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How to engineer a song

What does a member of the 19th century English nobility have to do with the development of computation technology? And why would we spend an hour on a Saturday morning discussing either of these topics in a workshop about music composition? There are surprisingly many parallels, in ways that ultimately dovetail to illustrate foundational principles that underpin the philosophies of Hyperscore. In the Second Saturdays composition workshop on September 9th, we explored the themes of engineering, structure, repetition, and functionality as they apply both to mechanical computation and to musical composition. To guide our conversation, we looked to a composition written in Hyperscore in 2007 by New Harmony Line CTO Peter Torpey, titled “Countess of Lovelace”.

The Countess’ Legacy

When we look to the history of computation, we can see that musical composition and computation share more lineage than one might expect. The title of Peter’s composition refers to Lady Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace. Daughter of the famed English poet Lord Byron, she was widely known for her instrumental work with Charles Babbage on the analysis and programming of various computing engines – these engines are popularly seen as precursors to modern computers. She presciently envisioned the many scientific and creative applications that computing machines could have, well beyond simple mathematical analysis. In 1842, she wrote that “the engine might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine…. Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”

Put more briefly, she saw that there was a potential for these machines to use their computational power to express not just numerical statements, but all kinds of things that could be represented by these numbers – including, for example, certain systems of musical harmony. This inventive foresight, in essence, has paved the way for applications like Hyperscore itself. When we sit down with Hyperscore, we create melodies, listen back to what we did, and respond according to our preferences and desires. In this process, we collaborate with our devices as they use their numerical language to translate our tactile and visual expressions (the notes we drop in Hyperscore) into series of sounds, which we then respond to to build something that we find pleasing. It is a creative dance, actively working with a machine to make music interposing multiple systems of understanding and structure. When spelled out, it can feel truly wondrous – and it was the vision of people like Ada Lovelace that laid the foundation for the form it takes today.

A tribute to a machine, and a person

Peter became inspired in 2007 to write a song in Hyperscore dedicated to Lovelace after seeing a video of Tim Robinson’s Meccano implementation of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine – modeled on the Difference Engine that Lovelace and Babbage collaborated to design. Peter took compositional cues from the mechanical interlocking structure of the machine and the whirring and clicking sounds made as it completes its algorithmic tasks. What results is a piece that has its own thematic motives that weave closely in and out, mirroring the mechanical movement of the Engine’s cylinders, alongside intermittent methodical clicks and a consistent, stable harmonic backbone that reflect the physical structure and actual sound produced by the machine.

Peter’s composition, alongside the recording of the engine that inspired it

In the Second Saturdays workshop where Peter showcases his composition, we discuss how the process of composition, particularly the motive-based composition that Hyperscore facilitates, can echo the use of modular units in fields of engineering and computer science. Using the Difference Engine as inspiration and metaphor, we talk about the many different ways that structure, repetition, and thematic interplay can be present in a musical composition – and admire the beauty that can result.

Watch the full workshop below, and sign up to attend future workshops here.

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A Hyperscore jam with Orff instruments

by June Kinoshita, Executive Director, New Harmony Line

We’re constantly discovering new and wonderful ways to play with Hyperscore. Recently, Peter Torpey and I were invited to give a series of talks to music education masters students at the Longy School in Cambridge, MA. Their instructor, Garo Saraydarian, mentioned the students were in the middle of unit about Orff instruments. We had not thought about integrating Hyperscore compositions with Orff or any other type of acoustic instruments so we arrived in class without a plan.

We showed the basics of Hyperscore composition to the class of around a dozen students from diverse parts of the world and then turned them loose to compose. They worked in clusters of two to four students for about a half hour. Because all of them were already experienced in instrumental performance and theory, they could dive right in, although none of them had composed collaboratively before.

When the time was up, Garo asked each group to share their composition. And here’s when he made a simple but brilliant suggestion. After sharing the composition, they were asked to use Orff instruments to improvise an accompaniment to the Hyperscore piece.

The effect was utterly charming! The digital sound of Hyperscore set a foundation to which the students added a variety of expressive rattles, buzzes, and melodious metallophone sonorities. It was all so playful and everyone was pleased with the outcome. It was such a simple idea – any music teacher could replicate it–and yet captured the essence of music-making, with delightful results. Watch:

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Hyperscore removes barriers to expression for kids with disabilities

A Dusty Computer Opens Possibilities

For years, Casey Burd pulled out his old dusty dinosaur computer that had become an invaluable tool and the basis of integrated arts and music units in his classrooms at the Hawkswood School – a private school in Eatontown, NJ that serves students on the Autism spectrum and multiply disabled students. It had become so meaningful thanks to a program that he had downloaded onto it over 15 years ago – Hyperscore 4.

