Tag Archives: Music

I Wanna Rock

So I am pretty stoked. Excited. Ecstatic really. A few weeks ago, I tweeted something along the the lines that someday I hope to be able to teach a class on, “The History of Rock and Roll. Film or Digital Storytelling.”

But because I teach middle school and at the moment our school does not offer any of those electives, I felt my dream would be just that– a far fetched fantasy forced to flounder somewhere in the future or worse disappear as yet another ephemeral tweet. That is until, I became creative and active in making my dreams come true.

We have quite a robust after school activity program at UWCSEA. This year I facilitated four terms of Middle School Master Chef. And don’t get me wrong, I loved it. It was so much fun to watch kids take risks and learn new skills in the kitchen, but for next year, I was on the hunt for something new. I almost committed to a High School Mountain Biking club, when it hit me! Why not offer my dream class as an activity? It is not the same as a class, as we only meet for an hour a week, but for the time being it is better than nothing.

Below is the email exchange between the me and the activities director:

Hi Hugh,

I have an idea for an activity that I have had for a while and if you think it is worthwhile and possible I would like to offer it next year.

So my idea is this: The History of Rock and Roll. Open to HS students, it is a chance to get together and study, explore and listen to the most important bands, songs, and albums of rock music from the 1950′-the 2000s. We will explore the historical and social context of the music, while looking at lyrics, musical structure as well as lasting impact on the world and rock music.

I have alway wanted to teach this as a class, so if you think it will work, I can write up a more formal blurb and come up with a pretty comprehensive plan.

Let me know what you think.

Hi Jabiz –

To be honest I’m not sure. History of R&R sounds interesting but as you say, it is a class – not sure that it has the content to be included in the Activity programme. We really need activities to be active learning and interactive, so learning about something doesn’t really hit that does it?
Hi Hugh,

I totally get what you are saying about this being more of a “class” as for the active learning or interactivity of it I have some ideas:

  • Perhaps we learn to play a song from each decade and perform at the end of a few weeks.
  • Perhaps we create a digital story (exploring tech, film, and media) at the end of each decade.
  • Perhaps we can share our work and learning on a blog and/or youtube channel
  • Perhaps we create an iBook documenting the learning.

Or maybe we blend all three:

We discuss and learn about music from every decade, learn to play a few songs throughout the term, which we perform and document the learning through film, media and digital storytelling. Finally we consolidate all of it in an iBook helping us learn (interactivity ) how to use iBook author software etc…

As you can see I am really passionate and excited by this possibility. If you tell me what some of the guidelines are I am sure I can make it work and I know there are kids who would be interested. Perhaps, we can chat in person so I can explain further.
Hi Jabiz,
Sounds great Jabiz – love the ideas!

Will include it – please check when I send it round.


image by zentrad

And just like that I am teaching my dream class. The basic idea is as descried above, but I am a swirl in a brain storm at the moment. I am open to any suggestions or ideas. It will be for High School stuents, which will be a great way for me to get to know them better and a great way for me to stay in touch with my grade eights moving on next year.

I cannot think of a better way of getting to know and bonding with people than talking about and playing music. I will plan out a rough outline this summer, but in the meantime any ideas, or bands or songs or films or anything you can share would be great.

Just think- This could be me


Copy Wrong

I have an hour to write this post and I am pissed. Can I say that on the Interwebz? Let me warn you, that although I often advocate for measured tempered writing, this post is rooted in anger and frustration. I am not sure exactly who the recipient of my rage is, but I know that EMI music and Youtube will take the brunt of my attack. I am also unhappy with the overall concept of copyright, ownership culture, capitalism in general, and the need for our society to commodify every aspect of life to the point of ruining it.

Stop. Breathe. Context.

Over the last ten weeks, my grade ten students have been working hard watching, dissecting and analyzing the film The Wall by Pink Floyd. We have watched the film, listened to the songs, and examined the lyrics. We have discussed the metaphor of walls, the role of artists in the face of authoritative bodies in society, as well several other themes. For their final product, the students have taken the lessons learned in terms of  symbolism and film techniques used by Alan Parker from the 1982 film and applied them to their own videos. Some students have chosen to sing the songs themselves, but most opted to use the existing songs because of the time crunch. They worked hard and created  amazing videos. Short films with depth, sophistication and beautiful cinematography.

