How do GarageBand and Soundcloud promote democracy?

Download Unit

Chances are good that you and your friends don’t get your music in the same way that your parents did. Their generation was much more likely to hear a new song on the radio and go out to Sam Goody’s to buy the CD, cassette or 8-track tape, or vinyl album. They probably invested hundreds of dollars into playback equipment that included turntables, tape decks, stereo receivers, amplifiers, and large speaker systems, and their music collection likely filled shelves or towers next to their “hi-fi” system. On the other hand, you probably hear new music online, download it to your phone (maybe at no cost), and listen through a pair of Bluetooth-connected earbuds.

REACH Inquiry Units begin in the form of a C3 Inquiry Design Model.

This inquiry leads students through a study of the music industry by studying the history of electric and electronic instruments and music. Today’s students have grown up with ubiquitous access to music throughout the modern internet. The introduction of streaming services and social media in the early 21st century has shown a sharp decline in the manufacturing and sales of physical media like compact discs. This inquiry encourages students to think like historians about the way they and earlier generations consumed and composed music. The questions of artistic and technological innovation and consumption, invite students into the intellectual space that historians occupy by investigating the questions of what a sound is and how it is generated, how accessibility of instrumentation affects artistic trends, and how the availability of streaming publishing and listening services affect consumers.

Students will learn about the technical developments and problems of early electric sound generation, how the vacuum tube allowed electronic instruments to become commercially viable, how 1960s counterculture broadcast avant-garde and experimental sounds to a mainstream audience, and track how artistic trends shift overtime when synthesizers, recording equipment, and personal computers become less expensive over time and widely commercially available. As part of their learning about electronic music, students should practice articulating and writing various positions on the historical events and supporting these claims with evidence. The final performance task asks them to synthesize what they have learned and consider how the internet has affected music publishing.

This inquiry requires prerequisite knowledge of historical events and ideas, so teachers will want their students to have already studied the 19th c. periods of the second industrial revolution, the 20th century through both World Wars, and the Cold War to ensure that they have an understanding of ideas promulgated in that era. For instance, they should especially understand that the mathematics of electromagnetic induction and resonance were not fully understood until the late 19th century. Without the mathematical building blocks, practical electrical devices were not possible on a wide scale, and after around 1880, a great number of consumer appliances become electrified.

NOTE: Teachers are encouraged to modify and adapt the inquiry to meet the needs and interests of their students as well as themselves.


Supporting Questions

  • STEM Interdisciplinary – Engineered Music: From TryEngineering

    Lesson focuses on the engineering behind the design of musical instruments. Teams of students explore the engineering behind recorder manufacturing, and then design, construct, test, and evaluate a working musical instrument using easily found materials.

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