Group Music Making


Event Responses

SSU Concerts

Listening Responses

How to Listen

Multimedia Resources



Music making is a core of this class. We make music as a class by engaging in music making activities as a group. You make music as listeners for three hours weekly. What's missing? Small group music making, the jewel in the crown!

You will each be assigned to a small group (4-8 people--I will place you with people you wish to work with during the semester); where possible, each group includes one member (at least) who has the capability to record live music. If your group does not have a recorder, one group member must check out a cassette tape recorder from Media Services to use each time you meet. (The recordings you make are not to be turned in. They are to allow you to hear your work as a means of developing your presentation.)

Your group should meet at least once a week after the groups are set, for a minimum of 10 meetings for the semeste. This is a very important part of your semester's work. The musical explorations you undertake in your small group makes this the most important musical society you will explore.

How are you to make music? .

Most important, is your own individual and your group's collective imagination. In one sense, you make music just like you cook: choose your ingredients, mix them, heat them, savor their interaction. Any approach is by definition fruitful; either it leads to something, or it shows you a path not to take. The big difference is that, in cooking, the product is assumed to be the point (though there are those who love the activity of cooking without being overly concerned about the results)--we want to eat, too! The arts are different--at the most basic level, making art is free play, a return to the open attitude toward possibilities we lose as we grow up. Here is an invitation to let it be.

What are the limits? They are set by the group. You share the responsibility, and the joy, of musicking, of making music happen.

How are you to work together?

That brings us to a complementary starting point. You all should have downloaded a PDF file called Musicking. The ideas on this sheet provide many points of departure for making music together. Especially useful is the brief line about relationships--duplicate==>support==>co-exist==>undermine; those four words are a pretty fair summary of how you can relate to what goes around you, musically and otherwise. We will be using them in class; you should explore them in your small groups also. This is an abstract beginning point. Abstraction is one of our most powerful tools; if you deliberately start from very simple action plans, without any other restrictions, you discover a lot about what music making is. Do it!

The Musicking PDF file also include Music Games, some more specific formats for musicking. Use these, too, as points of departure for your own work.

Draw upon class practice, especially our class activities, and on suggestions in The Listening Book; but remember that your own individual and collective imagination is always your most important resource.

Make sure you take advantage of the ability to record record your music and listen back! Some of your most productive work will happen on second and third takes; but some of the first takes will amaze you, too.

All sound sources are welcome, including traditional instruments. Use existing music you play as a starting point for something you create as a group; this is one of the oldest and richest paths to musicing. But work primarily with found sounds and made instruments. Remember your whole being is always available--singing, talking, vocal sounds are by definition a part of the instrument you make--the instruments is really you + the instruments. And be sue you make up some of your own music on your traditional instruments if you use them!

For some of your work, you may choose to work with existing recorded music, or written music which you include, adding your own music to it. But make sure a majority of your work does not rely on something outside the group as a foundation. Make your own foundation! Try making a track you plan to play against, play that track back on another machine and play against it. Record the result, listen, modify, listen again.


As part of your work in your small group, each member should consider building a simple musical instrument to use in your music making. Your group should plan together what sorts of instruments you wish to incorporate into your music making. Begin by making liberal use of found instruments of all sorts.

How do you go about making an instrument? It need not be elaborate--the difference between a found instrument and a made instrument can be as much a matter of really exploring the sounds possible from a collection of objects as building a single instrument. An excellent website list of on-line musical instrument making resources is found at http://www.wannalearn.com/Crafts_and_Hobbies/Woodworking/Building_Musical_Instruments/index.html.


Each group is to make two presentations showing the results of your group musicking. Your group has a maximum of five minutes to musick for the class. Both presentations should incorporate the instruments each member of the group has made, but may include traditional instruments and/or found instruments as well. There are no other restrictions.


After each meeting. ONE student in the group is to write up a report of what happened at that meeting. Each report should include the following information:

  when and where the meeting took place
  group members who were at the meeting

what you did

how you did it

your response to both the process and the results

  ideas you have for how you will continue at your next session


Small Group meeting reports should be brief, the equivalent of one double spaced typed page at most; make sure you include some comment on each of the above points in each group writeup to receive full credit for your report.

When a report of a meeting is received, all students in the group will receive identical credit for the report that is submitted. NOTE THAT IF NO REPORT OF A MEETING IS SUBMITTED, NO STUDENTS IN THE GROUP WILL RECEIVE CREDIT FOR THAT MEETING.


WHAT IF YOU MUST MISS A MEETING? If you cannot attend a meeting, it is your responsibility to connect with another member of the group to find out what happened. If you write up what you found out about the meeting, and how you plan to be involved at the next meeting, you will receive credit for attending that meeting.

But you may do this for only one meeting for the semester unless you make special arrangements with me in advance.

DUE DATES: Reports for meetings to prepare for the first presentation are due by March 27 , the date of the first Journal submission; Reports for meetings to prepare for the second presentation are due May 24, the date of the second Journal submission.


This is NOT a class in building and demonstrating musical performance skill; making music is our primary tool for building musical awareness. Effort and involvement in making music are the basis for awarding credit. Group Music Making Reports which follow the above guidelines will receive full credit. Class presentations showing thought and preparation will receive full credit.

Each group meeting and Report is 1% of your grade; each of the two class presentations is 10% of your grade. 30% of your grade in the class comes from working with your small group.