Teaching Programming with Music: An Approach to Teaching Young Students About Logo
This isn’t really a part of my live coding series, but maybe it’s a good transition. I recently re-found this tech report, that I wrote in 1989–on teaching Logo by having kids build music, collaborative. We didn’t have the lovely separation of program and process that the live coders have, but we did have an interesting opportunity to play with music and phrasing and chords and computing with children (ages 9-11, roughly).
When ten students are exploring music in the same small room, the discovery of harmonies and disharmonies is almost guaranteed. The students soon discovered that songs played together sound different than when each is played separately. The Atari 800 supports multiple voice sounds, and in some classes we used multiple voice play statements. Ironically, even in those classes where we used the full capabilities of the Atari, the students seem to prefer single voices emitting from multiple computers than multiple voices emitting from a single computer.
When students remarked on the sound of multiple computers playing simultaneously, I would set up some joint music projects. First, I would explain to the students how to calculate the length of a song; that is, the sum of the durations in the song. So play [c 20 e 30 rest 10 g 40] has a duration of 100 (20+30+10+40).
We had various multiple-computer activities based on the length of songs in these classes. One of the first was to have each student write a song whose length was a large number, say, 500. The students were to enter their songs and the command to play them, but to wait before hitting the Return key. On the count of three, all the students would press Return at once.
The resulting song was always interesting. The younger students and those less confident in mathematics tended to play only two or three notes, each with a long duration. The older students and those wishing to show off would tend to write long songs with shorter durations (e.g., five or ten beats per note). When the group song was played, the younger students’ part became a background (sometimes harmonious, mostly dischordant) for the older students’ melody.