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LISTENING to sound

For musicians, listening is one of the most valuable skills and like all skills, it is something to develop. The idea of discriminating between gradations of tone or listening to the various harmonics being brought out in a sound or of the minute variations of pitch all take focus and time to learn.

This week in my MUS654 class we have been talking about sound and I encouraged my students to make a soundscape so that we could have a little fun seeing if we could identify sounds and accurately describe various situations with only the sound clues.

Examples (this is a game!)

I made a couple of recordings and have chosen to share these two. I explained to my class that devoid of the context, we draw upon what we know – and so your understanding of these sounds may be very different to the contextual vocabulary that would be commonplace for me. Please share your impressions of the who, what, where, or why in these soundscapes by leaving a comment on this post. If you are not comfortable with leaving a comment, you can tweet or toot and tag it #MUS654 and I’ll find it. 🙂

  • Guess the setting and describe what is making the various sounds? Is there a story or progression being represented? Some of this first recording may be obvious, but other aspects will be trickier.

  • In this second recording there is a bit more of a mystery… Can you identify these sounds?

The people who make sounds for films are Foley artists, and they have a unique look into the sound world. They are able to listen to sounds and to understand them as sounds, analysing them separately from their sources or contexts. These artists can imagine the possibilities for the sounds to be used like colours.

When placed in a completely different context, sounds can give the illusion of being something else. (there has to be a silly side, and this is it. – I am in no way encouraging people to do this as a past time!)

So often sound washes over us and when creating sound, musicians need to listen differently. Young learners sometimes think it is just about the notes, achieving the basic pitches and rhythms, putting down the right fingers, but when they realise there is a whole world within the sound, that is when they begin another level of their journey.

Featured image CC BY-NC-ND by Lucas

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