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The Scoop on Shovel Knight

Although millions of people around the world enjoy playing video games, not many people have the talent or motivation to make a game of their own. For David D’Angelo ’08, however, the spark, the drive, and the talent were all there.

D’Angelo was heavily involved in music while at Grinnell, participating in the orchestra and serving as president of the acapella ensemble G-Tones. He was also an avid gamer and had always been interested in the process of making video games. After a short postgraduation stint writing commercial jingles, the dual music and computer science major moved to Los Angeles and began to pursue a career in video game design.  

He got a job as a video game programmer at WayForward, a work-for-hire video game company that produces games at the request of companies like Warner Brothers, despite the fact that the economy was crashing for many other industries. “Video games are kind of recession-proof for some reason,” he says.

After working on retro-style 2-D games like “Double Dragon Neon” and “Contra 4,” an idea began to bud in D’Angelo and a few of his coworkers. In 2013, they broke off from WayForward and began their own video game company, Yacht Club Games.

“We wanted to create a retro game that was the first in a new franchise rather than a continuation of an old series,” D’Angelo says. “We were looking at ‘Zelda II: The Adventure of Link’ and observing the underused down-thrust attack of Link, and we just thought ‘How cool would it be to base an entire game around that simple mechanic?’”

After much debate over what kind of weapon would work best for flipping enemies over and attacking their underbellies, the team decided on a shovel. “Then we thought that ‘knight’ is the funniest word you could put next to ‘shovel’, so we wound up with a game called ‘Shovel Knight,’” D’Angelo says.

D’Angelo and his team started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game, in which they had 30 days to reach their monetary goal through online donations. To get the word out, they went to conventions to show off the game, released live-streamed video updates on the project daily, and communicated heavily with their fans.

“We streamed ourselves making the game, we streamed ourselves talking to our fans, we responded to every single email and comment we received,” D’Angelo says. “We wanted people to see how passionate we were about this game.”

The Kickstarter campaign was launched in the middle of March 2013 with a goal of $75,000; they reached that goal in just a few short weeks. By the end of the campaign in mid-April, the team had collected a total of $311,502 for the development of the game. The game was released in June 2014, and has since sold more than a million copies. It can be now purchased for Wii U, 3DS, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Windows, Amazon Fire TV, Mac, and Linux.

When it came to the designing and marketing of “Shovel Knight,” D’Angelo says his Grinnell experience has been a valuable asset to his work. “I didn’t learn how to make games at Grinnell, but I did acquire the knowledge and tools needed to face any programming problem, and my music background helped me create and implement sound in our games,” he says. “Even the course I took in Japanese literature has come in handy as I draw on Japanese art and customs when engaging with our partners there in preparation for the game’s release.

“You get a taste of a little bit of everything at Grinnell, and that has been so important in what I do. I think the best thing you can do is to explore all your options while you’re there, because you just never know what skills you’ll end up using later on!”

Artistic Collaborations Online

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 and Arch Williams ’18, both members of Grinnell Singers, are helping launch a new project called the Grinnell Virtual Choir. In the project's most recent video, 25 singers used the technology to perform a movement from Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil.

In a virtual choir, each participant records one or more individual singing parts of a particular song, and the videos are then synchronized and combined into a group performance.

In the current video, Middeldorp and Williams are among the singers testing virtual choir technology and demonstrating how it works. It’s the first step in introducing both a testing tool for better choir singing and a new opportunity for musical interaction among alumni and current students.

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Middledorp says she found her initial singing experience to be “simple and straightforward” from a technological standpoint. “I only had to practice once or twice to figure out some of the logistics,” Middeldorp says. “I was in a practice room, and I just recorded it on whatever video recorder is built in on the computer and watched John [Rommereim] conduct on the same device.”

Williams did the same “after finding a quiet spot in my house where I could sing,” he says. “I did a couple of takes before submitting my video. I adjusted based on the recordings of my own voice and as I got a better handle on the music.”

Taking Ownership

One of the goals of the virtual choir project is to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Using videos to record individual parts may provide a better way to test and evaluate the contribution of singers and improve their accountability in the chorus.

“Often in choir you think you know your lines but you’re just relying on the person next to you,” Middeldorp says. “When it’s just you singing alone you really take ownership over the music. One of the great benefits of this is that you know if you’re truly solid on your part independently.”