This year, that old computer finally gave out. Not wanting to lose a resource that had become so important for him and his students, Casey reached out to the New Harmony Line team. Luckily, he connected with us at a time that the revamped, web-based Hyperscore 5 is newly available, and for a much wider variety of devices. We are grateful that he joined us for August’s Office Hours to share the story of the incredibly versatile ways he has used Hyperscore over the years to create multifaceted opportunities for expression for his students.

The Power of Learning by Doing

Casey’s journey with Hyperscore originally began in the 2000s when colleague of his found it in an MIT publication. His school became enamored with the program after getting in touch with the old Hyperscore team and participating in a demo workshop. Despite having scant technology in the classroom at the time, Hawkswood began integrating it into their curriculum for supporting students’ expressive goals. In Casey’s words, “Hyperscore is a fantastic experiential tool, a true ‘learning by doing’ experience for our students whose skill sets are varied. In this way, it levels the playing field, offering a way for EVERY student to participate.” After 15 years in his classroom, among the many programs available, Hyperscore is “still the best one, especially for my needs, and my students’ needs”.

During the Office Hours meeting with Director of Education Cece Roudabush, Casey walks us in detail through his teaching processes. He and his colleagues integrate many axes of artistic expression, accessibility tools, and creative applications of Hyperscore to remove barriers to expression for far more students than traditional music pedagogy. They link art, music, and expression in myriad directions and configurations that maximize points of access and understanding for students.

For example, he has run Hyperscore on interactive Smartboards – an interface that allows for access to musical experimentation and expression in ways that other instruments that do not, particularly for students with limited mobility and range of motion. He uses Hyperscore in conjunction with a wide variety of accessibility tools and aids – such as switches, pointers, and large, highly visible color indicators – to enable each student to participate in ways that work for them. Casey also tends to use Hyperscore’s Classical harmony mode, which frees students to be as creative visually as they want while having all notes in the piece sound together consonantly. As many opportunities are given as possible for different ways of comprehending and learning what is taking place in the classroom and in the program, so that everyone can participate. Accessibility is not just a buzzword or an afterthought here – it is at the very center of the project. In this context that Casey and his colleagues have facilitated, any student is able to make music and express themselves in Hyperscore, thanks both to the accessibility tools in his classroom, and the ways that Hyperscore itself removes barriers to composing music.

One frequent project over the years that has brought together visual art and music through the intersection of Hyperscore is painting, as a classroom, murals inspired by the Hyperscore sketch window interface. Casey has directed this exercise most often as an introduction into the way that music looks in Hyperscore. He and his classrooms have even translated these murals directly into musical performance: each student is assigned or chooses a color and an instrument to play, and Casey slowly reveals the mural the class has painted, from left to right, from behind a large sheet of paper. As each colored line and dot is revealed, the student with the corresponding color plays their instrument for the time that the line or dot is still being revealed. This introduction into the notion of musical time moving left to right often makes the transition into using the Hyperscore software itself more intuitive for many students. Sometimes, they then translate the mural they painted into music written in Hyperscore itself.

Hyperscore’s use as an experiential tool, as opposed to strictly a compositional tool, is crucial in Casey’s classroom. Using communication devices to express preferences is part of the expressive goals of many of Casey’s students. Through the medium of Hyperscore, expressing preferences can be compelling and interesting – “What color do you like? What instrument do you like?”. and Casey believes that this expression through Hyperscore can support his students’ overall communication in different contexts as well. This pedagogy has many of the therapists that share the classroom space – working with students on their speech goals, expressive goals, and physical therapy goals – excited due to the effectiveness and potential at play in the space of artistic and musical expression.

Continuing with Hyperscore in years to come

We have been thrilled to speak with Casey and learn about the ways he has integrated Hyperscore into his pedagogy. Likewise, Casey has been thrilled to upgrade to the web-based Hyperscore 5. Having Hyperscore on his laptop is a game changer after using the same old computer for 15 years, and he expects that his students will love the visual theme customization after looking at the default theme in Hyperscore 4.3 for so long. These visual themes, and the wider range of instrument sets available in Hyperscore 5, grant even more crucial opportunities for students to express themselves and their preferences in the classroom. Bringing Hyperscore 5 to his students also means that they have the opportunity to experiment on their own devices outside of the classroom.

