Music Arts blog

2017 - Ara Music Arts Songwriting Competition Winner

08 Jun 2017

The 2017 winner of Ara Music Arts Songwriting Competition, in association with Musicworks, was announced on Sunday 21st May at an exciting concert by the ten finalists. The finalists were selected from entries by Canterbury Year 11,12 &13 High School and Ara Music Arts students.

Best overall song was awarded to Tarn Puentener-King from Christchurch Boys High for his electro-pop song ‘Reality’.

Best Secondary School song was awarded to Sam Burt from Burnside High for his acoustic ballad ‘Over and Over’. Two runner up awards were presented to Music Arts student Jesse Ranson for ‘Favourite Season’ and Rongomai Callaghan for ‘Fly So High’.

This year’s judges Lauren Mitchell and Matt Barus said the quality of songwriting was exceptionally high, with many music styles represented. The caliber of songwriting in Christchurch has always been high with many of NZ’s finest, Bic Runga, Anika Moa and Julia Deans, hailing from these parts.  

The finalists’ concert is a great opportunity for the writers to gain performance experience, connect with an audience and get some valuable feedback from the judges. This year saw even more use of computer technology, incorporating Digital Work Stations (DAW’s) and backing tracks. However, still well represented are the classic combination of voice and guitar or piano.

With the global success of Lorde and other new rising NZ artists, young writers are seeing that it is possible to make it in today’s music industry. The Ara Music Arts programme caters specifically for students wishing to focus on studying Songwriting and Production.

Look out for the 2018 Ara Music Arts Songwriting Competition in May next year!

Alan Robinson Guitar Award

28 Feb 2017
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The annual Alan Robinson Memorial Award for most promising first-year guitarist was jointly awarded to David Stupples and Justis Atkins-Te Kowhai, who both achieved a very similar grade at the end of their first year of study at Ara Music Arts (2016). Alan Robinson was a promising guitar student who passed away during his studies at Ara Music Arts (formerly CPIT Jazz School). This guitar award is given in his memory.

This is the seventeenth year the award has been presented, and has the names of many great guitar graduates on it, including David Haslett (currently touring NZ), Andrew Knopp (recently returned from Canada with his wife/band mate), Sam Blakelock (based in New York) and Richard Ashby (based in Sydney).

Programme Leader Gwyn Reynolds of the recipients;

“It’s great to see the award going to two students who are both into different genres of music [Jazz for David and Contemporary for Justis] but who are both expressing their passion for music through the same medium, the electric guitar. Both these guys are already great players and I can’t wait to hear them in a few years’ time.”

 

Photo – (from Left) Des Robinson, David Stupples, Gwyn Reynolds (Programme Leader – Ara Music Arts), Richard Marrett (Manager, Performing Arts)

M.A.K.E. - Isaac Paneha

21 Feb 2017

M.A.K.E. - Isaac Paneha

My project for the end of year performance was the toy train drum machine. The idea came about after I watched an episode from a talkshow called AKBingo where they used a pair of rubber mallets attached to a train and ran that train through a series of glass bottles to recreate Rossini’s William Tell Overture. Dave combined the idea of the toy train with a previous project from a previous year of using slot cars equipped with a sensor. When the slot car would pass an object it would trigger a sound. We figured that using a toy train on a track would be better than slot cars because the speed of a toy train would be more consistent than slot cars and thus would keep tempo better.

Firstly we had to buy a motorised toy train. In the end we chose Tom and Jerry train set that was made in China and it was not a very good toy. Regardless of how terrible the toy was it was sufficient for the project. Dave Cooper and I (mostly Dave Cooper) then put together a sensor and attached it to the train and we hooked it up to a wireless set that would send messages to a computer to create sounds. The sounds were triggered based on how far away the object was from the sensor and we programmed it to play different sounds based on distance (it didn’t work half the time…). We chose drum sounds because it was a good idea to use this project to control a drum sound and it also meant that we didn’t have to program too many sounds. 

