Schafer, sound education in Rio de Janeiro


Thanks to the generous invitation of Adriana Rodrigues (an unbelievable force for anti-colonial music education in Brasil, Latin America and beyond) I just finished a week with a group of teachers in Brasil at the Conservatorio Brasileiro de Musica.  I was very lucky to have another great Brasilian music educator, Marisa Fonterrada, join me for two of these days, in part to celebrate the release of her new translation of Schafer’s Hearsing.  I also had the amazing teacher, activist and human being, Beth Dau, translate for and teach along with me.

I was asked there to lead classes on Schafer’s philosophies of sound education.   These teachers also charitably allowed me (a Canadian) to facilitate some of Augusto Boal’s (from Rio) work along with some very intense and grounded conversations about Paulo Freire.  I have been trying to critically reflect on Schafer’s ideas and their connections to Boal, Freire, and other anti-colonial pedagogies: although listening pedagogies (Schafer, Oliveros) might help bridge a gap between a privileged distance of sight and abstraction and the more embodied senses and ways of knowing we do not all hear similarly (Dylan Robinson) and the differences might be essential to address.  This has been an academic exercise.   These teachers’ ideas, contributions, and reflections from this week grounded these ideas, and many others, in ways that I am not sure I can never hope to do.  For this I am so very grateful.  I am struggling to know how to process their thinking and their willingness to share difficulties, joys, and resistance from their lives.

Thank you my friends!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Lima, Peru July/August 2018

Workshops at FLADEM 2018 LIMA.  Along with my good friends Matias Recharte and Neil Dallhoff I got to teach, walk around Miraflores and Barranco, record some waves, and interview two giants in music education:  Violeta Hemsy de Gainza (Argentina) and Marisa Trench de Oliveira Fonterrada (Brazil).

focussed listening

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!

excerpt from Canadian Music Educator Column

During workshops or schools visits I have, at times, been told that all music education is creative. I challenge whether asking students to help decide where to breath in a section of The Planets is keeping their creativity and sense of exploration alive. Fear might just stand in the way of music education becoming a truly creative experience for both students and teachers. Rehearsing and performing the rep can be great but take a moment, breathe, let go and try truly creating something. Some ideas:

Compose a vocal piece based on a mode of transportation. Use that word and the sound of that mode of travel only. Ensure there is a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

Create an ABA piece using only 1 note each.

Compose a piece of music that is exactly thirty seconds long that explores one of the following.
Higher and slower sounds
Longer and quieter sounds
Faster and lower sounds
Shorter and louder sounds

Compose a short piece based on the first and last sounds you heard yesterday.  Include some silent moments.

Compose a piece of music using an instrument you’ve never played.

Describe how a piece of music could start, how it might shift and develop and how it might end, then pick a group of instruments to improvise accordingly. Comment on their attempt and ask them to try it again.

Compose music for the start of the school day and perform it in the foyer as students are walking in.

Make a soundtrack to a favourite poem.

Attempt to create the longest crescendo that ends with an abrupt cut off followed by silence.

Silently but passionately pretend to play your instruments just to confuse a late student or teacher.

Use a scene from a Shakespeare play as your music. Improvise your characters part on your instrument. Play out the scene. How did it go? Try again.

Shout all together, play a quiet long note, stop, play a loud short note, 1/8 notes on a Bb major triad slowly getting louder then end with a long tone cluster. Reflect, decide what you want to do differently/better, then try again (even if it is completely different).

Create an introduction to a favourite piece that you have been rehearsing. Think about what might sound good before the actual start. Try an outro. Try adding a new section in the middle.

Search for a truly happy sound, a sad one, a surprising sound, an unsure sound, a lonely sound, end again with your happy sound.

Improvise the sounds of a nearby park, start and stop together. What did you like, what did you not like? What would you change? Try it again and hope for more to like.

Together as a class, compose a piece of music for a special occasion (Remembrance Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.).

Adjust any of the above to fit your class.