Bach’s Bravo!

Abstract:

Bach’s Bravo! is a user-based, interactive website for teachers, students, professionals and scholars alike. It is a center for collaboration and learning. Users have the opportunity to learn about Bach and his music and share their expertise in playing his music. The site has historical information, Bach’s downloadable compositions, his original compositions (if available), user created tutorials on how to play the compositions, audio files for listening and an extensive search feature. Teachers can utilize the site to motivate students to learn about Bach and classical, Baroque music. Students of all abilities and skill sets can use the site and actually learn how to play a piece with little knowledge about music. Professionals can post videos of their performances and inspire the younger generations with their “Bach influenced” created compositions. Those who just have a passion for music and playing have a means to communicate and collaborate on the blog and open forum section.

The goal of Bach’s Bravo! is to facilitate learning, to be a resource for educators and an outlet for those with a musical passion. Our hope is that our site fosters learning and inspiration – and creation!

Overview:

Bach’s Bravo! was created and designed with the musician and student in mind. We wanted to create a site that would act as a center for learning and collaboration. We wanted to create the “community” feeling by making available the expression of passion and inspiration. Users have the ability to learn – via text, audio and video. They have to opportunity to share – again, via text (message boards), audio and video.

The site will be a user-based site. In order to contribute to the site or post content, a username and password will have to be established. Those who elect to not create accounts will still be able to use the site and its content, they will just not be able to partake in message boards, chatting and commenting on posted material. The site will have various search options and capabilities. Users can search by a specific composition they’re looking for, by type of instrument, by difficulty level and by composed year. Once they find what they’re looking for, a welcome page will come up with a short description of what they’ve chosen. All of the following options will be contained on every page the user clicks on: composition, tutorials, professional performances, history and audio. We will provide the history (along with Wikipedia), compositions and audio. However, the majority of what users will find under tutorials and professional performances will be uploaded content from fellow users.

The thing that makes Bach’s Bravo! different from other sites is that the users are the ones who essentially run the site. They are the ones that add the content, not the creators of the site. The students, teachers and musicians are interacting with each other; posting content and knowledge to share – we are just providing the outlet for them to do so. We know how effective crowdsourcing can be and we want to utilize the internet to its fullest capabilities to reach as many users as possible. After all, an excepted theory in education is that we all have something to teach (and to learn from) one another. Therefore, we seek to make our site accessible and attractive to all – one location for passion, learning, teaching and collaborating to meet.

Goal and Objectives:

Our project is designed as a tool for teachers and for musicians, both professional and amateur, to utilize. It is our hope that its innovative and technology-rich format will be appealing to students who might be studying Baroque music, Johann Bach or classical music in general.

In the end, we hope our project results in a user-based interactive, informative website. We will have established the means and the forum for users to communicate and collaborate. It is our hope that educators will use it for student teaching/learning. Because students today are more motivated to learn by technology, we see using our site more effective than using a traditional music listening or sheet music approach. Students will be able to learn pieces of music via video tutorials instead of having to learn to read sheet music. We feel that since we are not creating these videos (students and musicians are) they will be more student friendly.

Networking is something that we hope, and envision, can take place. Again, similarly to every outlet we’ve given to students, teachers and the learning process, musicians have at their disposal. Their use of our site may expand their ‘fan base’ or almost act as free advertising – posting their performances may create a desire in students to see the performances first hand. Professional musicians can inspire, educate and advise the younger musicians.

We also know that some of Bach’s original compositions are still intact today. We want to make those available to the masses online. (Based on our searches and research, we came to the conclusion that no one has done this yet.) We don’t know what might have been changed or altered or what Bach might have intended for a piece to sound like – so we want to show his original compositions to musicians.

With sufficient funding and enthusiastic followers, we hope to expand. We don’t want to simply create Bach’s Bravo! and end there. We would love to create more online communities for different composers – maybe Beethoven’s Beats or Mozart’s Melodies is in the future.

