sheep beats and other treats
finally got a proper home for becca's sequencer for kids-of-all-ages: www.sheepbeats.com. sheep beats was one of becca's first flash projects, and i think it's quite good. just last friday, i used it to teach some fourth-graders at the lesley ellis school about digital music, and they completely loved it. i even overhead such seemingly cliche phrases as "this is so much fun!" no fooling. it was awesome. and it definitely prepared them for the abstractions of fruityloops, which we used after sheep beats to make this little ditty out of sounds we produced ourselves--a technique i discovered while subbing in the cambridge school system a couple years ago.
adults have been no less effusive in their own reactions to sheep beats. i sent a link to hua hsu, who promptly wrote this in his blog: "THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER. IF THIS WERE REAL LIFE AND NOT THE INTERNET, I WOULD BE YELLING THIS IN YOUR FACE."
after hua's ringing endorsement, sheep beats rippled across the hip-hop critic blogosphere. oliver wang, aka o-dub, saw an opportunity for all you latent pharells to "Bring out your inner Neptune." and sasha frere-jones wrote: "WAIT, IT WAS MORNING LAST TIME I LOOKED. WHERE HAS MY DAY GONE?...I am not writing another word until I get these goddamn sheep to play 'Fly Like An Eagle.'"
west-coast rocker and freestyler extraordinaire, bushwalla, added sheep beats to his 'friends' page, with the highfalutin claim that "Sheep beats are expanding the way we look at music today." indeed.
grandiose praise or not, i do think that sheep beats is a fun and edifying little thing to play around with. the name "sheep beats" is a pun on "jeep beats"--a phrase from early 90s hip-hop parlance that describes the music made for the boomin' systems that many urban dwellers outfitted their jeeps with back in the day. (my neighborhood had our own jeep-beats denizen, james, who never failed to broadcast the latest, greatest hip-hop basslines from his souped-up suzuki.) becca did all the design--drawing the sheep and instruments--and also the programming. i did a little consulting on the sequencer, but mostly i just provided the sounds, sampling my upright bass, recording a few keyboard chords, and picking some choice drum sounds. in terms of sound selection, i essentially tried to keep the choices as simple as possible so as to avoid dissonance and make it generally difficult for someone to "screw it up." (one of the things i learned in my experience teaching young people how make beats on computers is that one can get discouraged rather quickly if it is too easy to make it sound bad.) thus, just roots and fifths for the bass, and five simple triads within the major scale for keys.
the genesis of the sheep characters actually came from becca's first flash project. (sheep beats is her second.) the first was a little music video she made to illustrate a line from my song, a it dat. the line goes, "and if you try to count sheep, you're hypnotized by the deep butterflies that they bust, trust: a it dat." and that's exactly what she drew: sheep rotating in classic being-counted mode, doing the butterfly--a classic dancehall reggae dance. it's pretty cute. check it out.
of course, there are a number of other great flash music tools out there. some of my favorites were designed by boston's own, dj flack. his site features several modules to choose from and play with. the other night at the re:sound party (which was a rousing success), flack projected his flash music modules on the wall and played them in real time to the delight of the crowd. i highly recommend playing around with them. go here to do so.
flack also does some amazing things with video. he calls it "video music" (as opposed to a "music video") because the "music" is generated by the sound actually captured in the video. flack brings his cut-and-paste hip-hop aesthetic, and a whole lot of humor, to these pieces, which are among the most creative little videos i've ever had the pleasure of watching.
check out his latest, toy noise. and don't miss face lift.
flack's hip-hop flash tools find their dubby counterparts over at infinitewheel.com, where you can choose from a variety of dub-inspired interactive flash modules. definitely another place to happily waste a morning.
for a less interactive, but reggae related, and absolutely hilarious, flash experience, check out this twisted take on dancehall stylee. old folks have never looked so lascivious, or ludicrous.
the most impressive flash work i have seen to date can be found at tokyo plastic. check out "drum machine," which is simply incredible. i don't know enough about flash to understand 3D vector graphics, but these guys make great use of them.
of course, the ol' flash favorite is homestarrunner.com, where strongbad's emails still delight and a constantly growing archive provides hours of cheap entertainment.
finally, there's the weird, singing horses thing, which i've always assumed is european in origin. i first came across this years ago, and it never fails to amuse me. i suggest triggering them from left to right. if you get them to all sing on the same downbeat, it's some funky donkey doo-wop. if not, it's still pretty funny.
all these barnyard beats makes one wonder what they're putting in the feed...