We join Casey in our excitement to see what expressive possibilities open up with Hyperscore in his classroom in the coming years. The ways Casey has integrated Hyperscore into his teaching are truly aligned with our ethos of access and removing barriers to musical expression for all. We hope his experience is an inspiration to other educators who hold these values dear!

Watch the full interview with Casey here:

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Fraction Attraction: composing a song inspired by math

What goes on within a musical composition that can make us *feel* the driving pulse of a beat? What makes the introduction of syncopation, or stress on the off-beat, often feel so exciting and unexpected? Building a bridge between music class and math class, fractions play an essential role here. Teachers and students alike can have fun using math to compose music, and students can witness in their own compositions how fractions are fundamental to creating different musical moods. We entered into this month’s Second Saturdays workshop with the aim of composing a piece inspired by, and that could illustrate, this facet of musical math.

New Harmony Line’s Director of Education Cecilia Roudabush kicked off this month’s Second Saturdays workshop with a lesson on this concept – the rhythmic, fractional values that make up music. Understanding a single measure as a whole that can be divided up into several pieces can be easier for many when visualizing a measure as a bar or a pie cut into different sized pieces:

After a visual primer on how a whole measure can be made up of many different combinations of half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes (among other values), we discussed how stress can be placed on different beats and off-beats in the measure to create different effects. For example, in 4/4 time (when there are 4 quarter-note beats per measure), many pop songs place more emphasis on beats 1 and 3 than 2 and 4, while oftentimes in jazz music more emphasis is placed on 2 and 4.

We jumped into Hyperscore to start composing with these concepts in mind. Translating Cece’s lessons into sound, we created melody windows with motifs breaking up the measure into different rhythmic values – one whole note, two half notes, four quarter notes, and eight eighth-notes:

Then, we started layering them against each other in the sketch window to hear the ways they relate to each other. We hear the articulation of a quarter note every two eighth notes, a half note every four eighth notes, for example. We ended up with an intro with each of these motives in sequence, creating a “countdown” effect, before layering them against each other and using changes in instrumentation to make the different length notes sound out clearly against each other.

The different colors in the Sketch window each represent one of the above melody windows.

We added more complexity to the piece by creating melody windows that include rests to emphasize certain beats (and off-beats). We also decided to add more interest to the composition by contrasting the single-pitch motives we were working with against a singsongy melody window with varying pitch. A percussion window demonstrated the frequent effect that rhythm sections have of underscoring stress on certain beats of the measure:

With these different elements we gradually wove together a densely textured, bright and bouncy tune. Listen to the full piece “Fraction Attraction” below – and check out the full recording of the workshop as well to see our composition process and watch how the piece came together! Join in on the fun by registering for our free composition workshops that take place every second Saturday of each month – we look forward to making music with you!

Cover image courtesy of solod_sha via

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The Melt: Composing a song from an audio prompt

This month’s Second Saturdays Hyperscore composition workshop started with a sound:

Striking and familiar yet uncanny, this sound, which we encountered in this 2020 article from The Guardian, is that of Antarctic icebergs melting. The sound of rushing water is punctuated by an eerie and percussive whooshing and popping sound, which, as the article explains, is the sound of primordial air breaking out of millennia-old bubbles, held no longer by the ancient, now melting, ice.

We listened to this in the context of taking inspiration from clips of sound from the world for musical composition. How might we translate the feelings that came up, and the rhythms of the sound of the melt itself, into music? We set out to find one answer to this question during the workshop.

We began by naming the feelings and atmospheres that were evoked for each of us when we listened to the sound of the iceberg. Themes arose as we spoke of familiarity, awe, uneasiness, uncanniness, and surprise. What sounded like rushing water in the clip was a familiar, even comforting sound, but the interruption of the strange popping sound gave an edge to this feeling. The additional context that knowledge of climate change gave to the sound – the melt reaching farther into the ice, and getting louder, every year – added a somber, even grim, undercurrent. We wanted to approach composition both mirroring what we were literally hearing (a constant, smoother sound punctuated by sudden and unexpected pops) and the emotional reactions that this sound and its context created in us.

Moving into Hyperscore, we decided to start with some melody windows that could serve as an ambient, slow backdrop to the piece, using notes with long durations and in a low register, using a timpani and strings for our instrumentation.

We then created some strokes to correspond to these motifs in the Sketch window. The result was melodically tense and rather menacing.

