Fable plays music

The way we express ourselves through music is undergoing a heavy development. Today it is no longer necessary to be able to master an instrument to create your own music. Recording studios have moved into our homes with programs like Garage Band and Logic Pro, to mention a few. Music is now for everyone.

Seeing as music contains an inherent power of creation, creativity, and aesthetics, it is interesting to try and connect it with programming. Could the elements of music – emotions, longing, and excitement – be programmed into a robot? And could the robot express them? What are the elements of music, that makes it come to life and move people? These are the question that are the foundation of this project.

The project could be a part of the music lessons in the 6th grade. It could be included when you go through the evolution of music through the ages. It could also be a part of a cross-curricular project titled: “The development and challenges of technology” or “Man vs. Robot”.

Materials:

  • Hub
  • 1x Fable joint module
  • 2 x passive module
  • Lego connector
  • Lego
  • Xylophone eller keyboard
  • If you have a 3D printer at the school, you could also download and print this “drum-stick”: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2828344 or you could design your own and print.

The teacher will go through a small piece of music, where the students have to learn about velocity, rhythm, and tempo, as well as what these elements do to the performance of the music.

Now the pupils have to learn to play a piece of music on a xylophone. It could for instance be Greensleeves or maybe Sumer Is Icumen In, Britain’s oldest piece of written music which dates back to the 13th century (an example of how to connect the past with the future).

After the pupils have learned to play the melody, they have to try to program the first four bars, so that Fable can play it on the Xylophone or the keyboard.

Here it is important that the pupils pay attention to the length of the notes, rhythm, and velocity, so that the melody can be as ‘alive’ and precise as possible.

The challenge to the pupils will be, how they can program e.g. a crotchet, how they can create a hard velocity or a soft velocity etc. Through this process the pupils will learn a lot, both about the elements of music, but also about the challenges in programming. Thus it also becomes a problem solving process.

The skilled pupils cna chose to mount more than one joint modules horizontally together, so Fable will have more ‘fingers’ to play the melody with.

The project can be ended with a philosophical discussion about the nature of music and the possibilities of technology.

  • Is music equal to pushing a button?
  • Can robots express moods and emotions?
  • Is programming together the same as playing together in a band?
  • Is the musical notation also a kind of programming language?
  • Can man with all its hopes, joys, sorrows, excitements etc. be boiled down to an amount of combinations of zeros and ones?
  • Etc.

The documentary: Dream the future: Music of the future (51:51):

https://ihavenotv.com/music-dream-the-future

can be shown as a prelude or a conclusion to the project.

Didactic considerations

Make groups with 2-3 pupils in every group.

The pupils need to have access to the song on their laptops/cell phones.

You will get the most out of the project, if the students have had 1-2 lessons in Blockly beforehand. It could be included in the project. But you have to account for time to teach the pupils basic programming in Blockly, before they can play the song using Fable.

Let the pupils experiment with velocity, tempo and rhythm and let them regularly compare their programming with the song itself, that they can play on their xylophone/keyboard. The can listen to the song on their laptop/cell phone, if there are parts of the song, that they don’t remember.

It shouldn’t be an objective, that Fable should be able to play perfectly compared to tempo and rhythm. By allowing there to be a difference between the groups, the pupils will get a better sense of what significance velocity, rhythm and tempo do the performance of music.

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