As if by chance

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 

 

Tutors: Robin Meier, Thierry Madiot/ musicians, Fabrice Guédy, Sébastien Gaxie/ composers

Project manager: Stéphane Coulaud

 

Objectives: 
Using mathematics, especially learning how that discipline has tried to describe chance and reduce its effects by logical constructions, the pupils were asked to compose a sound track using random and unpredictable effects.
If music is the abstract art of mixing, harmonising and controlling the duration and intensity of sound, how can chance, which is by nature unpredictable, aleatoric and uncertain, be used as an element in composition?

Workshops: 
In 2013, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. A project based on the rough drafts of the Rite was developed to explore chance and randomness. Music Lab 2 software developed at Ircam made it easier for the pupils and their teachers to understand a piece which is still perceived as difficult today.
Two tableaux from the Rite were randomly recomposed. Apart from Stravinsky's drafts, the “raw material” was composed of recordings made by the pupils at the Paris Conservatory on three principles: insertion, ornamentation and "sound stickers".

The workshop was divided into three main phases:
Context
To help the pupils understand the context in which Rite of Spring was written, we began with a brief presentation of baroque (Bach) and classical (Mozart) music and ended with examples from the modern period (Debussy).

Music Lab 2
The second phase focused on episodes from the first part, The Adoration of the Earth, Augurs of Spring and the Dance of the Earth.  In this phase the pupils worked with the software Music Lab 2 to compose and recreate music using pieces taken from the drafts. They took time to listen to the pieces they had composed. Each session was followed by a mathematical entry, using dice to set the level, duration, etc. of the recomposition in progress.

Our Rite
In the last session the pupils put the finishing touches to their creation. Afterwards we drew up a panorama of composers who were inspired by the Rite and those who refused or even denied the influence of the Rite on their own work and on contemporary music as a whole.

Outcome:
Each class produced a musical creation during the workshops. One class fitted a recording device on a balloon and listened to the sky; another class digitally processed songs recorded in the Ircam studios; yet another used everyday objects to make sounds which were then computer processed to make an original composition.

Acknowledgements: Deborah Lopatin, Ircam

 

Outings (selection):
- PERFORMANCE OF THE RITE OF SPRING BY THE PUPILS OF THE CONSERVATOIRE RÉGIONAL DE PARIS, SALLE PLEYEL;
- VISITS AND RECORDINGS IN IRCAM STUDIOS;
- CITÉ DE LA MUSIQUE;
- CONCERT: MONSIEUR HOEL AT THE LUTHERIE URBAINE

Participating schools:
- Class (6th), Collège Édouard-Herriot, Livry-Gargan
- Class de 5eSegpa), Collège Rosa-Luxembourg, Aubervilliers
- Class (4th), Collège Federico-Garcia-Lorca, Saint-Denis
- Class (3rd), Collège Robert-Doisneau, Clichy-sous-Bois