Courses in Clusters

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Xander reflects on how the teachers in his Architecture + Culture class drew out his academic curiosity and encouraged him to take some chances to produce work he was proud of.

Our program consists of clusters – classes grouped together in fresh and exciting ways. What classes? What ways? We love to try new things — which means the Experimentory changes from year-to-year as we play and experiment with different subjects. The descriptions below describe our clusters for the 2017 program. While some look similar to past programs, the students forge the direction at the Experimentory. So, though the content may be planned by the Faculty Team, be prepared to bring your interests and creativity to the table as well.

Comedy, Tragedy, and Circuitry: Theater + Electronics
Theater is ancient. One can imagine its beginning: a storyteller deciding to spice up the evening’s entertainment by taking on a character’s persona and actions. Electronic technology is far newer. Theater is immensely personal–built from one’s own voice and body. Electronics are external–intricate tools to help us in the physical world. And yet both make our ideas tangible–and in that way seem magical. This course will combine electronics and theater to celebrate creativity and the ties between art and science. Students in this course will learn to design both circuits and sets, perform monologues and write code, solder and face stage fright. Students will design electronics that contribute substantially to the theater production while they gain experience as stage actors. All students will leave this class with an increased knowledge of both theater and electronics.

Sample Projects

  • Props: Students will explore all sorts of props before choosing one and creating it.  Think something along the lines of the light-up mirror from Beauty and the Beast
  • The Woman in Black: Scary movies have all sorts of technology in them.  Doors shut automatically, lights flash, ghosts appear, and more.  Create not only the scary effects, but the play to go along with them.
  • Reactive Costumes:  Remember when Katniss Everdeen’s dress lit up in the Hunger Games?  Imagine creating costumes for your plays that change as needed.
  • Mini Lighting Plots: Theater isn’t complete without lighting.  Learn how to tell a story with lights and create your own plot complete with lighting sets.

Structures for Society: Culture + Architecture and Design

Culture can be seen in the food we eat, music we listen to, religion we practice, and entertainment we enjoy. It can also tell us a lot about the places in which we live and our experiences in them. For example, why were the pyramids built in Egypt? What was their purpose? Could we build them again with those same materials and in the same manner? In this class we will explore all sorts of these questions in a fun, yet informative manner. Class one day might start by drawing Doric and Ionic columns and then reading a Greek myth or talking about the Greek Pantheon of Deities or acting out a Greek tragedy. On another day we might start with a conversation about soccer (football) and discuss its popularity globally and then think about how the stadiums are constructed in response to the culture of the fans.

Sample Projects

  • Culturally Sustainable Houses: Students design a building from their home country that responds to the environmental conditions in which they live.
  • Design a Restaurant: Choose a cuisine, study the culture, and design a restaurant.  Warning:  good food may be involved!
  • Olympic Exploration: Choose an Olympic or World Cup venue – a swimming pool or soccer stadium for example – and determine how this arena was designed for international use but reflects the culture and country in which it is located. Then, design your own!
  • Design Your Own Structure: Explore how famous structures were built, then create your own monument or structure to reflect the location and culture of its surroundings.

Storytelling for the Eyes and the Ears: Music Composition + Film Production

Our contemporary media landscape is saturated with audio-visual messages: We live in a world of screens and loudspeakers that form the backdrop to our everyday experiences. How do we understand the continual bombardment of images, music, and sounds that characterize modern life? How can we participate in these media ourselves? In this cluster students will learn the rudiments of audio-visual and musical literacy, as well as the basics of film and music analysis. We will take a hands-on collaborative approach that imitates the practices of the contemporary film and music industries. Students will work on a wide range of projects, going all the way from conception to finished products. In doing so, they will face the same creative, organizational, and entrepreneurial challenges that musicians and filmmakers face when creating and distributing their work. As a result, students will not only hone their problem solving and critical thinking skills, but they will also become much better “readers” of audio-visual images and music.

Sample Projects

  • Stop-motion Animation: Students will write a screenplay and make a stop-motion animation inspired by a musical piece.
  • Mix-up: Mix, match, and create your own film scores using your favorite films.  Can you start with a documentary and make it into a comedy?
  • Vote for Me: Creating a political campaign uses a lot of media.  Make your own campaign by creating TV ads, radio slots, musical jingles, and more.
  • Start to Finish: Create the screenplay, draw up the shot list, add the music, and edit to create your own narrative short film.

If you are curious to learn more about how our clusters looked in the 2016 program, visit the Experimentory’s Blog, Flickr and YouTube pages to see how it all came together.