We had our “consistent” sound which we then wanted to break up with unexpected interruptions and percussive splashes. To add a rhythmic yet unpredictable element we composed two faster-moving melodic motifs on pizzicato strings – one with a measure broken up into 3 notes of equal value (in other words, a half-note triplet), and one with a measure broken up into 4 notes of equal value (in other words, quarter notes).

When played together and layered into the Sketch window, they created a kind of rhythmic dissonance and a sense of driving momentum that broke above the surface of the steady and slow sounds we started with. We decided to emphasize this sudden and inconsistent effect to introduce these new sounds in the Sketch window (represented by the light and dark green strokes) as fragments that would pop in and out before returning in earnest and persisting for what would become the climactic moment of the composition:

To add even more emphasis to this climactic section and create a mood of mounting urgency, we created another 3-against-4 rhythmic figure on woodblock in two Percussion windows and added this in the Sketch window as well:

The intensity of the climactic section increased with the addition of the orange and purple percussion motives.

We liked it but found that we were deviating some from the unpredictable sense that we got from the popping in the initial iceberg sound clip. To reintroduce that surprise, we created a version of the green motifs that was a bit more sparse, while still maintaining the 3-against-4 feel, and applied this to the green strokes only in the latter half of our piece.

We decided to tweak the percussion windows as well, making the note attacks much more rapid and inconsistent and adding in some triangle hits:

We continued on with this process of listening to our composition, reacting to what we were hearing, then making changes and additions according to our reactions. Through this process in the course of the rest of the hour-long workshop, we added a mournful, soft ambient drone of low flute and organ, and a jerking, syncopated melody played on pizzicato strings.

We arranged all of the building blocks we had created into a form that ebbed and flowed between themes of rattling urgency and dirge-like somberness. Without planning to, we ended up creating a rather atonal and dissonant piece that nonetheless carried in its undercurrent a driving movement that enthralled us when we listened to the final product. We ended by titling it, appropriately, “The Melt”.

Listen to the final, 80-second-long composition below, along with a recording of the full workshop including our brainstorming, composing and editing process.

Iceberg image courtesy of Angie Corbett-Kuiper via Unsplash

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From silence to song: writing music from curiosity alone

For the May edition of our Second Saturdays composition workshop, we chose not to write from a prompt. It can often feel risky or intimidating to face the prospect of creating “something from nothing” – where to begin? It was precisely for this reason that we wanted to experiment with this process. Hyperscore shines when composers lead with an open mind, and can help to lower the barriers of “the blank page”. Composers of all experience can learn to trust their musical intuition with the tools of Hyperscore.

Using Hyperscore, we simply began by choosing an instrument set -folk band – and putting down some notes into a percussion window. We added one percussion instrument at a time, reacting to what we were hearing when we played it back. What does this instrument sound like? Do we want fast or slow notes, on the beat or off the beat? Most importantly, how does it feel to listen to it, and do we want it to feel different? We ended up with a steady, dense rhythm that was heavy on syncopation and evoked a slow, erratic march:

Next, we moved on to add some melodies. We agreed to start by creating a bass line riff that could repeat throughout the piece, forming a solid, catchy underpinning. Going through several iterations and asking each other what we heard and what we imagined was essential for the composition process. The bass developed into a two-instrument section, with one bouncy, quick motif complementing a swaying legato figure. After listening to them all together in a Sketch window, we made some edits to the melody windows so they would stand out and complement each other better and landed on our final versions:

Adding all three motives into the Sketch window, we decided to use the Classical harmonic mode and to experiment with creating regions of tension and release with the Harmony Line. Fine tuning these sections meant plenty of listening back, making slight changes, and then listening again.

We had rhythm, a bass line and a basic harmonic structure – now a piece was really starting to develop! It was time to bring in more melody. We created two variants on one melodic theme – a lightweight twinkling dance on a music box, and a half-speed repetition of the same theme, lower and more dramatic, on guitar:

We also decided to add an additional, more stripped down version of our main rhythm theme to add some variety and interest throughout the composition.

Weaving together all the elements in the Sketch window, making edits and additions following our intuitions and desires, we landed with a piece that had an uneven yet regimented feel. For us it was evocative of animated clocks ticking in and out of time. It reminded one of our participants of the classic tune “My Grandfather’s Clock”, after which we named the composition.

Listen to the final composition below, and watch the recording of the the full workshop, including our process of brainstorming and editing:

Photo of clocks courtesy of Andrew Seaman via Unsplash

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Creating a Character through Music

Think of one of your favorite characters from any form of media. Chances are, they evoke some emotional response in you that has drawn you toward them. Characters can be abundant sources of joy and inspiration for all of us, as can be seen from just a glance online at the copious amounts of fan art and works created by all sorts of people motivated by their passion for all sorts of characters.