In an effort to share the work with as big of an audience as possible, we created this page and posted their videos to Youtube. Within hours some of the videos were blocked in certain countries, because of the copy-righted songs owned by EMI.

“You used copy-righted music on youtube and are now surprised that it has been blocked. That seems silly.”

That is what you are thinking right? Let me explain why I am frustrated with this process.

1. Firstly, I am annoyed by the irregularity and chaos of the screening process. There are thousands of copy-righted videos on Youtube that play without any warnings or blocks year round. There are several copies of the very songs that we have used on Youtube right now! They play without any problems, while our student films are blocked. If you are going to block copy-righted material then block it all.

2. There is no recourse or avenue for us to address our grievance. Who do we contact if we want to claim that the use of this material was  for educational reasons and protected under the Fair Use clause? (Looks like I may owe Youtube an apology, thanks to Fair Use Tube.org I may have found a way to dispute the copyright claim and it looks like my videos have been freed?)

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

A few seconds later it appears that the block has been removed. All my videos still say that third party content has been matched, but no block and no points against my account.

Back to rant…What does it say about a “free” web that Emi and Youtube can simply pick and choose what we are allowed to post. It has been an eye-opening experience to literally run into the wall of ownership and copy-right law. We like to think that the Internet is an open, democratic, free space, but the reality is that it is not. Your average user cannot post what they want, when or where we want. We are confined by what the owners of the spaces and materials tell us is okay.  Really, we have little freedom. I am left asking how do we learn where to carve our own spaces online. I suppose we could post these videos on our own servers, but then we lose the ability to share widely, embed on the web etc…

3. I am irked by the notion that a corporation can own and restrict how we use art. We are not trying to use this material to make money or in any other commercial way. We are simply enjoying the process of derivative art creation,  inspired by songs we love. Why does EMI get to choose what happens to the music once it has been produced? I am not happy with the notion that everything can be copy-righted and owned. These giant companies do not give us the option of even asking to use their material. Let’s say I want to ask them to use this work, where do I start? Can I fill out a form on youtube? Their website? It is as if they have gathered all their toys and said no one else can play with them. If you don’t it- tough! More importantly, does the artist have any say in this process?

We are in the midst of a highly charged, market driven, hyper-capitalistic world where every thing we do, hear, see, create is owned by someone.  Sure we can teach kids about copy-right and creative commons, but what about questioning the very notion of copy-right. How do we teach kids to be critical of who owns what and what that means to each of us in a globalized world? This has been a great teachable moment, because we are forced to look at ownership and use, beyond sticking it to the man and finding some way to sneak onto Youtube, but rather we are forced to ask why does EMI get to choose what happens to this art? (If they do have a choice, why are they not using this) The idea of ephemeral, creative, artistic ideas floating about the internet are not possible if there is a wall telling us what we can and cannot use.

We are not sure what we are going to do. We need to talk about it as a class. Perhaps move the videos to Vimeo and hope for more slack regulation there. Maybe we write to EMI and Youtube and get caught in the maze of bureaucracy. Nothing quite so radicalizing as banging your head against some mad buggers wall. This is, after all, a small school project dealing with media ownership, but what happens when we start talking about Monsanto and their battles with farmers over seed patents? Medicines? Ideas? Where does the ownership and profiting stop?

I know I don’t have any answers. I don’t think that was my point. I needed to vent and perhaps ask to  hear your thoughts and gather some resources. What do you think about what I have said? How can we teach kids to be fair and ethical in a system that seems stacked in favor of the people who own what they experience.

Since sharing this post, I have been given some great resources. The first is RIP- A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor. It comes with a complete .pdf teaching guide. I was also reminded of the great series- Everything is a Remix created by Kirby Ferguson. Watch the first one here and see the rest….well here and here.


Wagon Wheel

Last week, upon my return from an extended holiday in Thailand, I had an urge to sing a song that I had discovered while vacationing. Throughout my break, I had missed my guitar terribly, and the first thing I wanted to do was see if I could strum the chords and sing the lyrics in the same reckless and carefree manner as this amazing band called Old Crow Medicine Show.

Once home, I tuned my guitar and sang it to the best of my ability. It felt good. Natural. Raw, yes, but comfortable. At this point I know that Leslie (@onepercentyello) is always good for a little Ukulele and harmonies that can take my out-of-tune voice and make it sound presentable. I uploaded it to Soundcloud, sent a few tweets and linked it to Facebook, asking anyone to:

Download this file add some banjo, fiddle, harmonica, gazoo, whatever you want, then upload YOUR part to soundcloud and send me the link. The timing should be right, but DO NOT send me a file with your part on top of my part. It will get muddled. Send me your part only. I will layer and arrange what I get back into a song.

