Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Starting with Soundscape

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Starting with Soundscape

Article excerpt

Composing can be a daunting experience for teachers and students as most genres of music bring with them a sense of right and wrong. I have found that a nearby, familiar soundscape can be a great place to start for participants of all ages. Here are some ways to use soundscape as a creatively engaging "way-in" to composing.

1 Separate students into groups and have them use their voices and bodies to imitate a nearby soundscape. The goal is to have the other groups be able to guess the location, so it is best to pick a familiar place. Additional ideas:

a. Can do the same with instruments.

b. A second step could be asking the groups to add a melody, chord(s), or rhythm that they think might compliment their soundscape. (This explores the space between traditional music and noise and how they affect one another).

c. Ask students to make musical versions of all the sounds in their soundscape. An example might be to change wind sounds to an alternating loud/soft flute trill. The compositions can become as traditional sounding as a group might like. Here tradition enters as "guest" as opposed to "host" (Allsup, 2011).

2 Have the class list all the sounds they can hear at a corner nearby the school. List these on the board and ask the students to compose a piece of music using these sounds. Use a chalkboard or white board to make a score that can include "melodies," section cross-fades, "counterpoint," layering, etc.

a. A "second-step" could be to add sound spectrum variations (loud-soft, long-short, fast-slow, low-high) as a way of "focusing" in on certain sounds.

b. Have different student-led groups compose with the same palette of sounds.

Always try to encourage reflection and revision. Ask students: What went well? What might you change? Why?

While being a safe way to introduce the concept and experience of composing, these exercises can have the added benefit of students and teachers creatively interacting with their environment and deepening their sense of place. …

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