As an IMM student, I have had a broad media education at TCNJ. I have taken courses in photo/video editing, 2D/3D modeling and animation, and graphic design. Moreover, I have been a practicing web developer for roughly three years. However, out of all of the topics within Interactive Multimedia, I have always wanted to gain more experience in music production. This inspired me to pursue an independent study in hip-hop and sampling last year, and eventually led to my decision to select ‘More Knowledge’ as my Senior thesis project.
The goal was to create original rap/hip-hop content through hands-on daily experience using MIDI instruments and producing in Logic Pro X. I started this thesis project with only beginner/intermediate music production skills, but now I am much more knowledgeable on the process of music creation!
Today, hip-hop is considered to be a very broad genre that cannot be defined by the work of any single artist. Historically though, the genre has been about expressing the truth and giving a voice to the voiceless. My personal story is one of both struggle and achievement. I grew up in Ewing township with my single mother and my little brother Tommy. For most of my young adult life, I battled with major depression and anxiety resulting from both family and personal situations. However, I never let this battle prevent me from setting goals and working hard to achieve them.
I have always been on a quest to achieve more knowledge and expand my horizons. As a teenager in Ewing High School, I knew that I wanted to graduate and go to college. I achieved that goal when I was accepted into TCNJ. My journey to learn continued as an Interactive Multimedia major, and it has allowed me to explore many of the topics I am interested in. This project in particular follows my journey to gain ‘More Knowledge’ about music production, while also expressing some of what I have learned about life during my time at TCNJ.
There were a number of significant challenges I was faced with during this project. These included technical issues, as well as personal circumstances arising from the coronavirus pandemic. On the technical side, beat making was one of my paramount issues. It took countless hours of experimentation, working within my DAW, and watching YouTube/LinkedIn learning tutorials in order to develop an understanding of the process of making hip-hop beats from scratch. In reality, I learned the most through experimentation, and really gained the greatest knowledge through continual practice.
Another challenge I was confronted with was recording vocals. During the prototyping phase of the project, initial vocal outtakes were recorded on a cheap microphone I had access to at home. The plan was to produce the finalized recordings in the studio at TCNJ. Quarantine, however, has prevented anyone from accessing the studio for project purposes or otherwise. Fortunately though, I am grateful to have received support from IMM and the Spirito Emergency Fund. I was provided with the means to afford a quality microphone for use at home.
Macbook Pro 2018 version with Logic Pro X (DAW), Audacity (alternate DAW), Roli Lightblock M - MPE MIDI drum pad, Akai MPK Mini - MIDI keyboard, Roland GO Mixer - digital audio interface, Beyerdynamic FOX - USB microphone
Used sampling in my learning, Did a lot critical listening and tried to replicate sounds and songs that I liked, I spent a lot of time of looking at all digital instruments in my library and identifying ones that I liked, I took a beginner piano course so that I would have more knowledge of theory and practice with performance
I am passionate about music and would have been remiss if I did not force myself to explore this passion further by developing skills out of necessity. My intrinsic motivation was enhanced by my extrinsic motivation to produce good content and pass senior thesis class! I wanted to choose a creatively/intellectually challenging project that would be guaranteed to affect personal growth.
Now that the semester is complete, I can say that I have definitely grown from the experience. It has been one that has humbled me and allowed me to have greater patience with myself during the creative process. I have learned a lot and I definitely have a lot more to learn too, but that is okay. My time at IMM has taught me many important life values, but perhaps the most important is persistence. There were many times when I could have quit, but I did not because I appreciate the creative process even though it can often be frustrating.
My Creative Goals
I will continue working on this project after graduation, with the eventual goal of publishing an original LP album. I also plan to produce music videos in the future, bringing together a full culmination of skills I have gained in Interactive Multimedia. Whatever direction I end up taking professionally, music will still remain a passion of mine. Simply put, I will continue creating and expanding upon my skills regardless of my career direction.
How is this work likely to impact the world beyond TCNJ?
Listeners bring their own experiences and personal meanings when listening to someone else’s music. If nothing else, I hope my music inspires thoughts of positivity in others. This was a project that I created even though it was incredibly challenging, and at times embarrassing when I presented early work in front of my peers. I hope that my work carries the message that you do not need to be perfect in order to learn. One only needs to be motivated to achieve and stay creative in the face of adversity.
Biggest challenge/hurdle you overcame and how?
As I have mentioned previously, I faced both personal and technical challenges throughout this project. However, the greatest challenge on the whole was that I had a lack of experience when I began working on this project. I overcame this challenge by diving headfirst into my work.
At a basic level, I did not possess much knowledge of music theory when I began my thesis project last semester. I decided to remedy this by enrolling in a beginner piano course at TCNJ. The course has allowed me to learn basic theory and music notation, while also gaining literal hands-on experience with a keyboard. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to designing rhythms and melodies in Logic Pro X. Much of the knowledge gained from my thesis project has been a result of continual focused practice and a persistence to learn.
Adapting to COVID
Covid-19 was a curveball that many of us did not expect. Certainly, it has affected every one of my fellow IMM students, as well as myself. One of the most significant losses is that it resulted in the inability to access our greatest resource firsthand...ourselves! Creative collaboration and peer feedback our some of the most valuable assets to have during the learning process.
However, we all logged into Zoom and prevailed despite not being able to communicate face-to-face. I was able to adapt to the situation, ensuring that I remained hopeful and passionate about the work I was doing. I know that what I have created is not perfect, but I am proud of it. I have learned a lot of new things along the way, as well as greatly improved upon skills I had prior to Senior Thesis. I know that I will now be more aptly prepared for my next music project. If anything, my experience has awarded me the confidence to keep creating in spite of what difficulties may arise. Music is something I am passionate about, and I will continue to pursue it after graduation.
Did you collaborate with others?
While I did not directly collaborate with anyone, the support I have received from IMM students and faculty have been invaluable. Paramountly, the constant creative encouragement I received from Dr. Buckleitner and others have been extremely helpful for keeping things in perspective. Additionally, feedback from fellow students has helped to guide my direction throughout the learning process. I sincerely hope that we all stay connected following graduation, as the people in our lives are often our greatest resources!