M.A.K.E. - Ruth Carruthers

22 Dec 2016

M.A.K.E. - Musical Audio Kinetic Electronics. Students from Ara Music Arts create their own instruments combining the physical with the electronic.

Sound project: Ruth Carruthers

The initial concept I started with was using the pressure inside balloons to control pitch and volume of a synth but the idea evolved in to using a Space Hopper to allow for more movement in the performance.

The volume of the notes would be controlled by sensing the pressure of the air inside the space hopper which would change with weight of the person on it. We first had to test a number of sensor options to fins one which was sensitive enough to detect the small change in pressure inside the hopper. The sensor was then placed in a small 3d printed chamber with a plug that allowed the air from inside the hopper to pressurise the chamber. The pressure information from the sensor travelled via means of an XBee wireless link (a sort of wireless USB cable) to an Arduino board.

The pitch of the notes were controlled via a Pixy camera that allows the tracking of coloured objects. Moving the space hopper left and right increased and decreased the pitch of the note produced. The solid bright colour of the space hopper made it easy for the camera to track. The notes were to sustain so chords could be made and moving the hopper a long way to the right was supposed to reset it but this proved slightly unreliable in practice.

 Using the volume and pitch information the Arduino sent notes to a keyboard connected via midi.

M.A.K.E. - Caleb Waiari

09 Dec 2016

M.A.K.E. - Musical Audio Kinetic Electronics. Students from Ara Music Arts create their own instruments combining the physical with the electronic.

Sound 3 Instrument build – Caleb Waiari

Video-Hero

Initially the plan was to control something using a guitar hero controller, but I didn't know what or how it would work. With the help of Dave (Cooper), we developed a way to control video through a program using the guitar hero controller to change different settings within the program. 

How it works

What we did was we bought a wireless receiver so that we can receive the signal from the guitar-hero controller. This wireless receiver was plugged into a device called an Arduino and the Arduino device was plugged into my laptop. When I played a note or pressed a button on the guitar-hero controller, the wireless receiver sent all the information through the Arduino and the Arduino sent the information into my laptop. We sent all the information into a program called VPT7, which allowed us to control different things about video depending on our setting. 

VPT7 is a free software where you can upload little video clips and manipulate them by messing with various setting such as mixing two clips together, warping the clips, fading in fading out, cycling between different clips, and even changing between the webcam. Because we could send all the Guitar-hero controller information to the laptop, we were able to manipulate the videos using the guitar-hero controller. This required a little bit of programming to make sure that pressing button 1 on the controller would do something different than pressing button 2 etc. 

We ended up using the whammy bar on the controller to control the fade in of the video, so pressing the whammy all the way down will fade the video all the way in. You could also control the blend of 2 clips by holding down the green button and fading the two clips together using the whammy bar. We also made it so that holding down the blue button and using the whammy cycles through the clips, so we could change what the audience was seeing on screen. 

I was able to upload my own clips of my choice so I had about 5 different clips of cool nature shots that I really enjoyed, along with the 5 default clips that come with VPT7. However, I found that I could only cycle through the first 5 clips that showed up within the program (I found this out too late), so while doing the performance I couldn't show all the nature clips I had gathered. 

Overall the instrument build worked pretty well. There was a bit of a problem with my clips and not being able to cycle through them all but apart from that it worked pretty smoothly thanks to the help of Dave. 

M.A.K.E. - David Cloughley

02 Dec 2016

M.A.K.E. - Musical Audio Kinetic Electronics. Students from Ara Music Arts create their own instruments combining the physical with the electronic.

The idea for the assignment came when Dave handed me a Bluetooth motion sensor and said “Think of something funny to hold”. I then spent some time thinking and offering up suggestions to Dave. After finding one that we agreed with I went ahead with the idea of holding a boxing glove.

We spent some time programing the sensor, calibrating the acceleration and sensitivity. We set the sensor so that fast acceleration (a punching motion) would trigger a note. To give more sonic possibilities we set more controls to manipulate the sounds that the sensor could make. This included roll, horizontal movement and vertical movement. After the computer programing I then strapped the sensor into the boxing glove with some black tape. I used black tape because it disguised the sensor really well and helped it to blend into the colour of the glove. I also used this tape because it was convenient and the only tape available.