Deliverables:

Of course, Bach’s Bravo!, the interactive and user-based site, is the deliverable. On the home screen, there are various tabs/sections the user can click on. In total, there are 9 plus the advanced search feature. There is also a short daily poll on the home screen, as a means to collect data and information. There is a small ‘rate us’ poll that we will use to see what users, overall, think of the site. Under that, there are a couple language links that users can click on to navigate to a translated version of the site in their chosen language. We will use Google Analytics on our site and if we see a need for translations in other languages, we will add them. There is a Contact Us section where an embedded email address will allow users to send us ideas, comments, critique and criticism.

The “About Us” section tells users who we are and why we’ve created the site. The contract for creating a username and password, and the ability to create both, will also be under this tab. We will share a short tutorial on how to use our site and get users familiar with what we can offer. Defining copyright and Creative Commons licenses, along with our license in place, will be on this page. We will have a link to the Creative Commons website so users can learn more about their licenses.

Under composition, users will have the ability to view the archive of compositions we have. The screen will show the composition, the year it was created, what instrument it is for and the difficulty level of the piece. This level is determined by the average difficulty level users have rated it to be.

After selecting a specific composition, the users will be directed to a screen that offers a short history of the piece and an embedded audio file for listening. Audio files will be made available, using QuickTime Player, and available for purchase on an embedded link to iTunes. Users will then be able to choose from the following four options: sheet music, performances, tutorials and history.

Under the sheet music section, the user will see existing variations for the piece of music, including the original facsimile, if available. We found that the Royal Library in Berlin has some original pieces of Bach’s but nowhere on the web could we find their facsimiles. There will also be a downloadable PDF file of the most widely accepted version of the composition (due to limited web space).

Under performances, users will find posted videos of Bach’s pieces performed in the professional or concert setting. These are videos that we will post (to get the site started), as well as videos that users with accounts will be able to post.

There will be another section titled “Tutorials” where users will find videos on how to play/perform certain pieces. These videos will be uploaded content from other users. Once uploaded, these videos become embedded into our site. Users will be able to rate each other’s videos on the level of difficulty they believe the piece to be and how much they like or dislike the posted video. This will create ‘most popular’ videos and allow for users to find the ‘best’ videos quickly. Users with accounts will also have the ability to write in comments on the uploaded videos. Therefore, under each video the following links/applications will be in place: like/dislike button, a difficulty rating, a ‘report’ button (for inappropriate content) and a comment box.

The history section will describe the time period the piece was written in, what might have influenced Bach’s composing of that specific piece and any other relevant information regarding the piece and its composition. There will be a link to (if available) the Wikipedia entry on that piece of music.

Under the Biography tab on the home screen, users can find a complete history of Bach – a complete timeline of his life, his influences and information on Baroque music. (Also utilizing Wikipedia to enhance knowledge and crowdsourcing)

The Symposium tab is designed as a place for users to share their created pieces of Baroque music or ‘Bach inspired’ pieces. This tab will also be where users can chat on message boards and open forums about Bach, playing his pieces or music in general. This truly, is where we hope the real change and influence takes place. We want young and old, experienced and not, educated and still learning to come together and share everything they have to offer with one other. Users are able to start their own topics or add to a discussion that is already taking place.

The Contact Us tab is simply for that – we want feedback from our users. We want to know what we can improve or what they like and would like to see more of. There will be two boxes – the user’s email address and then their comment or suggestion. We will send a reply back to the email address they provide.

Facebook inspired the next tab, News Feed. We want to give our users minute-by-minute notifications of what has just been uploaded, posted, created or commented on. The Archive tab is the complete news feed since the website’s creation.

Users will receive ‘notifications’ when something they’ve posted has been commented on or when something they’ve commented on has also received more feedback. This can be done using ‘mypeers’. Users will have the ability to ‘turn off’ notifications if they wish to not receive them.

The advanced search feature is also available for users. They can search by composition, instrument, difficulty level or by the year the composition was created. There are drop down boxes for each feature so users don’t waste time searching for something we don’t have.

