Inspiring Flathead Artists with Technology

FVCC to offer digital music course with SnowGhost owner, producer, and engineer Brett Allen

By Clare Menzel
Brett Allen, pictured in the SnowGhost music studio on Sunday, March 16, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Flathead Valley Community College students can enroll this fall semester in “Introduction to Digital Music,” a three-credit course with guest instructor Brett Allen, owner of Whitefish-based production company SnowGhost Music. Allen has produced and engineered music for artists including The Avett Brothers, Death Cab for Cutie, and Dan Deacon.

The seminar will examine how technology has influenced the ways we create, consume, and share music. Allen’s students will study the history of mechanical and recorded music by exploring music streaming’s democratization of the industry, the disposability of contemporary music, and our mastery over computers, among other topics.

“I feel like we’re coming out of what I call the dark ages of computer music,” Allen said. “When we first started, we didn’t know how to use them so we let them make the music for us. Now we’re getting more sophisticated … and musicians can focus on being human again.”

Allen hopes his students will find this as empowering as he does. Now that musicians control technology, it can be put to so much good use, especially somewhere like the Flathead Valley. He imagines that, maybe 10 years down the line, when musicians in the Flathead have harnessed the full power of technology and social networks, the valley will support a first class musical hub.

“I really believe that technology transcends location,” he said. “We can live amidst the beautiful wilderness, and we can create opportunity here without having to build a huge infrastructure or tech parks or industrial warehouses. You don’t have to live in Nashville, LA, or New York. You just have to innovate. We just have to come together to share ideas – that’s all those cities have on us.”

A major component of the course, which favors hands-on learning experiences over lectures, will be producing music with handheld devices – the first lesson in the accessibility today’s technology affords. Neither the students nor the FVCC has to invest thousands of dollars on equipment. The class will simply use smartphone apps.

The course is capped at 15 students, and the textbook is Stanley Alten’s Audio and Media, a publication Allen says he has referred to countless times in his professional career. Currently enrolled Flathead Valley Community College students can contact Nicole Sanford for more information at 756-4813.

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