Silent Night

My audio Christmas card this year is an arrangement of Silent Night.  I’ve been playing with Audacity recently in preparation for some projects I’d like to do with my students at the high school.  As part of that, I started working on a Christmas example.

Oddly, I’ve been listening to a lot of Steve Reich this year, so the Silent Night arrangement was a minimalist-inspired experiment.  Before the music geeks get on my case, this piece is not true minimalism or a phase piece, and it’s probably definitely not the way Steve Reich would have approached it at all.  Steve Reich is Steve Reich, and I have little interest in copying his style.  However, his idea that a piece may stay on the same chord for sustained periods without becoming boring intrigues me.

I used ostinatos to repeat and overlap.  You may notice that the ostinatos don’t always line up numerically – the bass line repeats on a 2-measure cycle, the brass motif is on a 6-measure cycle, and the high ah singing the “Silent Night” motif repeats every 8 measures.  One verse of Silent Night is 24 measures.  It’s just a fun little experiment for me, using a low-quality PC microphone.

As far as my process on this piece, I literally arranged by performing, as though using the computer as a simple loop machine.  I did clean up my loops a bit (balancing the two voices in the brasslike motif, for instance), but most of the sound loops remained minimally processed.  I did occasionally use a chorus plugin and the standard Audacity compressor and leveler.

Each new loop I sang was built on the previous ones, in the final order of the song.

Enjoy, comment, and have a merry Christmas!

The CSAP Song

The counselor at Baker Central School, one of the three schools where I teach, asked me to write a positive jingle about CSAP. For those of you outside Colorado, CSAP is the standardized test that all students statewide must take, and which is the major tool to assess whether a school is succeeding or failing.

Regardless of my personal feelings about CSAP’s effectiveness, it benefits everybody when kids do their best.

Download The CSAP Song as an mp3 now

See the YouTube Video

The CSAP Song is released by Nathan Howe Music under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, so feel free to share it with others (especially teachers) who might have a good use for it.  If you need permission to do something with the song beyond the scope of the Creative Commons license, click here to ask for permission.

By the way, some of the background vocals were provided by students at Fort Morgan Middle School, and the instrumentals were created with JamStudio.


We had a great breakfast
And plenty of rest.
We’re not gonna panic:
This is only a test.

We’ve got our #2 pencils
And a smile on our face;
We’ll fill in the bubble
And cleanly erase

Yeah, CSAP.
Yeah, CSAP.
Yeah, CSAP.

UPDATE:  The CSAP has become the TCAP, so the song has been revised.  Listen here.