AMC Session Inspiration: “Old Gold: Do-it-Yourself Music Production”

As we begin another year of organizing for AMC2016, we are excited to highlight some of the big ideas that emerged from this past summer’s conference. We hope you are inspired to propose a session for AMC2016!

Workshops focused on hands-on skill-sharing and DIY media-making are perennial favorites at the Allied Media Conference. “Old Gold: Do-it-yourself Music Production”, a popular session at AMC2015, introduced free and inexpensive tools to teach the basics of contemporary songwriting and electronic music production. Check out our interview with presenters Dave Giles II and Nelson Nance.

Old Gold
"Old Gold" facilitators Dave Giles II and Nelson Nance present at AMC2015. Photo by Ara Howrani

How did you get involved with the AMC?

This was our first AMC. We were connected to the organizers through Ryann Holmes, who is the director of Bklyn Boihood. Part of the beauty of the AMC was in the communing of all these different DIY programs around social justice as opposed to consumerism. To bring our workshop to life, we created an album, music videos, an infomercial, merchandise, a digital campaign and website; all in the spirit of demystifying music for the masses. Upon realizing how much we had in common with the community, it was clear AMC was a perfect fit.

What is “Old Gold”? How did the idea for this session come about?

We are musicians and multi disciplinary artists based in Brooklyn. Old Gold is an audio and visual transfer of knowledge between the two of us that culminates in a multi-platform, hands-on learning experience for those seeking to learn music production. We did an initial version of this workshop earlier this year at the MOMA. At the time it was more of an exhibition. Our intention for the AMC was to make it more interactive and approach it from a DIY music production angle.

Our goal for this workshop was to teach people how to make a song from concept to creation in 90 minutes. That included both the technical and creative sides of music production. We went through music theory, digital recording and sequencing, electronic composition, free-style songwriting and hands-on practice. It was a very ambitious endeavor!

Why was it important to present this content at the AMC?

The AMC is about helping people from all walks of life have a platform in media and make their voices heard. That principle is at the core of our workshop, which is about liberating people to be able to create regardless of what they have at their disposal, both financially and in terms of knowledge. We believe you can create and be heard and do it well through DIY practices.

What was your agenda for the session?

You can see the basic outline for the workshop here. We opened the workshop with a performance of our source material; a set of songs crafted in line with our teaching model and accompanying visuals deliberately produced in a DIY fashion. Then we explained digital music and the technology behind it, where it comes from, what sampling means, theories and more.

The AMC is about helping people from all walks of life have a platform in media and make their voices heard. That principle is at the core of our workshop, which is about liberating people to be able to create regardless of what they have at their disposal.

For the core of the workshop we divided the room into two tracks – sounds and words. Each of us led one group. For the production side of things we learned how sampling works step-by-step. Beyond the act of doing it we wanted to show what the thought process was as we were going through it. We asked: what do these sounds mean and how do they feel? We had a dialogue about mood and what it means to feel a certain way when you hear a sound.

The songwriting team wanted to talk about police violence, resistance, revolution – they really painted a picture of where the group was at that moment. They began freestyling about Afrofuturism, liberation and more. We had participants writing sections together in two languages, harmonizing to find the right key – it was an intensely collaborative and socratic space. We led them through their feelings as opposed to telling them what to do.

We began recording the song, but were only able to get halfway through it due to time constraints. More importantly, we provided space for a dialogue and interactive resource-sharing.

What were some highlights from the session?

We were excited to see the active participation in the production and songwriting. This was important for us because it was a goal of ours to have participants be actively creating through the process, rather than us just showing them how to do it.

One unexpected moment came from a participant who initially didn’t want to work as part of the group. Eventually we were able to get him to join the songwriting team and by the end of the session he said that he felt he had a greater understanding of the songwriting process and how to produce.

It was a goal of ours to have participants be actively creating through the process, rather than us just showing them how to do it.

One of the pillars of the workshop was teaching people how to fine-tune their creativity while also learning how to interact with and be inspired by other people’s creativity. This is a really important part of the process – to feel comfortable creating with others.

Another beautiful part of it was how much knowledge and resources were shared. We were able to collectively share free and inexpensive tools and different ways to hack our own recording and sampling situations at home.

What were some takeaways from the session?

We felt like we established a good formula for the workshop and it opened up our eyes to what was possible. We learned a lot about our strengths and what the greater purpose of this workshop could be. Initially as session facilitators we inhabited separate roles in songwriting and production, but we found these roles to be too rigid when in practice. In the workshop we learned how to cross into each other’s lanes more easily.

As creatives we have to believe in the things we create. After watching so many people have an interactive experience with our music, it showed us the altruistic potential of it and how we can help people shape their craft, grow how they think about music and their ability to work with other people.

Neither of us have a formal music background, but we have realized in our efforts and what we’ve developed thus far that we are musicians. We were able to create a space for other people to find their own paths to becoming musicians.

People can find all of the course materials, FAQs, music videos and songs on our website at oldgold.nyc


Want more AMC session inspiration? Read an interview with the presenters of “Speculative Cities” & “Anti Eviction Mapping”.

It’s that time of year again! We’re coming up on the 18th annual Allied Media Conference, June 16 - 19 in Detroit, and we need your ideas to make this year’s conference the best yet. Artists, designers, technologists, policy advocates, media enthusiasts: we encourage you to submit a session proposal! The deadline to submit your idea is March 11, 2016.

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