For the final week of the project I visited the classroom once again. Chris and I wanted to build on the activities of Week 13 and create another Keezy soundboard of recorded sound effects, so we used a similar structure. Again, we began with a critical listening activity. In the previous week we listened to live sounds outdoors and listed them. Here, we listened to the composed sound design from an animated video (with the screen turned off!). Some really interesting observations from the group – we are realising that similar sounds can be made by very different actions. We get into some chat about how the sounds are made – the action/effort/energy that goes into creating a sound.
Following this, the students were set the task of composing a Keezy sound board on a theme of their choice – e.g. a soundscape – an aural scenario. I gave some suggestions for what a theme or soundscape could be. Like the sounds of the kitchen – what sounds happen there? What about the rainforest? That’s where this whole thing started right?! What about the sounds of space? Why do I always want them to go to space???
Well, after lots of individual deliberations at the desks, each student chose their theme. Nobody chose space 🙁
The group avoided the abstract and stuck mostly to everyday scenarios.
Again, I emphasised non-literal annotation for describing the sounds – instead of drawing a picture of a dog, try to draw what it ‘sounds’ like. Some success here with examples of repetitive lines for repetitive sounds, and scribble textures. But mostly we still stick to figurative drawings and word labels. Sometimes we use letters to notate with onomatopoeia (“ZZZZZZZZ”). Big thumbs up!
After sounds were decided and annotated in image/text we spent a good amount of time on recording session. Kevin is getting musical with his playback and Erin is being very adept with the Keezy interface – recording and rerecording takes with a nice attention to detail. We are thinking more and more about timing, volume and repetition. Kevin becomes recording engineer for Sarah and it now feels like sound is putty in the hands of these students.
I’m waiting in the foyer of the school for a blippy bloppy sound notification from Skype. Eventually it comes and and I raise the phone to frame my face. I say hi to the classroom on screen. Some say I look different than usual – maybe something about my hair? Maybe the lighting? I’m not in my studio today. Where am I? I start walking. I give an excuse about the connection – “I can’t hear you very well”. So I walk closer. And I start revealing some things in the edges of the video frame around my face. Artwork on the walls, bookshelves. Hold on a minute…
“HE’S AT OUR SCHOOL!!!!!!”
I finally arrive at door at the farthest end of the school and open it. Suddenly I hear them loud and clear.
It’s a very strange sensation seeing these faces without any pixelation. Hearing their voices without any distortion. The words I hear match the moving shapes of their lips in perfect sync. I’m suddenly shy. I now realise that for half a year I have had an invisible but vast distance between these myself and these students. I have been shielded by the framing of webcam lenses, the glitches of digital video and the very slight delay in sound which I relied upon to maintain a steady tempo. Now I’m flustered. But it’s ok – Chris is here!
We planned a structured session:
- Sound-walk around the school grounds – write down the sounds you hear. What makes the sound? What are the characteristics of the sound?
- Choose 8 sounds that you will record. Notate these in non-literal imagery on a page.
- Record your 8 sounds. You can the sounds with objects or with your voice in mimicry. Perform multiple takes to get the sound just right.
- Play your sounds for the rest of the group. We will guess what the sounds are and we will talk about the characteristics of the sounds.
I was a bit anxious when the students seemed so excited by experience of being outdoors that they seemed to pay little attention to the soundscape. With some questioning Chris and I provoked some nice reflection on the characteristics of sounds in the playground.
The choosing and notating of sounds proved more successful that I anticipated. The group I worked with produced a wide variety of sounds picked from the listening exercise and moved out of figurative drawings to end up with some nice abstract notations.
Quite a range of approaches the recording part of the exercise. Some rushed through – others made multiple takes. Some used voice while others explored what sounds they could make with their surroundings – shaking branches!
The show and tell (listen and tell?) was full of incorrect guesses and I loved it. I think the opportunity to listening, identify and correct our misperceptions was really useful. It was time for us to contemplate how the rest of the class approached the recording activity in relation to ourselves. It demonstrated the similarities and differences between certain sounds and vocal mimicry. It showed us that intention and reception can be two entirely different things.
(above: choosing sounds for the soundboard and notating them visually)
(above: sounds being recorded outside)
(above: playback in class)