Stakeholders:

As we’ve stated earlier, this site is for everyone. We envision teachers bringing their students to our site for learning and research purposes. Teachers could even ask students to find a piece on the site to learn – and the tutorials make that possible! People of all ages can learn by mimicking. No longer would one have to be able to read music in order to play a piece. Simply watching a video of someone else playing gives the viewer the ability to do the same. This could eliminate lessons (to some extent)! As we see cyber schools take off, perhaps individual music lessons will become a thing of the past, as those desiring to learn can simply go online and learn for free! Our site would make that a reality for those desiring to learn how to play.

Musicians, professional and amateur, can develop their skills and knowledge through use of our site. Users posting videos of their professional performances may wind up being a means of advertising and gathering fans. Younger musicians can receive inspiration, advice and knowledge from older, experienced musicians.

Scholars may find our site beneficial in collecting research about how music students learn best – which types of tutorials prove to be more effective? How proficient can one become at playing if they start by this “mimic method” we propose? The questions are endless, especially for the qualified, and should we find that there is some needed transcription with Bach’s original compositions, there would be scholarly work there as well. We could allow research type questions to be a part of our daily poll and research and information could be collected that way as well.

The great thing about music is that it is a universal language – similar to mathematics. Anyone can read sheet music – in every country, it is the same. Music’s parameters, layout and definitions don’t change across oceans and borders. Anyone with a desire or dabbling in music would be able to access our site and find it useful (for something or another).

Methodology:

First, since the site is based on users, we needed to establish guidelines for our users and our monitoring of their involvement. Under the “About Us” section, users will find our expectations for them. Before creating an account with us, they will have to read over a little ‘contract’ we’ve created for them. The contract would state that users are not to post any videos that have swearing, vulgarity, nudity or anything else deemed inappropriate by us or fellow users. They are not to use swear words or speak inappropriately in message boards or in posting comments. If they violate this contract, the first time, they will receive a warning via the email address they provide. The second time it happens, their account will be disable and they will no longer have user-specific access to the site. After reading the contract, the user will have to ‘check’ a box next to the following statement – “I have read the above and agree to abide by the terms. I understand that if I do not abide by these terms, my account will be disabled.” After doing this, they can then continue on to create their username and password.

We will monitor comments and chat room discussions, using a computerized filter, notifying us of swear word usage. We will also rely on users to notify us if a comment or video or user him/herself acts inappropriately. This can be done through the “report” link located under every username, video upload and posted comment. Of course, we will research any reports that come in for their validity.

There will be a Creative Commons license on the site – specifically, Attribution Non-Commercial. We want this license because we seek collaborate, new ideas, growth and education. If something we do inspires someone else to do something else, or something more, that’s great (and perfectly acceptable). On the About Us page, we will define this for our users and its implications. There will be a link to the Creative Commons website so users can do more research on Creative Commons’ licenses. It will be made known to our users and understood that any work they post would fall under these terms as well. Therefore, if they want to reserve their rights on the specific pieces they create, they need to state that (on the piece, on the site, etc) so that other users know that.

Because we desire to make this site user-created, we’ve given them (the users) the power to upload, to comment, to collaborate, to initiate, to critique, to share – to grow. They upload, they comment, they critique, they compose, they share – it’s all done by them; we just offer the outlet and assist. That’s our hope, at least. We want learning to take place. We know that in today’s society and the digital natives’ generation, this (learning) is happening more and more via the internet and Web 2.0 technology. So we’ve tried to utilize those means to their fullest potential – pdf files, audio clips, wiki links, iTunes accessibility (due to its popularity), video upload and message boards. Young and old alike are gravitating towards these means and since we recognize that and its effectiveness, we’ve made it a part of our site. Students, young children love making videos of themselves and posting them – we want them to! But then we want professionals and teachers to come in and educate students, question their thinking, their choices and processes. Why did they make that video the way they did? Is there a better way they could do it? That’s where learning and growth can take place. The quality of work the students produce will improve – they’ll want to get higher ratings on their videos, see if their video can become a ‘most popular’ video. Students’ creativity is boundless. We hope our site fosters creativity due to the technology and methods we’ve employed.

Working Bibliography:

Bach’s compositions (original and different versions)

Royal Library in Berlin

www.youtube.com

www.wikipedia.com

Proof of Concept:

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