We used a character as the foundation for making music with Hyperscore at our most recent Second Saturdays Zoom workshop. We began by coming up with a character: one attendee brought up her affection for capybaras, and we soon landed on Cappy the capybara as the protagonist for our musical story.

We brainstormed a list of association words and phrases that we imagined Cappy to have, to inspire the composition of his leitmotif – a musical theme associated with him that would repeat throughout our piece. “Sleepy”, “determined”, “furry”, “plump”, “aquatic”, and “adorable” were among these descriptors. Thinking of these words, we started laying down some notes in a Hyperscore melody window that would encapsulate Cappy’s energy, using the warm sound of a french horn.

An orange Melody Window plays two variations on a five-note figure using a French Horn.
Cappy the capybara’s theme

The next question was, what’s the story? Cappy needs an exciting adventure. Imagining various scenarios prompted a second character–a hungry alligator!

A green Melody Window represents the alligator, with string notes in the lower register that rise up to peak above the water.
The alligator’s theme

There should be more than danger motivating our story. What is something that would make Cappy happy? Why, some delicious fruit, of course.

The light green Melody Window with six flute notes in two bars
The fruit theme represents Cappy’s snack

And where does all this action take place? Alligators inhabit rivers, so we needed music to suggest rippling water.

A blue polyphonic Melody Window with eight notes in two bars creates a rippling water motif.
The water theme accompanies Cappy when he goes for a swim

Now that we had our main characters and setting, what about the action? Cappy goes out for a stroll and come to a river. He starts swimming but Alligator enters the scene. When Cappy realizes he is being stalked, he starts swimming faster. There’s a race culminating in Alligator lunging at Cappy!

A yellow to-bar Percussion Window has half notes alternating between high and low toms with a wood block on the off beat that ends with a "crunch" of triangle and tambourine.
A two-bar percussion figure depicts Cappy walking and racing, as well as munching on fruit

Here’s “Cappy’s Day.” Listen to hear the different themes and find out Cappy’s fate!

Hear the motifs that represent the characters and story elements, as well as the final composition.

Here is the full Second Saturday workshop showing in real time how we put this composition together. Peter shares a ton of subtle Hyperscore tricks and hacks!

Want to try this out yourself? Sign up for our free Second Saturdays workshops here.

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Composing for video games

Composing music can be a pure pleasure for its own sake, but to motivate a classroom of learners (not to mention oneself), it is hugely helpful to set a goal. And what could be more fun than making music for something kids already love: video games! Composing using Hyperscore’s easy, game-like interface makes it a great match for this theme.

We tried this idea out at our recent Second Saturdays Zoom workshop with David Casali. David presented three simple video games made by kids using Scratch. Scratch was created at the M.I.T. Media Lab, just like Hyperscore (literally across the hall). It’s a free, graphics-based programming language used by millions of children around the world who have amassed a vast, open-source trove of content, including animations and video games.

Composing for a few good games

Scratch offers a vast collection of kid-made video games. It would be overwhelming for students to search through them, so David suggests picking a few as prompts for a class. Here are the ones he chose. Each has a distinct feel. We picked Phroot Panda, in which the player has to catch pieces of fruit as they rain down from the sky.

“Frantic” and “busy” were some descriptive words for it. Putting himself in the mind of a fifth grader, David said the first thing he might do is set a fast tempo. We then went to work on the melody. Someone suggested a syncopated rhythm.

A Hyperscore melody window showing a basic syncopated rhythm on middle C.

Something jagged…

A Hyperscore melody window showing a melodic line that moves rapidly up and down with a syncopated rhythm.

We quite liked the jittery effect. Time to open a sketch window and start “painting” with this motif. We took this line for quite a hike…

A Hyperscore sketch window showing several lines moving up and down, some of them straight, some wobbly and some gently curved.

Definitely frenetic! Next we used the Harmony buttons to listen to our melody and settled on the Classical mode, tweaking the gray “harmony line” in the center to add harmonic tension and release. Peter added some punchy strings, ratcheting up the drama in the composition to match the game, and voila!

We downloaded the completed music as an MP3 file. David then showed us how to program the game to play to music. Here are David’s step by step instructions: Scratch Soundtrack Guide and Chant Remix on how to add a soundtrack to a Scratch program. You can watch the workshop in the video below and give a shot at composing music for your own games. Comments welcome!

