Thursday, July 6, 2017

Using Garageband and Apple Loops to Remix History

How do we get students to interact with history?

Let them remix it. 

I was messing around with GarageBand on my new MacBook Pro a few days ago, and I started to explore Apple Loops, GarageBand's built-in loop library.

If you're not familiar with loops, they're repeating sections of sound patterns that you can drag-and-drop into GarageBand to create some really interesting instrumental tracks. The best part of using a loop library is that you don't have to have any formal training to create some killer sounding music.

GarageBand with Apple Loops

I started to think about how we could use this with students, and I wondered what it would be like to layer some spoken audio over the top of what I'd made.

Since presidential speeches are in the public domain, I found a 30-second clip of Harry S Truman addressing the nation after dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima

I downloaded it, brought it into GarageBand, and listened, thinking about how I could make it fit.

And something interesting happened.

I had to really listen to Truman's speech. Nuance, breaks, emphasis, inflection...they all became important because they all became part of the tapestry of sound I was creating. 

I'd never noticed the slightly unsettling glee in Truman's voice when, right after announcing the bomb had been dropped, he informs America that "We won the race of discovery against the Germans."


Or that part of the rationale of the attack was "to shorten the agony of war," a claim that with 70 years of hindsight and unintended consequences, seems completely and painfully absurd.

Here's what I put together, the speech starts about 30 seconds in. The kids can do way better. :)

I found it very interesting that by chopping, rearranging, repeating, trimming, and remixing, I was forced to interact with the speech (and the event) in a way I never would have by passively listening to it. 

So as you think about what historical figure or event your students will study next, ask yourself how they can remix it and make it their own. They'll blow you away with what they can do.

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