A few minutes later @bryanjack from Vancouver sent me a lead guitar track,  a few hours after that @joebire from Australia  sent me a Mandolin track, a day later @drgarcia from Monterey (Where are you now?) sent me some awesome Patti Smith style backing vocals,  Leslie had a crazy weekend, but she did not disappoint, finally @joelbirch from Paris sent me some wicked electric guitar tracks. Every morning I would wake up to a new thread for my sonic tapestry.

Tonight, I played with the sound levels and am ready to present the final piece. Maybe not final, but where it stands now:

Wagon Wheel Collab by intrepidflame

I have only ever met Leslie and only briefly. We have made music together several times in the past. Bryan and I have played together on a few projects too, but I have never met or worked with the others. We are a loose network of learners interested in seeing what these tools can do to bring people together.

image By giulia.forsythe

What does it mean that a group of people spanning the globe find the time to create music just for the sake of it? How are our relationships and connections strengthen by the bound of music, however, splintered and artificial? I understand that this is not a collaborative project, seeing that everything came through me and the others were not able to hear what anyone but me had recorded, but that is not the point. The point is that this was a spontaneous idea that had little to no planning. What could we produce if we explored other tools, planned together, exchanged ideas, or played live. Practiced. Edited. Well you get the idea.

I am a big fan of spontaneous, loose, free flowing projects. They open our ideas to what is possible. Not only for our own enjoyment, but they can help us consider the implications these sessions or ones like it can have for our students. I would love to hear from the participants of this project in the comments. Why is this important? Is it? What did you get out of this? Why did you participate?

I am hoping that the real beauty of what we have done will come out in the ideas we share in the subsequent conversations. Furthermore, I would like to invite anyone reading to help take this project a step further. How about if someone or a group of people created a video for it! I would love to be involved and take direction, but don’t want to lead the video. I love to see how far we can push ideas. The song is public, creative commons, and waiting for anyone to do more with it. Find another group and create something else with it. Please share what you do. I will send this post to the band and see what they think as well.

Thanks everyone for playing along.



What Light

My stomach is in knots and I am nervous.

“Why did you do this again?”

“Because this feeling of terror when allowed to simmer resembles joy. This bubbling anxiety is a fine reminder that you are alive.”

“But I am tired and not really in the mood to do this anymore. I just want to go home and sleep. I am not ready. I will get the B flat wrong. I will forget the words. I will look stupid in front of the teachers I work with, the parents and worse my students will think I am an idiot. I will embarrass myself.”

“Can you hear yourself? This is what you do. You model behavior. You act brave. You embrace the voice inside, even if it falters and is inaudible at times. You owe it to your students, you owe it to Kaia, you owe it to yourself.”

“I understand what you are saying, but siting here on the edge I need more courage.”

“There is no shame in mediocrity. There is no shame in trying and failing. There is no shame in getting it “wrong.” Just walk up on that stage, strum that guitar and sing your song.”

Thoughts on performances from past years, February 2006, May 2006, and February 2007.

If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re trying to paint a picture
But you’re not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It’s alright to be frightened

When there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
Inside of you

If you think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don’t loose sight of yourself
Don’t let anyone change your bag

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You’ll only get uptight

Because there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
Inside of you…

by Wilco


Written In Tunes

I just finished clearing out my RSS feed, left a few comments, and feel a general sense of “being caught up.” Not quite sure what to do next, I decided to quickly try out a random assignment from #ds106. It looks like this:

Write a sentence (preferably somewhat coherent, yet on the nonsensical side), a poem, or a quick story using the titles of songs you have in your Windows Media Player (iTunes may possibly work as well). Print the screen. Paste it in Microsoft Paint (or some higher-end equivalent). Save it, upload it, and share. If you could even respond to the one I originally created as a challenge (possibly even embed it as a comment on that blog entry), that would be even cooler.

This was a fun little reminder that there are stories and poems everywhere we look. We just have to look. Looking forward to trying this with some classes soon, but in the meantime what is this story about to you? I tried to deal with plot, character, setting etc…Maybe after reading your comments. I can turn it into a short story or a chapter in my memoir.