The Grinnell Singers have already begun putting virtual choir technology to the test as a rehearsal tool. They are using it to practice Duruflé’s Requiem for a combined concert with the Grinnell Oratorio Society later this spring.

“I think that using virtual choir capabilities will be an exciting experience and will help us learn the music in a new, cool, and different way then we normally do in class,” Williams says.

Learning the Technology

Austin Morris ’15, a mathematics major and Grinnell Singers alumnus, is the talent behind the scenes. He says learning to synchronize audio and video files from various devices has been challenging but worthwhile. Innovation Fund support for the project helped secure dedicated equipment for his work.

“Once we get the videos from all the people that we contact, it’s my job to put them all together in the final project,” Morris says. “My goal is to make it look as good and complete as possible.”

Fun and Inspiring

“The main goal of the Grinnell Virtual Choir is to create an online platform that facilitates choral performances that are connected virtually,” says John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music. “It’s a way to engage alumni in an artistic way so they can collaborate with current students and with each other.”

Current singers and alumni are invited to contribute additional vocal parts on All-Night Vigil and other works via the website. In addition to instructions for accessing the score and conducting video, the site offers musical and technical tips for getting a workable recording.

Essentially, singers can make it as simple as putting on earbuds and singing into their phones or laptops.

“We want it to be fun and a little inspiring,” Rommereim says. “We’re hoping it will blossom into a significant artistic endeavor.” 

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 is an anthropology major from Northfield, Minn. Arch Williams ’18 is a chemistry and political science double major from Minneapolis.

These Heavy Sands

John RommereimThese Heavy Sands, a concert of new and recent music by John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music, will be presented at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 17, in Herrick Chapel.

The concert, which is free and open to the public, includes four world premieres:

  • Together with the Voca String Quartet, soprano Rosie O’Brien ’16 will perform the premier of the featured work on the program: “These Heavy Sands Are Language,” with text by James Joyce.
  • The premiere of two songs will be sung by Rommereim with pianist Marlys Grimm: “The Gift” (text by Louise Erdrich) and “Elegy for a Walnut Tree” (text by W. S. Merwin).
  • Grimm, the College organist, will premiere “Veritas and Humanitas,” a piece written for the College’s annual commencement and reunion celebrations. 

Jazz saxophonist Mark Laver, assistant professor of music, will join with Rommereim to present improvisatory music for saxophone and piano. In addition, Laver will accompany the ensemble in a performance of Rommereim’s “Amara [grace].”

Flutist Claudia Anderson will perform “Weather Conversations,” a work for flute and electronics co-composed with Rommereim.

The Voca String Quartet will also perform “Illimitable Distance” from Rommereim’s 2004 string quartet, and selections will be offered from Rommereim’s chamber opera, “Rheingold,” a reimagining of Wagner’s opera commissioned by the Taiwan Ministry of Culture and performed with Craig Quintero’s Riverbed Theatre in Taipei in 2014. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

About John Rommereim

Rommereim conducts the Grinnell Singers and the Grinnell Oratorio Society and he teaches composition. He has conducted the Grinnell Singers on concert tours across the country and in Estonia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey.

Rommereim’s choral works have been performed by distinguished ensembles across the United States, including Magnum Chorum, the Princeton Singers, VocalEssence, Voces Novae, Roomful of Teeth, and The Rose Ensemble, for which he served as 2008-09 composer-in-residence.

The New York Times praised the “richly expressive” character of his work for voice and piano, “Into the Still Hollow (2006).” In addition to his numerous choral works, Rommereim has composed a chamber opera, songs, electronic music, and works for piano, organ, guitar, flute, saxophone quartet, brass quintet, and string quartet.

Swing into Spring Contra Dance

Grinnell College's Contra Dance club is holding its Second Annual Contra Dance at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22. The free, public event will take place in Main Quad Dining Hall.

The dance will feature live music by Can I Get an Amen, one of Chicago's foremost folk bands. Nikki Herbst, a renowned contra dancer from Iowa, will be calling the social dances.

Contra dance is an American folk tradition, similar to square dancing. Fun for both skilled and beginner dancers, this live dance is a unique opportunity to experience one of America's folk traditions firsthand.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

This event is supported by the Grinnell Department of Music with funds from the Terri Thaler ’82 Memorial Endowment.

