Blog Entries, LiveConnections, LiveConnections Education outreach

Students create “anthracite percussion” with artist Andrew Lipke

By David Bradley, LiveConnections Facilitator

We launched at Science Leadership Academy yesterday! Teaching Artist Andrew Lipke and I met with two music classes, back to back.

Our aim was to dive in and as a group accumulate what we might know about coal, mining, the needs for coal, what it creates, what the dangers of mining might be, as well as to explore how music and sound can evoke all that. We had a great morning. Andrew Lipke built a live soundbed in front of them, looping guitar sounds that created a kind of pick-axe rhythm, and then singing a mining ballad on top of it. We then made lists of what we knew about coal and how it was mined (we actually accumulated a pretty good baseline of info!) and then moved into making soundscapes in groups. Each group had materials to trigger inspiration: images and texts of miners; a 30 lb. hunk of anthracite, jugs of rocks and dirt, and a hammer; and an electrical menagerie–extension chord, light bulbs, a coffee grinder… whatever instruments were around, plus table tops and legs, voices, etc. A fun exploration that got at the grit, repetition and natural/man-made sounds.

A favorite line of the day: when we asked one group what coal was, a boy, inspired by coal as fossilized carbon, said “Our ancestors.” Kind of metaphorically rich, given how folks from the coal region think of mining heritage.

Creating a soundscape from natural materials and some tools

Creating a soundscape from natural materials and some tools

Another soundscape in process led by Andrew Lipke. The tape recorder on the djembe had clips of old miner ballads

A soundscape in process led by Andrew Lipke. The tape recorder on the djembe had clips of old miner ballads

 A hunk of coal, a coffee grinder, some light bulbs, some tupperware of rocks and dirt--your basic anthracite percussion ensemble, right?


A hunk of coal, a coffee grinder, some light bulbs, some tupperware of rocks and dirt–your basic anthracite percussion ensemble, right?

Students from the SLA music class

Students from the SLA music class

Images of miners we used to trigger a soundscape

Images of miners we used to trigger a soundscape

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