DIY Game: Scratch Re-mix model

a screenshot of Scratch

One of the coolest things I found out about this year at Harvard Graduate School of Education is something called Scratch. It is a block-coding web application, developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten at the MIT Media Lab, which allows a community of learners to re-mix each others games, stories, and other creations.

I developed a sample of a simple improvisation/music-theory oriented game, using the blues scale and some midi sounds to create an interactive connection between abstract notation with shapes, and the musical lines of base, rhythm, and melody.

The player interface allows people to use their left hand on the keyboard to play with a melodic line and their right hand to play with drums.  The space bar triggers the walking base line.  each of the keys interacts with a “character ” in this case a triangle/bird, a spiral, and a circle, to change its shape as different keys are hit, linked to particular sounds.

Here’s two images of the player interface:

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One of the drum sounds makes the circle multiply and change color.  another makes it re-set.  The spiral is linked to the walking base line and moves when the space bar is hit.  The triangle flies around the page like a bird swooping through the air as the melody plays.

These were done with the block-coding offered by Scratch.  The mixer and re-mixer has several sets of options to pull from with a drag-and-drop set of blocks that look a little like Lego.  These nest to help the learner visualize the logic tree that they’re adding to, and they’re color coded by type.

The options that I used were not all the options available, but here’s a brief summary of what I chose to play around with:

  • Creating Sprites and changing the background in the visual interface
  •  Applying actions and states (like colors or motion on the page).
  • Using pre-made sounds to create the music.

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And you can give the product a try, and a new version

Making Visible Music: Pilot 1

Links to the video of Pilot by Colleagues at HGSE

  • Lesson 2: Reversing the process using art to make music.
    Suggested Script to be explained whole hog and then released to play:
  • Having read the story last time, Student will be handed pieces of transparency paper and sharpies to make patterns.
  • Depending on time, either groups will make one of the following or all of the following: a linear pattern, a pattern with some kind of shapes (geometric or organic, to be explained if they do not know the difference), and/or an animal that would seem to tell the story.
  • Once people have their transparencies done, they trade their papers to make tracks of sound.
  • Linear images should get percussive or repetitive noises, shapes should get sustained or harmonic sounds, and the animal gets either spoken-word or voice melody.
  • To help with this, they should also create a motion that goes with the image and sound.
  • People should practice first whichever paper they traded-in, and the sound they think it should make.
  • Then find mates to layer papers and add sounds as desired.
  • Finally, the teacher can document with photography if there is a music stand, put white paper on it, and pick out and layer “tracks” adding people as they go.
  • The whole song-story then will include all the layers of sound we created.
The photographs of the layers can be turned into a book or website, maybe with the sounds attached too.
 Since the images are on transparency paper, they can be put onto an overhead projector to create a large image and a festive quality. OR to be used to create a permanent mural of the music that is created via projection/tracing, painting onto a surface.