Dave Stamey & Grinnell Symphony Orchestra

The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra will perform with celebrated Western musician Dave Stamey in concert at Grinnell College on Saturday, April 16.

A singer, songwriter and guitarist, Stamey also has been a cowboy, a mule packer, a dude wrangler, and is now one of the most popular Western entertainers working today. His "Vaquero Song" is widely considered one of the best Western songs of all time.

The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Herrick Chapel. No tickets are required for this event, which is free and open to the public.

Stamey also will conduct a songwriting workshop from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. Friday, April 15, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 103. The workshop, which is free and open to all, offers a great chance to talk with Stamey and learn about the art and business of songwriting.

In 2010, 2011, and 2013, Stamey was named True West Magazine's "Best Living Western Solo Musician." The Western Music Association has voted Stamey Entertainer of the Year seven times, Male Performer of the Year six times, and Songwriter of the Year five times. He also received the Will Rogers Award from the Academy of Western Artists.

Stamey says he has long dreamed about it, but this will be his first time performing with a symphony orchestra, said Grinnell Professor of Music Eric McIntyre who directs the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra. Stamey will sing 10 of his songs that McIntyre has arranged for orchestra.

"The orchestra has a long history of performing with soloists and ensembles that are not from the standard classical tradition," McIntyre said. "These include collaborations with Grinnell College's Young, Gifted and Black gospel choir, Jazz Ensemble, a hip-hop DJ narrator, and even a traditional German Oompah band.

"This performance will be the first time the orchestra has worked with a singer/songwriter," McIntyre added. "It is a wonderful opportunity to expand our range of styles and savor the experience of working with a popular artist."

McIntyre noted that Stamey has a big following and that the College has received inquires from people who plan to travel to Iowa to hear Stamey perform with an orchestra.

"It's going to be an amazing show," he said. "We recommend that people come early to get good seats."

The Grinnell Symphony Orchestra is comprised of student musicians representing all disciplines within the College who are unified by a love of music and a dedication to the art of orchestral performance.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

Grinnell Singers Spring Concert Tour

The Grinnell Singers, the College's premier choir, will perform in six cities during a concert tour of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico during the week leading up to Easter. The concerts, which will take place from March 19-25, are open to the public.

Directed by Lecturer in Music Ben Luedcke, the choir will sing motets by Francis Poulenc, Eric Whitacre and Knut Nystedt written specifically for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

A string quartet of Grinnell College students will join the Grinnell Singers to perform a sacred work for strings and choir by Joseph Haydn. The choir also will present sacred works by Orlando Gibbons, Maurice Duruflé and Hubert Parry.

The 38-voice Grinnell Singers will round out the program with some part-songs and spirituals, including pieces celebrating Spanish dance and butterflies.

The Grinnell Singers have toured Finland, Estonia, Russia, and Turkey. The choir has produced two recordings, including a CD of Rachmaninoff's "All-Night Vigil," which was praised for its "consummate artistry" by Iowa Public Radio.

Free-will donations will be accepted at all of the concerts, which start at 7:30 p.m.:

  • Saturday, March 19, at Asbury United Methodist Church, 5400 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, Kansas.
  • Sunday, March 20, at Cathedral of the Plains — Basilica of St. Fidelis, 900 Cathedral Ave., Victoria, Kansas.
  • Monday, March 21, at First Congregational Church of Boulder, 1128 Pine St., Boulder, Colorado.
  • Tuesday, March 22, at Green Mountain United Methodist Church, 12755 W. Cedar Drive, Lakewood, Colorado.
  • Wednesday, March 23, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel, 50 Mount Carmel Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
  • Friday, March 25, at First Christian Church, 16 E. Platte Ave., Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Celebrate Humanities Day

Grinnell College will mark Celebrate Humanities Day, a daylong series of free, public events to honor the study of the humanities, on Monday, March 14.

U.S. Rep. Jim Leach will present the keynote, "Where Politics and Morality Conjoin and Disconnect," at 7:30 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Leach represented Iowa’s second district in the House of Representatives for 30 years and later served as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Under his leadership, the NEH created a Bridging Cultures program designed to promote understanding and mutual respect for diverse groups within the United States and abroad. Leach is now chair in public affairs and visiting professor of law in the College of Law at the University of Iowa.

