This blog is part of the Connected Learning Alliance’s Post-CLS Blog Series, where we are highlighting work presented at CLS2023. Check back here to see more posts in this series.
New Harmony Line was thrilled to take part in the 2023 Connected Learning Summit. On Saturday, October 28th, we showcased our music composition web application Hyperscore with participants in a roundtable and collaborative composition workshop. During the roundtable, we shared some of the guiding principles and missions that underpin Hyperscore – making music composition accessible for all children, everywhere.
Hyperscore is an innovative, game-like music composition software invented and developed by composer Tod Machover’s research team at the M.I.T. Media Lab in the early 2000s. Upon its initial release it was met with acclaim and press for its involvement in Machover’s Toy Symphony project, itself born from the desire to make music performance and composition more accessible to children. In recent years, New Harmony Line has released an updated web-based application, bringing Hyperscore to a new generation of children, and re-introducing it to educators. Hyperscore’s visual graphic interface is engaging and immediately rewarding. This makes for a potent educational aid and allows users at all levels of experience to compose music freely with intuition and creativity.
This immediate accessibility is particularly meaningful in the realm of music composition, which has traditionally been held as the exclusive purview of elite artists, or at least something that requires years of study and training. This is not the case for many other forms of artistic expression – and there is no intrinsic reason why music composition must be any different. Hyperscore can be deeply impactful towards lowering barriers for students to take part in music composition regardless of background, even sparking interest and excitement for students who may have been frustrated or discouraged by previous musical experience. As music teacher David Casali shared in an EdSurge News article this summer, Hyperscore facilitated a renewed spark in interest in music among students who had already arrived at the conclusion that they were not musically inclined. He tried an experiment, asking them to compose music for a video game, using Hyperscore.
“After the students were done with the game, I checked the results, and admittedly, I was shocked: Hyperscore had removed the barriers for students. Their creativity was no longer held back by their command of music notation or ability to perform on an instrument. They could explore musical ideas and make changes to the notes in real time. Students whose musical voices had been silent began to bloom.”
Rather than requiring a deep dive into all the theory and concepts that they may not yet understand, Hyperscore enables students to jump in right away and inspire their own joy and excitement through free creative expression.
In the group composition workshop we facilitated at CLS 2023, we illustrated some of the musical and creative inspiration that Hyperscore can provide, without prerequisite training or experience. We started with a prompt to choose a character or a creature, giving some descriptive adjectives. We landed on a squirrel – more precisely, a polite, bashful, Canadian squirrel (one participant was inspired by her time in Toronto). We then started to shape a musical story, using melodies in Hyperscore to represent different players and moments in this squirrel’s narrative arc.
Chief Technology Officer Peter Torpey helmed the controls of Hyperscore, sharing screen in the Zoom workshop, while participants gave input by singing what they wanted to hear, giving descriptors, ideas, and feedback to which Peter responded by tweaking the elements of the score. The group decided that the arc of this polite squirrel’s story would be its search for food: climbing up, shaking a tree, and finding itself overjoyed in a storm of falling nuts. We wrote melodic and percussive themes for each of these narrative beats, and using the graphic tool of Hyperscore’s Sketch window, which translates drawn lines of different colors into expressions of corresponding musical motives, we represented some of these moments visually. The resulting piece is a two-and-a-half minute saga that sparked joy, laughter, and inspiration for ourselves and our participants.
Video: The full piece composed during the CLS2023 workshop.
We are grateful to have been able to share a snapshot of the potential that Hyperscore provides for people everywhere to tap into their core capacity for creative expression at the Connected Learning Summit. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Connected Learning Alliance as we move toward a space where children may face fewer obstacles to education and expression everywhere.
To learn more about Hyperscore, visit https://newharmonyline.org/
Post by Nora Lawrence and Cecilia Roudabush, New Harmony Line
Nora Lawrence is Director of Marketing at New Harmony Line. Nora is an experienced musician and artist passionate about music’s power to facilitate unexpected and transformative encounters.
Cecilia Roudabush is Director of Education at New Harmony Line. Cece is an educator with a 32-year career teaching general and adaptive music in Iowa public schools, including 15 years of teaching with Hyperscore.