STEAM Education in Music

Background

STEAM (STEM + Arts = STEAM) is a movement championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). This educational approach integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. Recently, there are strong needs from Hong Kong Education Bureau, local schools and institution to promote STEAM (STEM + Arts) education so as to nurture students' creativity, innovation, collaboration and problem-solving skills through the integration of academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. This project aims at equipping our education major students who are our future teacher with the necessary concepts and skills through various tailor-made teaching and learning tasks.

 

This project will be divided into five phases. Students will be able: (1) To invent a musical instrument(s) through the application of electronic building blocks; (2) To design a music programme by applying relevant coding language which connects objects with virtual patch to create interactive sounds for the invented electronic instrument; (3) To create a piece of creative music for the instruments by applying contemporary composition techniques; (4) To perform the composition in public; (5) To appraise and evaluate the creative process and product from scientific, technological, engineering, art and mathematical perspectives.

 

Collaborative Creativity

The Hong Kong Education Bureau, local schools and institution substantially needs to promote STEAM education to nurture students’ creativity, collaboration and problem-solving skills through the integration of academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. This project aims to provide an environment for students to experience collaborative creativity through innovative STEAM initiatives. With the funding of Teaching Development Grant (TDG) at The Education University of Hong Kong, various STEAM activities are enabled in the course – ‘Creativity in Music’. 

 

Content 

  • An elective course entitled ‘Creativity in Music’ for all undergraduate students in the Education University of Hong Kong 

  • A total of 33 students who meet for three-hour lecture per week in one semester 

  • Conducted in a formal teaching and learning environment for 13 weeks 

  • The class consists of music and non-music major students 

  • Students are equipped with necessary skills in composing, coding, and instrument making with the use of Max 7 and littleBits electronic building blocks.

  • Students design their electronic instrument followed by creating a composition 

  • The final product is performed and video-taped by the students

 

Teaching and Learning Activities

#1
Creative Music-making with the Use of Electrical Conductors

#2

Generating Music with Visual Coding

#4

Coding from Somewhere to Anywhere - Controlling the Synthesised Sound with a Wifi Tablet

#3

Electric Instrument Making as Music Making

#5

Group Creative Composition and Improvisation

 

Students' Interview 

Experiences of the STEAM initiative

 

Group A

  • The novel experience in STEAM motivates us to experiment the feasibility of using electronic building blocks to generate unexpected sound effects.

  • Creativity is essential in STEAM education. We must practice creative thinking to create new things.

 

Group B

  • We formed a new sonority with the application of electronic building blocks rather than following the models to generate existing sounds. The creative process is different because we are creating and not imitating.
     

Group C

  • We gained STEAM knowledge in the course

  • The course enhanced our creativity by providing us with the necessary conditions to create.

  • The electronic building blocks and coding software provided huge possibilities in this creative project. We were motivated to formulate the final product.

  • Compared with a traditional music lesson, this course applied a student-centred approach that enabled better creative thinking.

 

Collaborative Music Making

Group A

  • We balanced the improvement to create our ideal sound based on the different comments on the outcome.

  • We did not appoint a leader in our group, and thus, no one was responsible in leading the entire progress.

  • We shared any ideas we had and synthesised.
     

Group B

  • We handled the parts we were good at and assisted each other.
     

Group C

  • Everyone in the group was responsible for researching sound effects. We divided other tasks, such as technical operation of the hardware and software, storyline formulation, video and sound recording and recording the setup of different sound effects. Everyone did their part well and contributed their strength to the group.

  • We settled our theme, which was about aliens attacking the Earth. We discussed the possibility of using Logic Pro to combine many layers of sound to flourish the product. In the last stage, we designed the flow of the piece with a meaningful story background.

 
 

Students' Reflection

Students’ Reflection

Group A

  • We stagnated for a long time in the second half because we could not reach a consensus on what to do after the rocket goes to space. In addition, the limitation of the equipment was one of our consideration. Until we were introduced to overtone in a lesson, we determined that one of our groupmates can perform overtone, which evoked the concept of alien searching.

 

  • I really appreciate this composition. In fact, the outcome is more beautiful than I expected. This is my first time to compose something ‘non-traditional’. The progress is more interesting compared with the traditional composition. I can ignore all the rules and limitation of theories, and create the ‘sound’ to express what I think. This is most attractive part for me in this kind of music.

 

Group B

  • Before we started to create this music project, we thought of a meaningful and creative story because we believe creative music should possess a meaningful message. Therefore, we created the storyline of ‘Life and Death – A Journey of Life’ with a similar narrative structure to ‘The Three Little Pigs’.

 

  • This music work is my first step to break away from my comfort zone. I am looking forward to enhance my creativity after the inspiration of the course and the use of different tools.

 

Group C

  • During the process, some of us only used littleBits and some of us connected it to the computer to test various sounds. With the increase of understanding, we created different music pieces, such as the sounds of firing guns, wind, UFO landing or the scream of a monster, to describe the scenes of our story.

 

  • The creative project focused on performing something new and obtaining new elements to create music through different means and expand the possibility. Specifically, many group mates collaborated and several improvisation parts, such as how to describe the war between human soldiers and aliens, were provided.

 

  • Several sounds were created through the instruments. However, we had to combine the designed sounds into a meaningful story and background. Considering that most of the songs we heard contained background and meaning, we investigated the possible sound combination with littleBits, Max 7 and Logic Pro. We also brainstormed and formulated meaningful flows of the alien theme.

 

  • I think we succeeded in creating several ‘new’ music. In this type of music, sound design was important.

 

  • Generally, I am proud of my group in creating such a masterpiece. The product was great because this was a collaborative work and the standard of the work was high. We combined different applications and our talents in the work.

Students' Outcome

Group A: Journey to the Stars 

Journey to the Stars is the story of the adventure of an astronaut in the universe. The music depicts the rocket launch, the long journey in space and the landing on a mysterious planet. littleBits, Max 7 and inside piano were used in this piece. 

 

Group B: Life and Death – A Journey of Life

Life and Death – A Journey of Life depicts the life journey from birth to death. This piece is a journey of happiness, sadness, hopefulness and frustration. littleBits, GarageBand and several existing melodies were used in this piece. 

 

Group C: Aliens Attacking the Earth

Aliens Attacking the Earth is a fictitious piece set in the post 21st century when a large number of aliens about their strange UFOs invaded the Earth . The music depicts the invasion of aliens, the battle between aliens and humans, the loss of the humans and the aliens ruling the Earth. LittleBits, Max 7 and Logic Pro were used in this piece.

 

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