This year, as part of the Trends in Modern Sound Design class, we worked on a project called Track & Field. Last year, Stephen Swift (MFA '13) oversaw the first version, and this year, we refined it a bit. Track & Field is based on Layer Tennis, a fun exercise in inspiration and workflow.
In Track & Field, each week, the player is given a 30-second clip of sound (bounced and stems). The player has 60 minutes to transform that piece into something else. They can record, remix, process, loop, crush, reconceive, redevelop, and/or do anything they want. The only hard and fast rules are that the player not take more than 60 minutes to work on the piece and that the piece lasts only 30 seconds. The player then creates a bounce and stems of their work and delivers it to the next player. Play repeats.
Track & Field is a great exercise for a number of reasons. First, it's great practice for non-linear conceptualization. Also, it encourages the development of efficient workflows. Doing it in the Fall Term gives the students a chance to reconnect after a summer apart, and it gives everyone an opportunity to listen to and learn from each other.
We have six grad students, so we had six different threads. I developed a rotation scheme so that every student got to work on every thread at least once. Every week during the term, we listened to the current versions of each thread, and on the last days of class, we listened to each thread straight through, from version 1 to version 9. It's fascinating to listen to how sonic elements transform through the piece, and how one idea transforms dramatically into another idea.
Here, for your listening enjoyment, are all six threads. Some are crazy rides, and some are confusing. Don't worry about it. Just enjoy the oddball cocktails that the MFA designers made!