Querklang: Experimental Composition in School

Querklang is a collaboration of the Music Education Studies program at University of Arts Berlin, K&K Kulturmanagement & Kommunikation and the Music Festival "März Musik" of the Berliner Festspiele. On March 23, 2007, seven musicians, six teachers, eleven music education students, and a hundred pupils from five different schools collaborated on the creation of a new piece of music. The goal was to encourage young people to create and perform their own compositions within the Music Festival "März Musik" at venerable venues in Berlin, such as the "Volksbühne" and "Haus der Berliner Festspiele."

Live played an integral part in both the creation and performance of the composition "Humbolthainrhythmus 65," created by pupils from the elementary school in Humbolthain.

Students worked with Kirsten Reese, a composer and experimental sound artist based in Berlin. Ableton met with Reese to learn more about how she and the students used Live in the Querklang project.

Kirsten, please tell us about your experiences in the creation of "Humbolthainrhythmus 65" and why you chose to use Live for this project.

The idea of the project was to let pupils from the sixth grade (ages 11-12) create their own compositions with sounds that they recorded themselves. Over a period of ten weeks, we met every week for an hour and a half. First the pupils experimented with sounds of everyday objects (marbles, pencil case, paper, etc.). When they found sounds they liked, we recorded them and played them back through Live and a keyboard setup. Then they went on excursions in the school building and around the school to record special and typical sounds (slamming of doors, water running from a tap, the S-Bahn at Humboldthain, birds and people in the park, etc). In these stages the pupils learned about recording and playing back with Live. Then I provided an introduction to more advanced techniques using Live, like importing sounds, editing, experimenting with effects and arranging. With this input, the pupils were able to edit and arrange their own selection of sounds. Together we compiled the material into a ten-minute composition. In the performance at the Volksbühne, the pupils played the samples from four laptops positioned on stage and another set of sounds from four ghetto blasters that they moved around in the performance space.

I have used Live in this and several other school projects in recent years because I like Live's hands-on approach and the appealing interface design compared to other audio software. It is easy to use for the first simple steps in audio production, but it also never sets limits and lets the students get a grasp of the many possibilities there are when making music. Also, there are no presets leading pupils in only one (commercial) direction of music-making, which makes the software open to an experimental approach to music and sound art. For the same reasons I have also used Live in seminars with students at colleges and universities.

Do you plan to use Live in your future projects?

Of course I will continue to use Live in educational projects as well as in my own sound art and electronic music performances!

Thanks a lot for the interview. We wish you all the best for your upcoming projects and lots of fun using Live!

About Kirsten Reese

Kirsten Reese is a composer and sound artist based in Berlin. She creates experimental music for electronics and instruments, audiovisual installations, and performance works with electronic media. She studied flute and electro-acoustic music in Berlin (Hochschule der Künste, 1988-1996) and New York (1992-1993) and received numerous grants and residencies for her work, most recently (2005-2006) at the Cité des Arts, Paris. She researches and teaches sound art and intermedia composition at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg and the Universität der Künste Berlin.