A Place of Sounds

A Place of Sounds

My lesson aims to inform students about recording and documenting the world around them with audio. The idea is founded around documenting the Yup’ik culture – west coast Alaskans with cultural heritage and language that has eroded over many generations.

I aim to present a resource for teaching students about the history of field recording, the genesis of the World Soundscape Project and its offshoot organizations, alongside a foundational focus on using audio to preserve culture.

This lesson would be appropriate for middle schoolers or high schoolers – and the depth of the resulting recording project would fit the age of the students. I am assuming it would take at least a week to introduce the material and share relevant projects – but it could really be a long term study supplemented with materials relevant to the local area. Furthermore, recording and editing practice could be included to add many weeks of learning and hands-on creativity for a technology focused music classroom.

I feel the big question I want to ask are what sounds, stories, songs, etc. can we preserve through recording? The words spoken are often as important as the place they are spoken. There are sonic artifacts – or keystones – in our communities. These are the sounds of the sea, the wind, the voice of an elder, and so much more.

I have found several student made documentaries from the Lower Kuskokwim School District on YouTube, like this one on the Responsibility of Culture – I am hoping to include one or two as external or internal materials (pending permission!).

I have other videos resources that show the intrigue of recording things in nature, like this blog post on the Soundscape Explorations Blog documenting aRaven‘s sounds.

I want to pose essential questions that can be used as inspirations for projects. E.g. What are sounds around you that are apart of your culture you would want to preserve and share with others? What sounds define a place for you? What sounds are a person? How do different people tell the same story? How do different people say the alphabet?

The student project would involve going out and recording these sounds. I am also considering the possibilities for them making something like a sound walk (where you follow a map and listen to recorded or ambient sounds) or a documentary style project where they share audio clips on Soundcloud or YouTube of stories, people, nature, places, etc.

8 thoughts on “A Place of Sounds”

  1. Andy, I love how active and self-guided this lesson is, and I think the students will too. I imagine they’d go a lot of different ways with it and come back with a wide array of cool recordings. The sound map idea is also very dope. You seem to have a really solid start on this lesson -the question at the center of it is excellent- and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in the ibook.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I’m not sure exactly what the “World Soundscape Project” is. (I suppose I could Google it, by I’ll probably just wait and ask you in class.) What sorts of things will they be recording? Is it completely open-ended? Will they record the muted sound of the television (Yup’iks tend to not have tvs on loudly in my understanding)? Will they record interpersonal conversations they happen to overhear? What are the outside limits? Are there any limits?

    1. I’ve been striving for more limits to make the plan easier – I think I want to focus on the recording project to tell ‘your story’ – I hope that focuses it more.

  3. I read this to the raven recording. Quite a variety of calls. I think the soundscape is a great idea.

    It would be great for you to write this up so that it is replicable by others. Could include guided questions for students and work flow for recording and sharing. Might consider a few “easy” options for both aspects.

    If you were going to do interviews, you might look at https://storycorps.org
    Also as a presentation format you might consider https://www.thinglink.com/ You can embed sound files on an image (even a 360). I had thought of using this in class to capture our museum visits. But I think you guys are busy enough.

    1. I’ve been mind exploring the idea of a listening journal combined with a project focused on telling ‘your story’ through sound – it could be a long recording in one place, or a recording on a sound walk between several places. I checked out storycorps and liked the added simplicity of the recordings and editing being done in one location. I thought of adding the listening journal in case there’s no access to tech, along with included focus on writing about sound and experiences.

      I’ve also been thinking of some essential questions to get students thinking about listening and what sounds unique, interesting, or expected in their environment at home and outside, etc. Forming essential questions to drive interests in recording interviews/stories/oral history is a lot easier methinks.

  4. I liked watching how your lesson plan morphed over time, honing in on a way of exploring sound and oral tradition. I like that you ended up going in the direction of language and culture preservation, highlighting the need for documentation and sharing in an area where language has become endangered due to decades of being silenced.

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