Join in on the fun and spark your imagination for composing with Hyeprscore by registering for our Second Saturdays workshops!

We love having conversations about teaching to compose with Hyperscore. Come hang out with us at our monthly Zoom Office Hours!

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Transforming lives through music

by June Kinoshita

At New Harmony Line we are dedicated to transforming lives through music. Whether you are young or old, tapping into your inner composer and expressing yourself through music is not only a lot of fun, but we believe it can enhance your life in many ways.

Last month, our co-founder, Tod Machover, had the opportunity to speak at the global Wellbeing Summit in Bilbao and present some of his current thinking about the role that creativity, arts, and technology play in promoting human health and well-being.

In this video of his talk, Machover cover some highlights in his Media Lab group’s work in music and health, and also in community building through collaborative music projects. The video ends with a glimpse of the newest City Symphony project on the theme of healthy communities that they are planning for Bilbao. You’ll see a snippet by a 10-year-old Hyperscore composer and hear how a couple of Machover’s Media Lab graduate students took his idea and fleshed it out. Hope you enjoy it.

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Kids build a musical bridge with Hyperscore

From our archives. This story about the 2012 “A to A: A World in Harmony” concert in Yerevan, Armenia, is a testament to the power of Hyperscore to foster powerful collaborations.

The opulent Armenian Opera Theater in the heart of Armenia’s capital Yerevan will reverberate with some truly fresh sounds on the evening of February 25, 2012, as two of Armenia’s elite musical ensembles dig into new pieces composed entirely by children from Armenia and the United States. The concert features the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and DOGMA, one of the country’s most popular rock bands. The event is co-sponsored by the LUYS Education Foundation and the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan to celebrate the embassy’s 20th anniversary.

Despite the composers’ youth – they range in age from 8 to 14 – their work is rich and rewarding to hear, thanks to the boost their musical imaginations received from Hyperscore, a music-creation software developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab by a team led by renowned composer Tod Machover. Hyperscore puts unprecedented composing power into the hands of people who long to express themselves musically, regardless of their formal training. More than that, Hyperscore turns out to be an exceptional tool for collaborative creativity. One of the pieces receiving its world premiere at the Yerevan event was jointly composed by children in Boston and Armenia.

Musical composition is usually imagined to spring from the minds of geniuses toiling in splendid isolation. But for the youngsters visiting the Media Lab earlier this month, the composing process was more like a cyber paintball game. Color-coded splashes of melodies and beats popped up on a large flat-screen monitor as a half-dozen students from the Armenian Sisters’ Academy in Lexington, MA, traded ideas over a Skype connection with their counterparts in a classroom 8,700 kilometers away in Yerevan.

Under Machover’s deft direction, the students launched into creating their new piece by humming melodies and tapping out rhythms, which were notated using Hyperscore. The screen quickly filled up with melodic ideas, or ‘motifs’, and a percussion sequence. The kids then started assembling their composition. “Do you want the piece to start with a big explosion, or something quieter?” Machover asked. Something quiet, the kids agreed. A motif was selected and “drawn” onto the digital canvas. A second pensive motif was introduced, and then it was time to bring in some livelier motifs to wake things up.

“How do you tell a story through music? How could we keep this moving, keep it building?” Machover urged. The kids started piling on layers, made a motif swing high and swoop low, tried out various harmonic configurations… and they were out of time. In one hour, they had put together the first minute of their piece. After a few more sessions, they completed a short but complex and fascinating work which they titled “Frenzy of Friendship”, ready to be orchestrated and sent to the Armenian Phil for its world premiere.

“We usually think of music as belonging to a special elite who have unique powers to create it and share it,” Machover says. “Hearing these exciting new pieces by young people renews my conviction that anyone can create original, valuable music given the right tools, environment and encouragement, and that through music we can build friendships, share individual visions, and enhance life’s meaning.”

To Jacqueline Karaaslanian, Executive Director of the LUYS Education Foundation, this is a perfect example of harnessing technology to spur creativity and collaboration. The foundation was established by Armenia’s President Serjh Sargsyan and Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan to transform the nation by raising the quality of education and infusing the country’s youth with a “can do” attitude.

“Hyperscore wakes up the genius within children and instills in them a desire to better understand a whole universe of worlds they had not previously imagined or considered,” Karaaslanian explains. “When children know that their elders and professionals will play their music, they are empowered. This process is beyond encouraging words; it validates children as thinkers and creators.” And that, she says, is vital for any nation that expects to thrive in our rapidly changing and interconnected world.

Empower kids to tell their stories through music.