Amplifying Waves (2023) was an electronic music summer intensive for LGBTQ+ youth, hosted between July 26-28, 2023 at East Hawai’i Cultural Center in Hilo, Hawai’i, with support from Hawai’i Island LGBTQ+ Pride.
Amplifying Waves (2022) was a electronic music summer intensive for LGBTQ+ youth, hosted between July 11-22, 2022 at the Donkey Mill Art Center in Kailua Kona, Hawai’i.
The program was the first of its kind on Hawai’i island, offering a creative digital media program at no cost to a diverse cohort of LGBTQ+ youth and allies, ages 15-17. Students were invited to explore their personal identities, local community issues, and electronic music tools in a safe space for intentional conversations, and open-ended, hands-on experimentation. Final sound projects wove together advanced techniques like sampling, virtual instruments, AI vocals, and recorded sound, to explore issues like social anxiety, transformative justice, youth power, anti-war advocacy, and more.
Week 1 focused on creating a welcoming environment for students to engage in intentional conversation and build trust. Students were invited to use the names and gender pronouns that they felt most comfortable with, which in some cases, differed from the ones they use at home and in school. Students discussed their identities, which included gender-questioning, genderfluid, queer, bisexual, pansexual, racial minority, and neurodivergent. Students opened up about experiences of discrimination and bullying -- for their race, appearance, who they are attracted to, and the oversexualization and policing of their bodies. In parallel, students became familiar with Ableton Live, a full-grade, digital audio workstation used by professional music producers and audio engineers around the world. They quickly learned how to manipulate existing and AI-generated audio samples, record original audio, and record virtual software instruments and drum kits.
Week 2 invited students to begin individual projects (with collaborative elements) inspired by contemporary approaches in electronic music and sound art. In addition to their own personal identities, students were invited to consider local community issues, ranging from affordable housing to climate justice. The program culminated in a listening party with parents and selected guests, and a pau hana celebration of the students and their work.
During the program, an LGBTQ+ youth program in West Hawaii was cancelled due to violent comments and death threats. LGBTQ+ youth, whose mental and physical health are at greater levels of risk due to persistent, systemic discrimination, deserve safe spaces to build community, thrive creatively, and step into their power alongside others with similar life experiences. A central tenet of Amplifying Waves was to not only offer tolerance, but joy – building in free-time for making new friends, sharing meals, singing auto-tune karaoke, building collective playlists, jamming, sharing skills, and having fun!
Amplifying Waves was made possible with support from Aloha MAP, the KoLab (a community hub in Kona that hosted Week 1 of the program), and private donors.
Student Project Descriptions
I explored my own experiences with anxiety through modifying clips found online of cafe ambience, cell phone ringtones, and heavy breathing. I used no instruments for this piece, instead using vocal recordings of a freestyle poem that I wrote. I used voice modification effects to amplify the reverberations and panicked tone of my voice, making it sound almost underwater and drowned out at times.
I explored my anxiety while also analyzing and explaining the topic of Transformative Justice in this sound project. I messed around with MIDI software instruments and recorded audio samples. I also learned how to insert my vocals into my project, which really captures the chaos of my mind while the system left it up to civilians to save a man's life. He sadly didn't make it. I hope it makes your heart drop as much as mine did seeing him.
Note: this student witnessed the accidental death of a paddle-boarder on Sunday July 17th 2022, and because the “system” (police, ambulance) could not respond in time, bystanders had to intervene, performing CPR unsuccessfully. Transformative Justice is a community-driven approach that offers accountability for harm, that is an alternative to the traditional “system” of punishment (police, jails, and prisons).
In my project I explored my mental state. I used audio samples of some of my favorite horror games such as menu music and audio effects and used them along with midi clips and AI vocals. I used these to create an unsettling theme.
Through my project I wanted to explore my mind and how my brain works. I used synths as both an ethereal sound that is calming and sweet. I also used a sort-of sharp drum sound, clips of people whispering, recordings of two people fighting, etc. What I would like the listener to take away from my project is not one set thing, my project is up for interpretation. If one part stands out to them in a personal way, then that's what I wish for them to take from my project.
This piece is an interpretation of the Vietnam War and the impact it had on society. Everything in this piece is sampled, I took warfare sound effects and added heavily-distorted psychedelic rock to create the dreary atmosphere of the 60’s. I took an organ sample and added recordings of veterans and political figures to conclude the end of the war.
This project explores the power of using your voice, especially the voices of the new generation, as well as climate change. I incorporated a bassline, synthesizers, pianos, and clips from young activists, creating a hopeful yet cautionary mood for those listening. I wanted to display the power we hold, while also showing it’s not fair that we have to clean up after past generations’ mistakes.