January 17, 2018

Daily Archives

  • Why Include the Most Hated Song in Texas?

    In the Experience Real History: Alamo Edition app, the Imagine Virtua producers could have added any background music, or no music at all. But that would not have been an accurate depiction of events–and it would have been missing a huge element.  Before the battle, the Mexican army played the “deguello” a song that struck fear in every defender.  According to the Texas State Historical Association, the deguello announced that no quarter would be given the rebellious Texans, and signaled the final assault on the Alamo. An by “no quarter” they mean..

    … the act of beheading or throat-cutting and in Spanish history [the deguello] became associated with the battle music, which, in different versions, meant complete destruction of the enemy without mercy.

    To recreate the song, however, is more challenging than you might imagine. We asked the musician working on the Alamo Edition project how he did it. There were several steps.

    1. Do Your Research. Youtube is full of themes claiming to be the deguello, and just as quickly you’ll find comments saying how that theme isn’t the “real” de guello.  Fortunately, I found footage of a respected Alamo historian whistling the tune. I noticed that’s the same tune the most recent Alamo movie used, which seemed encouraging. Finally, I found a copy of the handwritten sheet music of the original bugle calls used for the deguello. There are four, and I used the second for the Aftermath music, and the fourth for the Assault music.

    2. Choose the Right Location. For the app, we wanted to emulate the sound of Santa Anna’s band for the assault music to give a sense of what that might have been like for the defenders. Most music is recorded indoors, but that would not sounded exactly as they would have heard it.  So, we sorted out how to record it outside.

    3. Find Historically Accurate Instruments. Gathering all of the instruments required was probably the most challenging aspect. I used marching brass and percussion for the full ensemble and gave special consideration to the trumpets. Valved trumpets had not been invented at this time, so everything was played by bugles. The trumpet player I worked with happened to have a very unique old instrument called a slide bugle, very few of which were ever made. I think the serial number on his was “008”.  Bugles can only play in one key, but this one has a slide similar to a trombone, so you can change the key it plays in.

    So, how does it sound? I would describe the sound as more “authentic” than beautiful. I also layered in some tracks of him playing the bugle calls on cornet – which is the closest modern day equivalent to the bugle. The combination of the two instruments, along with the other brass and percussion, are what make up the wall of sound for the assault music.

    Take a listen:

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  • Augmented Reality: Can it Really be Used in History Class?

    Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Most people confuse augmented reality with virtual reality.  Virtual reality, creates a totally artificial environment, and to be in that environment, the user is required to strap a device to their face. Augmented reality, in contrast, uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it, and you can access that information via your mobile smart device without a headset.

    In AR, computer generated images (CGI) and animations overlay onto camera-captured video in such a way that the CGI objects appear to have an absolute location in the real world.

    AR’s Use Case for Education

    AR made a big splash when Pokemon Go was introduced. And since then,  the AR applications with the most buzz have been games.  Although some parents might think of Augmented or Virtual Reality as just another way to play a game, many educators already understand the power of this technology. The ability to map images and information onto the physical world is very exciting, and they can envision or have seen its application in the classroom. But quite a bit of the conversation around this medium has focused on its ability to assist with science class: See beneath the skin! Learn the structure of atoms! Watch a volcano erupt! Very few applications have been introduced for use in a social sciences class.

    History teachers face a unique challenge. Unlike other subjects, the content is not tangible and teachers have to work very hard to create interactive learning opportunities. The historical figures you are talking about are long dead, the lives they led are somewhat hard for kids to relate to, and buildings where key events took place may have changed drastically. Even if you visit an historic location, it is hard to convey the gravity and the significance of the event.

    But what if the student could see events unfold as if they were there: in the middle of the battle, or holed up during the siege?  This isn’t similar to watching a movie, because the student is “in” the story, where the story happened. For instance, imagine a student standing outside the main building of the Alamo holding up a mobile device to watch Sarah, the freed slave, help defend the 18-pound cannon, then lose her life. Or entering a portal into the room where James Bowie was deathly ill with what was described as Typhoid Pneumonia, then watch as he fights to his last breath. What if  they could “fly over” the entire scene and watch the battle unfold from the bird’s eye view? Would that change their perspective? Would it enhance their retention and understanding of the material?

    Augmented reality is compelling and captivating in a way that a plaque on the ground, or a pencil drawing of a war hero just can not match.

    “This combination holds astonishing promise for education and entertainment as it brings history to life. This is particularly important for connecting with younger generations who desire a highly visual and engaging form of storytelling.” Chipp Walters, Imagine Virtua CEO

    Travel back in time with us. We know it will be fun… but you just might learn something along the way.

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