Each year at Missouri State University, seniors involved in the highly selective Electronic Arts program collaborate within interdisciplinary groups to create something unique and authentic. One group, known as Regional Rhythms, is using their combined knowledge of audio engineering, graphic design and production to shed light on diverse sounds and styles across the Midwest.
The group is comprised of three core members who are all senior electronic art majors with different areas of focus. Creative director and producer Emily Hoffmann, who formulated the original idea, has a primary focus in audio studies as does producer and audio engineer, Taylor Bottini. Producer, web and graphic designer Kristina Forst has a focus in interactive new media.
Hoffmann plays the ukulele and sings, and Bottini plays guitar, bass, saxophone and otomophone. Both musicians use their knowledge to create a simple beat whether it be jazz, rock or hip-hop based, which is then used by various musicians throughout the Midwest as somewhat of a guideline to contribute their own original spin to the song.
In search of musicians willing to send in submissions, the group traveled to multiple cities in the Midwest including Fayetteville, Arkansas; Lawrence, Kansas; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Louisville, Kentucky. Among them, Forst said Indianapolis was one of the liveliest music scenes, even within the smaller areas.
The group found unexpected scenes in seemingly unlikely places as well.
“There was a pizza place in Kentucky that played metal on the weekends,” Bottini said. “It was very strange.”
Hoffmann said in terms of smaller cities, Dixon Street in Fayetteville, which featured live music best categorized as grassroots and Americana, was a pleasant surprise.
“I think the aim of the project was to find those small big cities that have really unique music scenes that aren’t given the credit they deserve sometimes,” Hoffmann said.
The group accepts submissions from anyone who wishes to take part, which makes for a diverse range of styles and sounds which Hoffman said was part of the goal.
“It can be anything from snapping or to a piece of original music that someone has already created as long as it’s original to that person,” Bottini said.
Bottini summed up the Midwest sound as a “mish-mosh melting pot.”
Overall, the group has created a total of three songs that strategically mix different sounds from different genres to form eclectic and vibrant melodies.
The songs mix a wide array of jazz, rock and hip-hop elements through use of the harmonica, drums, electric and bass guitar, saxophone and other unique instruments.
“It’s been really cool in the editing process seeing that I can make a harmonica fit with a saxophone,” Hoffmann said. “It definitely makes the music sound unique, and it’s not your average pop song.”
Hoffmann said one of their songs includes submissions from 15 different musicians, all of whom have never met before.
Regional Rhythms —a group of people that hardly knew each other at the onset of the project — has grown into an easy-going and “quirky” unit, Bottini said.
The group attributes part of this seamless collaboration to their flexible mindset.
“We’re not very strict with things, and we’re very open to whatever happens, happens,” Forst said. “Our project has grown and changed a lot with that.”
There is a mutual consensus among the group in regards to the respect they have for one another and their ability to work effectively as an interdisciplinary team.
“We all knew that we had to work hard, and getting grumpy wasn’t going to make the project any easier,” Hoffmann said. “I feel like we all just had a really nice respect for each other and took care of business.”
Another crucial component of the project is the crowdfunding campaign put on through Indiegogo, Inc. which Hoffmann said will hopefully provide funds for festival and competition fees which could link the project with people who have connections.
Even though Regional Rhythms currently has no plans in place to move forward with the interactive project after graduation, Forst said they believe there is a future for the project if they find a production company willing to accept it.
The group will display their work on May 13 at 6:30 p.m. during the 20th Annual Electronic Arts Showcase in the in the Plaster Student Union Theatre.