Re-thinking Access: Teaching and Learning Digital Music Technologies

This project was a collaboration between myself (Fine Arts) and David Gerhard (Computer Science) and focused on developing pedagogical resources (curriculum, “how to” learning documents, workshops, etc.) for digital music technologies to be used by both teachers and learners in the IMP Labs, aRMADILo, and in Fine Arts and Computer Science courses. 


Working within the parameters of knowing that modern computing devices and more specifically digital music technologies, enable individuals to create art and artistic works, specifically sound art, in novel and exciting ways, we wanted to explore how learning to use digital music technologies is often done in “informal” learning environments and through “trial by error” methods. 


Through an analysis of the diverse learning needs and goals of a variety of individuals, from university students in the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Department of Computer Science to members of the electro-acoustic music community in Regina, with this research we sought to analyze and understand the following: 1. how artists learn to use modern computing devices and digital music technologies, especially those artists with little or no formal training in the areas of Design or Computer Science; 2. the significance of relationships between designers and users of these technologies; 3. the difference in usability needs among designers/ users; 4. the potential for application of the technologies based on designers/ users needs; and 5. how users with an interest in creating sound art, composing electronic music, or performing ‘live’ learn and adapt to the constantly evolving design of digital music technologies. 


As part of the process we held a number of sessions on digital music technologies (Ableton Live, Reason, Traktor Scratch, Garage Band, MaxMSP) with various groups of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, as well as artists, and community members. From these sessions we began to assess user needs, learning patterns, learning challenges, and potential technological/ artistic applications.