On performance day Hamish helped me make some sounds for the motion sensor to control. We connected the motion sensor to an iMac via Bluetooth and ran all the sounds through Main Stage 3, which is a program that produces digital sound for live performance. After each new sound was made I would test it with the glove and practice the different movements that manipulated which sound would be produced. We made a list of three different sounds that we shifted through throughout the performance. The first sound was a guitar. The roll triggered a wah pedal and moving up and down manipulated the pitch. The second sound was a synthesizer which had a filter sweep as the roll and pitch as the horizontal movement. The final sound Hamish and I decided to make was a drum trigger. When I punched straight with my fist facing up a snare sound would trigger and when I punched with my fist facing down and kick sample was triggered. The performance was really funny with random noises everywhere and a total ciaos of sounds. Most things seemed to surprisingly work really well. All in all, it was a fun project and I’m very happy with how my instrument turned out. 

Hannah Snelling - Visualising sound with water

29 Nov 2016

M.A.K.E. - Musical Audio Kinetic Electronics. Students from Ara Music Arts create their own instruments combining the physical with the electronic.

Sound 3 at Ara Music Arts this year has been full of interesting things to learn. Using Arduino, sound design and art, recording and exploring technology. It’s been fun. The best bit though was seeing my idea for visualizing sound with water take shape. Although I didn’t have the know how to build this project, the tutor, Dave Cooper, is very knowledgeable and showed me how to put it together.

So what did my project look like and how did it perform? What I made, with Dave’s help, was a series of 12 LED lit humidifiers which responded to the volume level of sound in the room. As the volume increased, new humidifiers started up to match it, in turn. The LED lights accompanying each one were green, amber or red. This was in order to imitate a mixing desk level: as the volume goes from a comfortable level to the high extreme, lights change from green to amber and then red. To clarify, if the volume level was at (1) only the first vaporizer (on the right of the row) would start, along with a green light. If the volume reached (10) all the green and amber lights would be lit (accompanying their humidifiers) but not the last two red LED’s. As the volume decreased, each vaporizer and light on the high end would turn off consecutively, as they had turned on.

All of that was made possible by wiring both the humidifiers and the LED’s through an arduino board so that they could be synchronized to turn on at the same time. The wiring process required some soldering to connect the LED’s and humidifiers to the arduino boards, which allowed the computer code to control them. A microphone and volume sensor was connected to control which ones should be on or off at the point in time. In order to make my contraption interactive with those of my classmates, the microphone was set up in front of the speaker through which the sounds coming from other “instruments” were heard. The code is a fairly simple, if ___, then___. For example, if the volume is greater than (1), then turn on (2). Or, if volume is less than (3), then turn off (3), and so on.

The most difficult part I think was getting the humidifiers to turn on by computer command instead of from their own individual switch. It was interesting seeing how the arduino board had to be wired so that the computer could “talk” to everything. So many little wires and connectors had to be plugged into the board in such a way that it would all work and not interfere with each other. I wouldn’t have known quite where to begin if trying to do this myself. My tutor did most of the difficult work for me, I just had the initial idea and helped with the wiring and testing. It was a lot of fun to build something so out of the ordinary.

Graduate Profile - L.A. Barus

28 Oct 2016
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Recalling her earliest memories of her mother singing and playing piano while the family sung in harmony alongside, Ara Music Arts graduate Lauren Barus, AKA LA Mitchell was destined for a career in music.

With her mother making piano lessons compulsory from the age of 6, Lauren recalls enjoying formulating chords but despising sight-reading.

“My grandmother had a small portable record player, my aunt had a collection of 45’s of Elvis and David Bowie under her old bed” she tells, “I remember being around 7 and spending hours playing Space Oddity over, and over again. I adored The Doors and spent a lot of my teens transcribing the organ solos”

Feeling that the curriculum was too restrictive, Barus refused to study music in High School in fear of judgment, instead confining herself to music in her spare time.

