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Pre-order our book YOU ARE AN ARTIST (which includes new assignments!) here: This week Sarah shares some of the excellent responses to Bang on a Can's assignment to Find Your Band. Keep submitting your responses with #theartassignment!

Watch the Find Your Band assignment:

Featured in this video:

Jenn N:
The Collective:
Empty Disco:
Dakota Hommes:
Dan Jones:

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Hey guys! Today we're going to talk about your responses to the Bang on a Can assignment and that was to find your band. Marc Steward and Julia Wolfe explained it this way:

Your assignment is to go through your day and notice all the sounds around you, as you go through your day. Choose one of those sounds, or a group of those sounds, a room of those sounds, and that's going to be your band.

And once you've found your band, choose your instrument and join in.

As you probably remember, Marc and Julia were insanely great at doing this assignment. And unlike most people, they have a ton of experience getting up in front of a lot of people and doing wacky things, with no firm idea of what exactly is going to happen. That's a really hard thing to do. This assignment asks to put yourself WAY far our there, and we are immensely grateful to those of you who did.

The first response we're going to talk about is one from Sophie. She's a drummer, but she's currently not enrolled in anything that gives her an outlet for that.  So her band was the items in her desk.

[rhythmic tapping and clicking]

[drumming continues while Sarah speaks]

[Sarah offscreen]: One thing I noticed right off the bat when watching the responses to this assignment is that making noise is a pretty common part of our days.  Sure we're not all talented drummers and we don't all have an audience or are strategic about it, but in going about our routines and tending to the practicalities of everyday life, we're making music.

Like Jenn N's band is her breakfast routine, and she is the conductor.  She helpfully narrates what she's doing for us.

[Jenn offscreen]: First, the toaster starts off by counting a beat.  Then a coffeepot kicks in with a gurgle and a steady stream providing a melody.  Then the bacon starts to sizzle, adding a crescendo to the entire piece.

Jenn doesn't add in with her voice or anything, but that's not a stipulation of the assignment.  Jenn has found music in what's around her, and joining in, in this case, means layering or composing and not necessarily adding per se.

YearWithFear made an audio recording, and they titled it Waiting for My Band: 39 Plays.  The band members in this case are a metronome, a wooden windowsill, a metal coffeepot, and the street noise outside their apartment.  Each was recorded separately, and then the tracks were combined.

[metronome clacks, light knocking, high pitched clinking]

[music continues as Sarah speaks]

[Sarah offscreen]: I really appreciate the way this one is described for us by its maker, and I'll just recite a few bits of what they say: "The street noise and coffeepot are barely noticeable beneath the windowsill's rapid and recognizably musical gestures. The windowsill and metronome build to an Afro-Cuban inspired climax, and then abruptly stop.  Suddenly the street noise is more apparent in the texture.  The insistent windowsill motif returns, and this time quieter and manipulated into jerky fits."

Okay, so I'm not a musician, and I don't really have the language to talk about music in all of its complexity, but I love love love reading about music. I wouldn't have been able to describe the piece this way, but it described what I heard beautifully and perfectly, and I appreciated the music more for it.

This next one was done by The Collective, an arts program created for Tulsa, Oklahoma teens, and they met up at the Philbrook Museum of Art and did the Find Your Band assignment together.

The Collective: [sings] Give me a second to breathe, turning you around, round. I don't know what to do. Give me a second to breathe, turning you around. I don't know what to do. Give me a second to breathe, turning you around. [claps and stomps] [music continues as Sarah speaks]

Sarah: [over singing] I liked this group's approach to the challenge, and it made me notice how even traditionally rarefied placed like museums are still full of banal materials like Plexiglas holders for signage, cardboard boxes, and paper cutters. And I love how comfortable these guys are in the gallery and with each other. Truly successful band finding.

So there were other people who used perhaps the most common sounds of all as points of departure and those are the sounds of our own bodies. Geeksdanz made this great video where they improvised to the sounds of the dance studio, their own bodies, and each other.

Geeksdance: [rustling, breathing, knocking]

[Sarah offscreen]: There is a lot of awareness of breathing and the rhythms of our own bodies and there's this great point where one person snaps and the others respond and this piece is full of wonderful moments that for me emphasize the beauty of collaboration.

Another response that focused on the body and its sounds is by Y2K Snowglobe.

Y2K Snowglobe: [rustling, breathing] [singing] There's a ball and chain and crystal inside my own brain. I want to love... [music continues as Sarah speaks]

Sarah: They said about this, the following: "As someone with several congenital heart defects I often feel at odds with my own body. Like I may want to sprint around the house in the rain but that's not really within my capacity. So for my band, I endeavored to try to bring together my body and my mind. So my band consists of my heart beat tapping out on an inflatable ball, my breathing, my pill bottles, my medical bracelet and my voice."

Sarah: This is a case when I felt like someone had created an entire band, and not just a simple two- or three-piece accompaniment. It's personal, and sincere and I really enjoyed it. This next one is titled, "Walking Alone in the Dark" and is by Empty Disco, who has made quite a bit of music before but this was their first experiment with found sound.

Empty Disco: [whooshing, crickets] [sings] Do you know what it is you believe in? [crackling noises, and rushing air play through out the back ground] Do you know what it is you believe in?

Sarah: Riley shares that the sound was recorded outside of their home in North Carolina and I like that we're given a chance to experience the sound on its own first. Then Riley joins in with lyrics while we can still hear noises of the crickets and the street around them. I feel as if I'm really there. And it makes me wish that more music was recorded outside the studio. It's these kinds of more personal reactions that I think I enjoyed most in the responses to this assignment. Like this one by Dakota Hommes titled "Empty Pages."

Dakota Hommes: [coin hitting table and then spinning] I set the cards on the table, flipped through all of my pages, was nothing left for me to say.

Sarah: All we know is that this was inspired by this Art Assignment and the movie Frank. We hear a coin start to spin and the a voice joins in reaching to hit some higher notes in the most genuine and heart warming way and then the piece ends promptly and suddenly when the coin drops.

Sarah: That one was really raw and pure in a way that aligned with expectations I had after seeing Marc and Julia do this assignment. When I first started seeing the responses to Find Your Band come in. I did wonder whether the ones who used software and editing were cheating in some way by not creating an impromptu band right then and there, in a highly unedited way. But then I quickly dismissed that thought because editing and mixing is completely valid and an interesting and important way to make music.

You guys took this assignment in such unexpected and enriching directions and I'm always glad to see people taking these prompts and making things that are completely their own. Thank you for participating and for watching and remember that you can keep finding your band and we'll keep posting your responses.

And we're gonna take you out with one more piece by Dan Jones, who worked with the sounds he found at his own studio and a little tune that might sound familiar if you've watched this show before.

Dan Jones: [Art Assignment Theme cover plays with guitar, clacks, bangs, and swishes]