By Heather Gale Heather.gale @myhorrynews.com
Gullah hymns and history will soon be available to everyone with the touch of a button.
Coastal Carolina University students and the Athenaeum Press are in the process of developing an app for iPhones and Android devices that will feature hours of recorded Gullah music and stories from St. Helena Island.
The app will complement the CD box set that is set to come out in April.
The CD box set will feature more than 90 minutes of music and stories. The app will expand on the information the students gathered over months of interviews on the island and include photos, video clips, interviews and more music.
Dan Ennis, CCU’s dean of the college of humanities, said the app will give people a 360-degree view of the project.
“We can only put so much great music and interviews on a CD, but the app will offer a deeper look at the Gullah people,” he said.
Patricia O’Connor, journalist/media executive-in-residence, said the Athenaeum Press took on the project of the Gullah music CD after Matt White, a music assistant professor, proposed the idea.
“We decided to move forward with the project and Matt had already begun to build relationships with the people in St. Helena Island,” she said. “He brought up the idea that we could get students involved in working on a project that included culture and music.”
Students from five departments including music, English, history, photography and graphic design have worked for almost a year on the digital CD box set and the digital application.
O’Connor said the CD box set includes stories and songs from three aging song leaders from St. Helena Island.
“They sing the songs and then talk about the meanings of the song and how it fits in the Gullah culture,” she said.
Tevin Turner, an accounting major at CCU, worked on the recording and editing of the music and interviews for the CD.
“In November, we went down to meet the people of the island and start to build a relationship with them,” the South Carolina native said. “Over the next few weeks, we were able to do recordings of their music and talk to the people.”
Turner, who picked up sound engineering as a hobby before college, said he spent many hours going through all the interviews and songs to create the CD box set.
“Some of the songs they sing are familiar to people and others are original ones from the island that have been sung for many years, but never recorded,” he said. “It was very interesting to learn from the Gullah people and listen to their stories.”
O’Connor said now is the perfect time to record the songs.
“These songs that we have recorded are without instrumentation,” she said. “Some are call and response and some are song leaders starting and then the community joining in. These songs are dying because they current generation are adding instruments, but that is how music evolves.”
Lauren Rose, a graphics design major originally from Longs, is currently working as the lead project designer for the layout on the app.
“We are working on how the app will flow and how it will connect with the box set CD,” she said. “It is very exciting to work on a project like this. I never thought I would have such a big part.”
The app will have between nine and 12 interactive pages.
“We will have text boxes that you can touch to open and music incorporated into the app,” she said.
O’Connor said it is good for students to work on a real project during their college years rather than just coursework.
“Projects like these give them an understanding on how the real world works,” she said. “They work across departments and learn to compromise and collaborate. They leave here with the knowledge and practice of putting a project together and seeing it to the end.”
Turner said he hopes this project will help him get a job in the future.
“I loved working on this project and would love to be a sound engineer full time,” he said. “This is the first thing that will have my name on it publicaly and I am really excited for everyone to enjoy it.”
Rose said she is excited to get the extra experience from the project.
“This could open a ton of doors for me,” she said.
The CD box set will be premiered at the CCU Humanities Gala in mid April.
To pre-order a copy, go to theathenaeumpress.com/order or call 349-5099.
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