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Speak Your Music

Artist Focus on Clay Ross

Lesson One: Building a Frame

Clay introduces his band Ranky Tanky and talks about the origins of their song “All For You.”

Your Assignment

  1. Watch the video in which Clay Ross talks about his relationship with Gullah music from South Carolina and guitar playing from West Africa.
  2. Take special note of how Clay has identified specific aspects of these musical cultures that he is interested in including in his own music.
  3. Pay careful attention to Clay’s consideration of the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange.
  4. Now that you’ve heard about Clay’s musical loves and background, think of a song that you love and share some of what you love about it.
    • What is the name of the song?
    • Who is the author or songwriter of the song?
    • Where does the song come from culturally?
    • What is the mood of the song?
    • What ideas or feelings does the song communicate?
    • Are any of the lyrics especially meaningful to you?
    • Is there any part of this song that could inspire you to write a new song?

Explore Other Parts of Speak Your Music

Introduction | Express Yourself

Mazz Swift, Clay Ross, and Sarah Elizabeth Charles share their backgrounds and processes for creating music.

Artist Focus on Mazz Swift | Lesson One: Finding a Theme

Mazz shares her distinct approach to using improvisation as a way of generating musical ideas to use in composition.

Artist Focus on Mazz Swift | Lesson Two: Tweaking, Tinkering, and Messing with Your Music

Mazz shares her recommendations for manipulating and organizing basic musical ideas in order to explore different compositional approaches.

Artist Focus on Mazz Swift | Lesson Three: Finished! For Now …

This video features the questions that Mazz uses to determine whether a piece of music is done or requires further editing.

Artist Focus on Clay Ross | Lesson Two: Making It Yours

Clay breaks down how he used source material from the Gullah tradition and West African music to create his original song.

Artist Focus on Clay Ross | Lesson Three: A Life of Its Own

Clay explores how “All For You” evolved into new shapes as Ranky Tanky collaborated with other artists.

Artist Focus on Sarah Elizabeth Charles | Lesson One: My Big Idea

Sarah describes how she uses a big question to spark the idea for a new song that explores the relationship between all human beings.

Artist Focus on Sarah Elizabeth Charles | Lesson Two: My Musical Brainstorm

Sarah demonstrates how she creates a musical foundation for her new piece, and then shapes a melody on top of that foundation.

Artist Focus on Sarah Elizabeth Charles | Lesson Three: Growing My Idea

Sarah explains how her collaboration with a musical friend helped to shape the final version of her new piece.

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