Reflect, breathe, journal, discuss, record
What is the furthest sound you can hear?
What sounds are close by?
What is the quietest sound you can hear?
Which sounds are noisy? Which are “musical”?
What is your favourite sound? Which location sounds best? Share it with others.
Is there form in what you are hearing?
What do you hear? What do you like? What might you change?
What was the earliest sound you remember hearing?
What sounds from your life are now lost?
I just had an amazing and creative week with 5 to 16 year old string players at Cadenza Summer Music Week in Winkler, Manitoba. Improvisation games, compositions with the trees and wind, compositions of Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros and R. Murray Schafer. Thank you Rochelle, organizers, teachers and students!
On November 5th I’ll be leading an interactive soundwalk in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It is a workshop within the Ontario Music Educators’ Association conference.
A few weeks ago I led a two day workshop in Guadalajara and last January I taught for a week in Rio De Janeiro. Both of these opportunities have come my way because Schafer’s work is so well known in these cities and he is not wanting to travel at this point. In both cases, amongst many other things, we performed soundwalks in the downtown areas in which we were meeting. The teachers, professors, and musicians created fun and serious pieces based on what we heard, making comment on/interacting with the soundscape around them. I have shied away from doing this in Canada but feel very encouraged by these experiences.
I have some ideas as to how we might interact with the sound of the falls and looking forward to hearing what the participants think might work.
At the end of a week of soundscape listening and interaction games we decided to go for a soundwalk.
And just listen.
I’m not sure why I did not suggest starting the week this way. I think I just didn’t feel confident enough. Some of the 60 participants had driven upwards of 20 hours to work with Murray and I. To ask them all to start by walking silently together seemed too risky. Would they would know why?
They can read Murray’s books on their own but here wanted to feel through the work together. (Carmen Mendez of Costa Rica put it this way after a workshop I led in Rio De Janeiro).
We walked through the busy school, past many students and teachers, past other festival workshops and performances, down a small cobblestone street, past a large construction site, and across a large busy Mexico City street. It was here that I began to let go of wondering what the participants thought of this and started experience it along with them.
60 musicians, teachers, and administrators walking silently together, making a statement.
Shh…we are listening.
We most definitely had an effect on our environment. Crowds almost ceremonially cleared the way for us and watched with theatrically inquisitive faces.
The whole construction site seemed to halt as we passed by. Hammers paused in mid air, cranes silently swung on stopped cables, men holding charts looked up in wonder.
Our walking seemed powerful. The scope of Murray’s influential thinking was revealing itself to me more and more. In a way he composed the soundwalk. Horns halted as we passed, squinting drivers become patient in their curiosity as we crossed the large street.
We continued away from the street into a quieter residential square in the Coyoacan neighbourhood of the city. In front of a modest old church we formed a circle and continued listening for a time. Through an earlier decision we started into a version of Pauline Oliveros’ Teach Yourself to Fly, each closing our eyes to concentrate on our breath. At various moments we each began to sound while breathing out, shifting, imitating, contrasting each others sounds as well as those from the soundscape around us.
As this piece came to end I asked Murray to stand from his park bench and lead us in his Wolf Chant. 60 of us howling, stomping, and chanting in unison.
Ontario Wolves brought south to Coyoacan (place with coyotes).
As Murray’s enormous energy waned, I nodded to end the week long course. We applauded the powerful group experience, feeling fulfilled, thanking each other and wishing well.
I feel fully changed.
Transformed our environment by just listening.