Reflecting on Code and Chords – St. Thomas E-Learning And Research
STELAR Partnerships with Faculty

Reflecting on Code and Chords

Members of Cantus perform with a projection in the background during a collaborative multimedia performance with the University of St. Thomas Playful Learning Lab and singing group Cantus at the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul.

One of the things I love most about being an Instructional Designer is the opportunity to create friendships with faculty members as we partner together to develop online or blended courses. One instructor that I’ve had the privilege of working with and getting to know is AnnMarie Thomas from the College of Engineering. A few weeks back, as we were wrapping up a meeting about her online course, she mentioned to me that she was working on a project called Code + Chords (you may have seen this Newsroom article about it). She and her students were planning to present the project at the Science Museum in downtown St. Paul, and she invited me to come. I jumped at the opportunity to support my colleague and gladly accepted. Little did I know that this concert would show me an entirely new way of experiencing music.

I arrived at the Science Museum with only a vague idea of what I was going to be seeing. I took my seat and a few minutes later, the presentation began. There was a screen on stage with a white circle on it. A woman then took the stage and as she sang, the circle began to change colors depending on the notes she was singing. There were a few different singers that took turns at the microphone before AnnMarie’s Playful Learning Lab students took some time to explain the effort that went into writing the code that makes the production possible. I realized what an undertaking this was for everyone involved and it made me appreciate even more the time and effort AnnMarie puts forth to mentor her students.

Emily Meuer (computer science) left, and Amanda Tenhoff (mechanical engineering) right, work at a laptop during a collaborative multimedia performance with the University of St. Thomas Playful Learning Lab and Twin Cities based singing group Cantus at the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul.

As the evening went on, the circle on the screen changed to different shapes. Different types of songs were sung, with increasingly more singers. We’ve all seen how well video and music work together, but static shapes with colors that change in response to the music were an entirely new experience. And with each new song, my appreciation for the way the color and the shapes enhanced the music grew. I found that I experienced music in a new way when I watched the changing colors. I also found myself thinking about how this could change the way those with hearing loss experience music and how it could reach an audience for whom music has historically been inaccessible. The potential of this project to reach those with hearing impairments, to me, is a prime example of STELAR (who helped fund the project) living out the St. Thomas mission of Advancing the Common Good. As I left the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride at being part of a team that helps make projects like this possible.

This post was written by Karin Brown, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

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