, we will begin the Your Voice Is Power Competition!
What we will learn this lesson:
Artists use lyrics to express a purpose to their song.
Music has a message; however, it is not as straightforward as you may think. Often, it needs to be decoded.
We can use frameworks like OUTKAST Imagination to decode songs.
Coding and composing music have many similarities. They are mathematical, structured processes that allow for creativity.
Comments are lines of code in a script that are not executed by the computer. However, they are used to make notes in the code.
Are you ready to share your voice? You heard how top recording artists; Pharrell Williams, Khalid, and Alicia Keys all tell a story through their music. Today, we are going to dive deeper into lyric analysis and decode the message in your music. You will then have the opportunity for you to begin expressing your voice and embed messages in code with comments. Let’s get started!
You had the opportunity to preview Pharrell William’s “Entrepreneur Song”. We are now going to look at the lyrics and think about the story Pharrell is telling in his song.
Play the video again. I wanted you to think about the story and sequence (order) of the song.
What is the story that Pharrell is trying to tell? In your student notebook, write about the story and record three lines or images that jump out from the video and help with your song understanding. Remember, that the power of music is that it can create an emotional response in the listener. Think about how this song creates that response in you.
Take notes in your notebook about the song and video. You may want to stop the video at the midpoint to have the opportunity to record your thoughts. Write down your ideas about Pharrell’s story. What part of the song stood out to you and helped with your song understanding? Why?
Why do you think Pharrell cares about entrepreneurship? Why would he create this song and music video? How did his choice of Entrepreneurs reach out to you? Allow students to think independently and then share out their starting thoughts.
To help us better understand the message behind Pharrell’s music, we’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Joycelyn Wilson, a professor of Hip Hop Studies and Digital Humanities in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. Dr. Wilson is a scholar in Black Media Studies and she created a framework to help her students decode song lyrics to find the true meaning of an artist’s lyrics. This framework is called the Outkast Imagination.
We will use the Outkast Imagination as an analytical tool to decode the message in the music. As you play the video, write down what each letter in the rubric stands for on page 2 of the Student Workbook (or Page 10 of Full Notebook).
When we analyze songs using OUTKAST Imagination, we can use these guiding questions to help us. Now, let’s try to use the OUTKAST Imagination Framework to decode the meaning of Pharrell’s lyrics in the Intro Verse.
Do a close reading of his lyrics and record for each set of lines your thoughts on the following big questions:
What is Pharrell’s message?
What does he mean by these lines?
What elements of OUTKAST Imagination do you see?”
To help you better understand how Dr. Joycelyn Wilson analyzes lyrics using her framework, let’s take a minute to hear her analysis of the lyrics now that you’ve had a try. Remember: there is no correct answer here. We just want you to see
what an expert might hear in Pharrell’s lyrics.
We are now going to take a deeper dive to ensure that as a class we have a common understanding of three really important themes that are deeply embedded within this song’s lyrics. Those three themes are entrepreneurship, equity, and racism. To start off, let’s first define entrepreneurship and equity. Please record these key terms into your notebook.
Entrepreneurship is the act of starting and operating a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope financial profit or social impact.
Equity is the ability for all groups of people to experience the same quality of life. It includes taking any necessary actions to make sure that all groups of people get fair treatment and the right resources that enable them to thrive.
During our last activity, we got to see both of these themes (entrepreneurship and equity) rise. However, one major barrier to equity for all entrepreneurs is racism. I’m sure you have all learned about racism or even experienced it/seen it in the past. How would you define racism? Take a minute right now to write down what you think racism is.
It’s important that we all know what racism is, so here is our class definition:
Racism is the subtle and overt mistreatment, hurt, and harm (discrimination) against individuals or members of a group based on the color of their skin. It manifests in a variety of ways and impacts everyone differently.
What is similar or different in this definition from what you put down?
What evidence of racism do you see in the intro verse of Entrepreneur?
How did it or how could it have impacted Pharrell and Jay-Z?
How have you personally seen racism play out or been impacted by it?
Today, we are going to explore the role of comments in code. Comments are signaled by the pound/hashtag sign (#) and are in green. These lines are not executed when you run your script. You can use comments to make notes in your code. You can also use comments to explain the purpose or message of your code. Think about comments as a way of providing hints to decoding.
Write down comments in the notebook.
Let’s look at your empty script. Can you identify some examples of comments in the empty script?
You should also see how the comments in this sample code explain the organization of the song to the viewer (#mymusic, #soundbank etc.). These lines of code are not executed by the computer but provide a method to include notes or descriptors in the code. They are also a way to explain their message or purpose of each line of code. You will need to include comments in the code you submit for the challenge. It will help the judges understand the organization and purpose of your code and the meaning you were trying to convey.
It is time for you to apply your new knowledge to messaging in music to the EarSketch Platform. You need to open up the EarSketch site in your web browser (we recommend Chrome or Firefox) and follow the directions below to get started.
Student Directions to get started:
Go to Earsketch.gatech.edu
Click the “Get Started” button
Login to their EarSketch Account (students should have created accounts on Day 0)
Click on “Click here to create a new script!”
Name their Script: Your Voice is Power - Your Initials - Surf Skate Science
Your new script is open in your code editor.
We can actually write code in our workbook and transfer it to the EarSketch platform. This will help you showcase your work to me and ensure that we don’t lose any of your progress. Please look at the code in your workbook now. Please edit the highlighted lines of code with your name.
Now, let’s run this code to see how comments are ignored! Edit the code in the workbook and delete the current code in your script in the EarSketch browser — your script is blank. Now, copy and paste the code from the workbook into EarSketch and press ‘Run>’. Let’s see what happens!
What happened when you ran your code? What lines of code “printed to the console”? Was this what you expected would happen when you ran your code? What lines of code were not executed? Why were these lines not executed by the computer? In the same way that music can contain hidden messages in its lyrics, our code can contain hidden messages in the comments. Use comments to embed messages & organize your code. They will not be executed when you run the script.
Take some time to explore EarSketch. Explore cool sounds, see what artists they can use, discover how different parts work, etc.
Awesome work today! We’ve started to learn how to decode the message in the music and how to embed secret messages within our code. This will help us later in the challenge. To close out today, answer these questions on page 6.
Look at your console in the EarSketch Platform. What lines of code “Printed to the Console”? Was this what you expected would happen when you ran your code? (line 13 and 40)
What lines of code were not executed? Why were these lines not executed by the computer? (multiple lines, any line with a # sign — these are comments, the # sign tells the computer not to execute this code)
How could you use comments to also include messaging in your music? What additional comments would you like to add to your script after your learning today? (answers vary)