Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Music Project II

You will need:

large uncarpeted room (a school gymnasium is ideal)
48 identical freestanding shelving units (preferably open on both front and back, and with adjustable-height shelves)
1500 mousetraps
1503 hi-bounce "superballs" (27-33 mm in diameter)
125 12-egg egg cartons
45 identical electronic synthesizers, with amplification equipment
recording equipment for the synthesizers (either MIDI cable – preferred – or microphones)
plywood sheets (optional)
cardboard or card stock (optional)
rubber bands (optional)
1-6 stepladders (optional)
pennies (number variable, optional)
VHS videotape (if camcorder is non-digital)
safety goggles for all students and instructor

The class will divide into three groups for the execution of this project, as it is very complex. These groups will be designated by number. Students may select their own groups, provided that 1) the groups wind up approximately equal in size and 2) no groups cause disruption to the project or to other students. If these conditions are not met, the instructor may reassign groups at his or her discretion.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.1) Assemble the shelving units. You may find it convenient to utilize an assembly-line sort of process. If the units are constructed in such a way that the shelves need not all be at the same height, make sure to include some variation in the heights. Allow a minimum of eighteen inches between shelves.

Group 2 (Detail)
2.1) Cut the egg cartons into individual cups. You should be able to get 12 cups from each carton.
2.2) Trim down the edges of the cups until they are about 20-25 mm deep.
2.3) Either set the mousetraps or use rubber bands to hold them in an open position. Apply a dab of glue near the center of the extended arm (Carefully!) and place one of the egg cups on the dab of glue.
2.4) Allow the glue to dry.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.1) If you wish to prevent certain note ranges from being played, as for example very low or very high notes, cut the cardboard or card stock into strips as wide as the keyboard's keys are long. For most keyboards this will be about four or five inches.
3.2) Insert the strips you just cut into the spaces between the keys, for the ranges of keys you want to block from play. You may need to use multiple strips adjacent to one another, if you desire to block long ranges of notes.
3.3) Set the default voice on the synthesizers to the same option for each. For best results, you should use a voice with a sharp attack and long decay, for example a piano voice with sustain, or bells, or chimes.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.2) Identify the most convenient entrance/exit to the room, and at the opposite end, begin setting up the shelving units. The gym teacher may insist that you apply the rubber "feet" to the bottoms of the units. Avoid dropping or dragging the units, to protect the floor surface. Place the units far enough apart to enable a person to walk between them (roughly 3 or 4 feet), but no more distant than that.

Group 2 (Detail)
Now we will begin to load the mousetraps onto the shelving units. Start with the top shelf (use stepladders if necessary). You should be able to fit about three mousetraps along the width of the units, and seven or eight along the length.
2.5) Set the mousetrap, and place a superball into the cup. Slide the mousetrap gently along the surface of the shelf until it reaches the desired location, then begin on the next trap.
2.6) When one shelf is full, proceed to the next-lower shelf.
2.7) When all shelves on a unit are filled, call members of Group 1 to place another unit and continue from step 2.5 until a row of 16 shelving units has been filled with mousetraps.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.3) When one full row (16 shelving units) has been placed and loaded with mousetraps, tell Group 2 to pause loading, and inform Group 3 that they need to place the synthesizers in the spaces between units.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.4) Disable the automatic shutoff feature of the synthesizers (if possible).
3.5) When notified that a full row of shelving units has been placed, connect a set of fifteen synthesizers to sources of electricity, and amplification and/or recording devices. (Wireless devices are preferable but may not be available.) Place the fifteen synthesizers in the spaces between shelving units.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.4) The class may decide to cover the wires with sections of plywood in order to cover the wires leading from the synthesizers to amplification and recording equipment. If this is desired, cut the plywood to fit over the wires and place stacks of pennies underneath the plywood, at the corners, to keep the surface more or less level. There should be adequate clearance for the wires underneath the plywood; do not just set plywood directly on top of the wires.
1.5) When the wires have been covered, begin the next row of shelving units as in step 1.2. Maintain a separation between rows of at least two inches, to guard against inadvertent bumping of the shelving units.

Group 2 (Detail)
2.8) When synthesizers have been placed between the shelving units in the first row, proceed to the second row, repeating the process in steps 2.5 to 2.7.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.6) When the second row of shelving units has been set up and loaded with mousetraps, place synthesizers in the spaces between units as in steps 3.4 and 3.5.

Group 1 (Physical)
1.6) When synthesizers are placed in the second row, cover exposed wires with plywood again as in steps 1.4 and 1.5, and begin placing the final row of shelving units. Be sure to leave at least five feet of space open at the side of the gym by the third row of units, as people will need to be able to walk around to load shelves and install synthesizers.

Group 2 (Detail)
2.9) When synthesizers have been placed between the shelving units in the second row, proceed to the third row, repeating the process in steps 2.5 to 2.7.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.7) When the third row of shelving units has been set up and loaded with mousetraps, place synthesizers in the spaces between units as in steps 3.4 and 3.5.

All Groups
1.7; 2.10; 3.8) When all shelving units have been set up, loaded with mousetraps, and synthesizers placed between them, use the remaining mousetraps and superballs to fill in additional gym floor space, if any. You may have mousetraps and superballs left over. (Be sure to leave at least 3 superballs out for the instructor, in any event.)

I.1) If the gymnasium has a balcony, take the class (and any other students or instructors who wish to view the performance) to the balcony; otherwise, you may seat the class high up in the bleachers. If no seating is available, you may proceed from the floor of the gymnasium.

Group 3 (Technical)
3.9) Begin recording with the camcorder (as well as any computerized links from the synthesizer to recording equipment).

All Groups / Instructor
1.8; 2.11; 3.10; I.2) Put on safety goggles.

I.3) Throw one of the superballs toward the center of the shelving units and synthesizers, or invite a favored student to throw one. If it fails to set off any mousetraps, or the mousetrap is set off but fails to initiate the desired chain reaction, try again with one or both of the remaining two superballs. If these still fail, superballs may be retrieved or unloaded from accessible mousetraps until a chain reaction is successfully initiated.
I.4) When performance has ended, students may proceed to the floor to set off any mousetraps which failed to go off, and collect the superballs, mousetraps, synthesizers, and other equipment for the next class. A few students should be designated to count the returned items and ensure that no items (for example, stray superballs) remain in the gym.

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