Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Sound Map: Listening as a Reading Tool for [Re]Recognition and Interaction with School Space

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Sound Map: Listening as a Reading Tool for [Re]Recognition and Interaction with School Space

Article excerpt

Introduction by Douglas Friesen

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Monique Desiderio and her brilliant article. In January of 2016, in the middle of our winter, I was given the opportunity to travel to and teach in Rio de Janeiro's summer at the Conservatório Brasilerio de Música Centro Universitário. For a week, we engaged with the work of R. Murray Schafer through listening, improvisation and composition games and exercises exploring and interacting with the sounds of that city. Schafer's music education writing is quite influential in schools and universities of Brazil, in large part thanks to the translation and championing of the amazing Marisa Trench de Oliveira Fonterrada.

During this course I had the joy of meeting many amazing music educators from which I learned a great deal about creativity, community, rhythm, and sound. It was here that I had the idea of collecting examples of how Brazilian educators have adapted and updated the work of Schafer for their classrooms. I thought this might be a way of refreshing sound and soundscape education in Canadian music classrooms. Among this group of teachers was Monique Desiderio, who told us of a sound map project she lead her students through. I asked her to write about it so that Canadian music teachers might also be as inspired as this group was. Here is the article she wrote. I trust you will enjoy it.

Douglas Friesen

"Open up! Open up to the sounds of the world, open yourself to listening, to existing sounds, missing sounds, imagined sounds, dreamt sounds brought to fruition. Open up to the original sounds, from the creation of the world, the beginning of all the ages... To the ritual sounds, the mythical sounds, mystical sounds, magical sounds. Enchanted... for the sounds of today and tomorrow. To the sounds of the earth, of the air and of water...The cosmic, microscopic and macroscopic sounds... But open up also to the sounds of here and now, to the everyday sounds of the city, fields, machines, animals, the body, the voice...Open up, listen to the sounds of life..."

(Fonterrada & Schafer, 1991)

What do we hear when we walk through the school? Which sounds surround us as we play? The Souncscape of the place in which we are inserted is an important source of information and brings a strong sense of belonging to the space. Are we able to recognize a place only by listening? What are the registers of sound we keep of the places we pass through?

"The ears don't have eye lashes" the poet Décio Pignatari once said. The ears never close. When we observe attentively, a rich universe of sounds exists around us. Even with our eyes tightly closed, we can identify the landscape which surrounds us by the combination of sounds and noises captured by our ears. We store these sounds and information in our memory, or what we imagine of them. This landscape changes when we change place and when objects and people around us are displaced also.

According to Schafer (1992, p.60) man fears silence, this is why he likes to make sounds and surround himself with them . Sound illuminates the darkness; it makes us remember how much life we have in and around us. Our physical constitution is also formed from the sounds which we produce, such as breathing, our heart beat and voice. The world around us, conscious or not, is a great concert combining natural, mechanical, everyday sounds.

Our school has grown. In 2015 we moved to a new space dedicated exclusively to child education. It is a much larger space than the space we had used for the previous 15 years. We have practically doubled the number of classrooms and the size of available external space.

What is a school made of? Children, smiles, play, lunch carts, games and collective activities, singing, music classes with instruments, conversations, adventures, crickets, birds, monkeys, sound of car horns passing in the street, rope hitting the ground, crying, joy, euphoria, new meetings and reunions. …

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