Libraries, Life, MAKE ART FOR THE LIBRARY, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Portland, ME, Teens

Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Music

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012

It is with GREAT honor that I present to you the MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 album. This album was created at the Portland Public Library in our Teen Library Study Room #119 over four weeks in July 2012 and mixed and edited in August 2012.

For this program, we used:
1 Tascam Portastudio 424 Mark III
1 Casio CTK-450 Synthesizer
1 Shure PG58 Microphone

Many thanks go out to all of the teens that participated in this project, specifically Richard, Ilhan, Chrispo, Jordan, and everyone else.  Thanks for lending your talents to the album and sharing this music with the world.

Also, thank you to Michael Whittaker, my coworker who lent his audio mixing wizardry to the project and showed some teens that really cool music can be made with a cassette tape, a microphone, and some cool ideas.

 

 

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY (Tracks 1-5)

We continue to tweak/manipulate/twiddle/mix/master with the teen music made in the library this summer.  We filled up three tapes of music, so the next step for myself and my cohort Michael has been mixing down the tracks to digital files.  We’re using Audacity to edit the music on the computer.  We’ve simply hooked up our cassette four track machine to the computer in mono and we’re going from there.


(the mixing room, aka my office)

Here’s a small update of the tracks we’ve worked on with the teens.  The best is yet to come…

 

 

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Music

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 (Week 2)

Michael works with a group of teens on a sound collage.

We gathered back in Teen Study Room #119 today to record some more music with our teens.  This week, however, we had Michael Whittaker helping us out.  Michael’s part of our Teen Library team and has a pretty awesome past history of dabbling in all sorts of cool music things.  He’s also really good at twisting knobs and making recordings sound pretty.  This week we started out with our drums machines roaring in the background, hitting buttons and making a sound collage.  The recordings happening this year are little pieces of music: a sound here, a voice there, and some spoken word and organ in between.

Laying down some spoken word
Adding some organ sounds to the spoken word

An idea being tossed for the recordings happening this summer is to compile everything into one long piece…a sound collage of teens…that tells the story of the teen community who visited the library in 2012

I’ll be back next week with some more information about MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 and hopefully some music!

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 (Week 1)

One of my favorite things to do is make music.  It gets even better when you work with really cool people to create something.  To top that, it makes it the best when you work with some really talented and neat teens who just want to try something new.

Last summer, we had our first MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY program.  Local artist Sontiago led the group and in the end the teens recorded two hip hop tracks which you can listen to here:

For the 2012 MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY program, I was unable to get Sontiago back due to scheduling (she’s a super busy person!) and this year I thought it would be neat to try something new.  Earlier in the year I bought an old Tascam Portastudio machine that looks like this:

The machine was very similar to the four track that I started recording my own music on back in the day.  I remember it taking some time to learn how the thing worked but I look back on my time with the machine fondly and am happy I got that experience.  I also wanted to show the teens that music is totally possible with a computer.  Don’t get me wrong…I am a HUGE band of Garageband and other digital tools that can be used to make music but I wanted to show the other side of the story.  Just to try something interesting.

And yesterday we began our journey.  I camped out in one of our study rooms with the Portastudio, my guitar, one mic, and my iPhone which we’d use Garageband to make drum loops.  For our first day, it was just myself and Richard in the study room making noises into a mic.  We clapped, we hummed, we made a beat, we made blips on a synthesizer, and Richard rapped a story in Acholi.  It was so much fun making these little bits of music with Richard.  It reminded me of when I was 15 and twisting knobs and strumming on out of tune guitars and humming into mics in my bedroom.  The difference was that I was alone back then…this time Richard and I shared the experience.  It was really cool.

Here’s a brief clip of some synthesizer noodling that we did yesterday.

I’ll be back next week with some more information about MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012.

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Music

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY: WEEK 4

 
STRENGTH IN THE STORM by Judith, Josh, Sontiago, and theLin

STRENGTH IN THE STORM comes to us from Judith, Josh, and Sontiago.
The beat was written by theLin.

Once Sontiago mixed the track down, I took Josh into my office for the first listen.  Here’s his reaction:

FOLLOW THE FLOW by Emmanuel, Judith, Ali, and Shupe

FOLLOW THE FLOW comes to us from Emmanuel, Judith, and Ali
The beat was written by Shupe.

Ali & Judith's lyrics:
Gotta keep goin
Progressing every time
Gotta write dowen every line
Gotta go and change the world here’s a freakin dime
The only thing I’m aiming for is the top
And from now on I won’t even try to stop
And I think it’s time that you close up shop
It’s a brand new sound you just heard it now
And I guess a new kid just came to town
With a brand new flow and even though
He’s killin rappers like he gottem on a row
Got em goin around and around
But to him its just another round
And there tryin to figure out a way to put him down

If life wasn’t hard I wouldn’t try be here
To free your hurt and wash away your fears 

Don’t worry about me I got it goin on
And f I didn’t have this I wouldn’t be going along

When your heart brakes in different halves
It will land on something sweet and soft 

No love ever fell that way
Besides I don’t have a heart to break anyway 

I wont say goodbye Or hit you hard
I’ll only sigh when there’s a lie

Let me tell you the truth
I will be the first one gone
And when you wake up i won’t be here at dawn
Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Music

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY: WEEK 3

At the end of our third week, I’m happy to report that the teens and Sonya have finished up two complete tracks.  The next step is moving onto the mixing phase, where all the levels will be set and the wordplay the teens have weaved into their recording all becomes clearer and makes sense.

I’ve heard a rough mix of the tracks so far and I can hardly contain my excitement about them.  There are two things that stand out to me about these tracks.

First, the lyrics are all from the heart.  When I hear what these teens are singing and rapping about, I hear honesty.  I hear them singing and rapping about their lives.  It amazes me how in tune to the moment they are.  I think we can all learn something from that.

Second, the artistic ideas put into their vocal deliveries is just amazing.  Wait till you hear how the teens weave their lines together with overlapping lines, harmonies, and more.  They’re all saying their own thing, but the themes are so universal that they all connect together and create such beautiful music.

Here are the instrumental tracks if you didn’t catch them:

(next week, we’ll have the finished tracks!)