Students will perform at 4 p.m. in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Sebring-Lewis Hall.

Student performances include:

  • "Choreography as Research" by Rosie Fuqua ’17, Ivy Kuhn ’17,  and Taylor Watts.
  • "Indo-Jazz Fusion from Banaras to New York," by Vincent Kelley ’17 and his band.

Kelley, drums and tabla, will be joined by Omri Benami ’17, piano; Tom Earnest ’17, bass; and Jacob Ziontz ’17, viola; and Assistant Professor of Music Mark Laver, saxophone.

The daylong celebration will culminate in a Pub Quiz trivia night at 9 p.m. in Lyle's Pub, in the basement of the Rosenfield Center.

This will be Grinnell College’s first Celebrate Humanities Day, which is organized by the College’s Center for the Humanities.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. The Bucksbaum Center has accessible parking at the south entrance.  You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Six Appeal, World-class A Cappella

Six Appeal, an award-winning, six-member young men's vocal ensemble that performs with the energy of a rock band, but without instruments, will give a free, public concert on at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in Herrick Chapel.

The versatile vocal band from Minnesota is one of the most popular touring a cappella groups in the nation. In fact, Six Appeal achieved the title of National Champion at the 2012 National Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival in San Rafael, California.

6 Appeal members hamming it upThe six members of the ensemble — Jordan Roll, Michael Brookens, Trey Jones, Nathan Hickey, Reuben Hushagen, and Andrew Berkowitz — met at Concordia College in Minnesota. Performing together since 2006, the group became a professional ensemble in 2010. The band has released two records, including covers, original songs, and holiday music.

The Grinnell concert will span decades of music, featuring classic oldies, current chart toppers, and catchy original tunes.

Although the March 8 concert is free and open to the public, tickets are required for admission. They will be available starting March 2 in the box office in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accessible parking is available in front of the chapel. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

Carnival and Creativity

February 11-12, 2016 at Grinnell College

Queen ReesieOn August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. Roughly five years later, on January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake rocked the small island nation of Haiti.

These cataclysmic events, this shared experience of trauma, added a further layer of connection between these two regions, already linked by their shared African and French heritage, the legacy of colonialism, and the experience of slavery that made Louisiana and Haiti home to vibrant, thriving Afro-diasporic communities.

February 2016 represents the 10th and 5th anniversaries (respectively) of the first Pre-Lenten celebrations – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Haiti – to follow these social and environmental catastrophes.

Bennie Pete and Hot 8 Brass BandIn New Orleans and Port-Au-Prince alike, Carnival did what Carnival always does: it gave the community a chance to come together in solidarity in the face of struggle; it provided an opportunity to heal from trauma; and it offered a moment for people who are often ignored – especially within the upper echelons of global social and economic power – to give voice and movement to their struggles and their triumphs through song and dance and celebration.

These Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations showed us the remarkable power that music, dance, and art have to heal and to empower individuals and communities.

On February 11-12, 2016, we will pay tribute to those individuals and communities with a series of events that mark the 10th and 5th anniversaries of the 2006 and 2011 Carnival celebrations:

Thursday, Feb. 11

4:30-6:30 p.m., Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Lawson Hall, Room 102
New Orleans Brass Band Workshop with Bennie Pete, tuba and co-founder, Hot 8 Brass Band
7:30-9 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Lawson Hall, Room 152
"If You Don't Like What the Big Queen Says, Just...": An Evening With Queen Reesie (Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame and Big Queen of the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indians)

Friday, Feb. 12

4:15-6 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Lawson Hall, Room 152
Carnival and Creativity Roundtable Discussion
Discussants:
  • Gage Averill, University of British Columbia
  • Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame
  • Tess Kulstad, Grinnell College
  • Bennie Pete, Hot 8 Brass Band
  • Moderated by Mark Laver, Grinnell College
8-9:30 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Sebring-Lewis Hall
The Grinnell Jazz Ensemble Plays the Music of New Orleans, featuring Bennie Pete and Cherice Harrison-Nelson. Directed by Mark Laver.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Music, the Center for Humanities, the Center for International Studies, and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.