Small assignment: Improvised soundscapes
Improvise soundscapes in a group, using your voice and/or various instruments. Useful as a focusing exercise but also allows for further processing through self-reflection, analysis, sound editing or graphic notation.
Goal and output
Feeding the imagination and encouraging musical expression through low threshold participation.
Practising how to listen and how to receive musical impulses and engage in reactive creativity.
Understanding musical phenomena in a soundscape.
Understanding the relationship between a musical entity and one's own music-making.
Verbalising a musical experience and a creative process.
Practising analysis, graphic notation or sound editing.
A series of varied soundscapes. Reflecting on own experiences. Possibly a recording of the soundscapes and analysis, on the basis of which graphic notation may be devised or a sound collage edited.
• Select (yourself or with the students) the topics on the basis of which the soundscapes are to be generated. Any environment or circumstance that is inspiring may be used; tried and proven ones include: sea, city, forest, thunderstorm, church, jungle, haunted house and circus.
• Students may also be assigned to bring various objects or materials from home that can be used as instruments.
• You should advise the pupils in advance that it is important to listen and to react to sounds produced by others: no one needs to make sounds all the time, as it is also possible to stop to listen and then take up ideas from someone else through imitation, further development, accompaniment or contrasting. Listen to the whole and try to ensure that the soundscape does not become overfull or cacophonic.
• If you intend to work further with this assignment through analysis, sound editing or graphic notation, prepare the recording equipment in advance.
• Each student may select one or more instruments or sound-producing objects to use during the improvisation, but just using their own voice is enough.
• The students should place themselves in the space so that they can clearly hear the sounds produced by the others and the soundscape created as a whole (in a circle facing inward is usually good). You may ask the students to close their eyes, unless they need to have visual contact with their instrument.
• Give a topic for the soundscape that the students then begin to produce with their voices or instruments. Once this has gone on for long enough (the teacher should decide what is long enough), or when the soundscape comes to an end by consensus, give a new topic. Continue this for as long as it feels good.
• Have the students reflect on their experience after the improvisation session. What did it sound like? What did they notice was going on within the texture? How did it feel to produce sounds and respond to impulses from others? What was easy, and what was difficult?
• If you wish to work further with the assignment, the improvisation session may be recorded.
• The soundscapes can be analysed in more detail with a recording. Alternatively, the recording may be used for editing a sound collage or for creating graphic notation that can then be used to create a new version of the same soundscape.
Topics in the assignment
Detailed description of tools
Own voice and/or instrument(s) or objects that can be used as instruments.
If you wish to continue the assignment further through analysis, sound editing or graphic notation, you will also need recording equipment, editing equipment and documentation tools.
Assignment suitable for further study