Picking up the guitar at age 15, Lauren starting writing songs in the vein of Pearl Jam, Beck, Pavement and Sebodoh, artists she was listening to at the time. She also cites Bic Runga’s debut as helping inspire her first forays into song writing.

“I was led to the belief in my teen years that you couldn’t make money out of music, (I was yet to learn that song-writing was a job) so I needed to justify the cost of study and how I was going to use music study to make a living and finance my wonton desires to pontificate my music. I researched all the institutions. I decided that although piano was my first instrument, I didn’t want to be a piano teacher. So I picked voice. I felt The Ara Music Arts course at the time, and still now, has the best Vocal tutors in the country. So I decided to come here for that tutelage.”

“I found my time at Ara to be academically really rewarding, creatively really challenging, personally transformative. I think the most important thing the Music Arts course gave me was time and space. You cannot underestimate the importance of having time to get really deep within your subject. Unrestrained time, in a space that is purpose built and designed to support the intention of becoming a master craftsperson. I took away from it all the tools I have ever needed, and some I didn’t know I needed, to be a successful session musician, writer, and professional performer.”

“My relationship with the tutors was inspiring, sometimes tumultuous, on my part, always tilted towards challenging me to be more than I thought I was capable of being. It inspired great care and respect for my instrument and for the world of professional musicianship.”

After graduating Lauren performed locally playing Jazz, as her profile grew she appeared in numerous Jazz and arts festivals across the country. Continuing to write and record independently, she released 2 album projects and 2 EP’s of original material. She was nominated in the top 20 Apra Silver Scroll award 2 years running for the songs Apple Heart and When It’s All Too Much.

“Since then I’ve worked with Christchurch Band, Dukes, achieving a platinum single with our song Vampires. I worked as a session musician for Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Tim Finn, Anna Codington and Sola Rosa, Touring around NZ Multiple times as well as Australia, the UK, Singapore and Dubai. 

In 2009 she become a regular member of the collaborative touring ensemble ‘ Fly My Pretties, featuring on 3 albums and 4 Nation wide tours and 2 Australian tours. Barus currently splits her time between being a mother, managing a café and working on a variety of musical projects, one with her husband called Terrible Sons.

Graduate profile - John 'Hooves' Clayton

08 Jul 2016
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Originally starting out on piano at age six, John 'Hooves' Clayton would answer the calling of several musical instruments before finally landing behind the drum kit during his school years at Riccarton High.

"I'd never considered the possibility of making a career playing music", he admits, "At that point I was thinking about going and studying engineering. It wasn't until my friend Justin Fukushima auditioned for the Ara Music Arts course that I considered it. I was playing in Stu Buchannan's big band at the time and he encouraged me to go for it."

"I remember thinking, wait, you can actually go and study music, why didn't anyone tell me!? I grew up surrounded by music and would obsess over Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, the Finn Brothers, so it was a pretty easy choice."

Starting in 1995, John was quick to adapt. In his 2nd year he began composing his own music as well as delving into Drum & Bass and Jungle.

"Ara was a really great environment. I got along really well with everyone, even though I was a bit stunned at first by everyone's chops. I was a bit raw and green when I got in, but they shaped me up."

After graduating John played all over New Zealand and Indonesia before moving to Melbourne. He bought a computer and continued writing Drum & Bass, playing in various groups until in 2009 when Shapeshifter asked him to be their new drummer.

"I was with Shapeshifter for three years", he says, "They liked that I'd had that training and knew the genre. These days I drum in Opiou's live band and do a lot of session drumming. The electronic stuff is the hardest I've ever done!"

"I'd love to go back and study at Ara knowing what I know now. I would structure my practices more, but sometimes you have to learn that the hard way. I've been lucky to still be close to many of the people I met during my time at Ara, and it's always good having people set the bar high for your own work."

"If you really want this you have to work really hard, but if you want to lead a passionate life, live and work your passion. Then do it.  That was the choice I made and I've never looked back!"