Students produce multimedia percussion recording project

Students produce multimedia percussion recording project
Photo by Janae Becker.

Rose-gold light glowed off the two facing marimbas and the tiny bronze disks of the crotales. The multi-toned timbre of the crotales rings as a repeating pattern trickles in from one marimba and the eight minute duet begins.

This video production of “2300 Degrees,” a duet played by Augustana sophomores Aidan Christensen and Hanna Beshai, is the first independent student project since the multimedia entrepreneurship major was introduced this fall. Junior multimedia entrepreneurship major Claire Sorenson led the recording project by assembling the team, making artistic decisions about the visuals and working on the final edits.

“It’s going to be to show both the music and technical side that we’re offering now, I think,” Sorenson said. “Obviously Hanna and Aidan are very skilled players, so it’ll be like ‘come to Augie there’s really good players here but also ‘come to augie we can produce this kind of thing with the audio and video in the quality that we’re learning to produce.’”

The 2300 degrees Fahrenheit it takes to turn colorful glass into sculpted bubbles during glass-blowing inspired this music. Composer Ivan Trevino wrote intensity, movement and color into this piece after seeing glassblowing live at a museum in New York.

“So there’s a lot of tension and a lot of color, and that’s the piece,” Christensen said.

The duo take turns drawing out crotales while also covering their own marimba part with two mallets in each hand. Through the middle of the piece, the complex rhythm feels airy, then stronger and quickening.

By the end, the two players expand to play on each others’ instruments as the music bounces from the bass notes to the top of the range. It ends as it started with the brassy ring of the crotale melody.

Last spring break Christensen asked Beshai if she’d play this duet. Beshai said the pair of percussionists had been involved in similar roles in the band programs at their respective high schools in Sioux Falls, so they knew their skill and training would be well-matched.

Beshai, an English and religion major, and Christensen, a computer science and data science major, have contrasting approaches to music, according to Beshai, that allow them to each bring their own strengths to the marimba.

After they practiced the music together three hours each day, they performed it at the percussion ensemble concert that spring. Christensen said that’s when the two players and the School of Music administrators decided it should be recorded in full.

“I will say that working on outside projects like this, it’s probably been one of the most fun things I’ve done at college so far,” Beshai said. “And it has helped me to preserve my love of music in a way that, yes, sometimes it’s a lot of work, but it makes me remember why I did this in the first place and why I still love doing this.”

Due to canceled study abroad trips, Beshai said she and Christensen had all of J-term this year to work up the piece again for audio recording, led by sophomore multimedia entrepreneurship major Trent Lammers, in late January. Sorenson’s video recording followed soon after in early February, with camera assistance from other multimedia students.

Lammers said the stereo-style audio moves from upstage to downstage as the left and right-most sounds. He said he chose this style to capture the attack and precision of the music as well as a full-bodied sound.

“You are an artist as a recording engineer and a video producer,” Lammers said.

Sorenson said her video strategy was to allow camera-runners Elizabeth Trygstad, Max Outland and Janae Becher to find their own angles and to make most of her creative decisions when she’s combining the shots in post-production.

Now, a full year after the duo’s first practice, the recording is nearly ready to go. The full video will be posted to the School of Music accounts in late March or early April after all the editing is finished.

“There’s nothing better than picking up your own project because there’s a lot of independence with that and responsibility onto yourself,” Beshai said. “There’s a lot of creative liberties that you can take too.”

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