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Posts tagged ‘sound’

Seeing the sound

I have been practising lots this summer, climbing the personal Everest that is the Kodaly Sonata for performances in October and November and I have been writing about it everyday. (no, not here, on a private, open/free to join, network where creatives share unfinished work)

Yesterday I wanted to share something I had realised in my practice. In the end of the Second Movement of the Kodaly Sonata, there are long harmonics, played by lightly touching the string with one finger of the left hand. The right hand is occupied by pulling the bow across the string, and the score calls for more notes to be played, pizzicato. To do this, you need to use some other fingers on the left hand. I figured out that to stabilise the harmonic while I used other fingers from the same hand to play pizz, it helped to slip my harmonic finger between the strings and rest it on the fingerboard. Good.

Well, I wanted to share this and to document it. All through my practice I have been playing with camera angles and showing the nitty-gritty up-close of fingers and bowing, and I wanted to show the finger placement in an effective way.

I ended up balancing the phone (camera) on top of my cello while I played. The cello rests on my chest (sternum) and I put a practice mute against my chest to act as a base for the phone, so it could lie on the top of the cello and have the camera bit hanging off the end, looking down the fingerboard. I recorded this once, at 7:30 am. It is genuine practice, and so not at all perfect, but what I saw was way too cool not to share.


How completely epic is that!?!?! I can’t quite get over it. 🙂

Listening to the world MUS654

It’s the beginning of this year’s #MUS654 and we’re looking at all things sound for this week. Under the #MUS654 tab (at the top of the page on this website) are all the sessions and this week’s topic: The Mechanics of Sound has to do with sound. Every year I come to this with fresh ears as I learn to listen again. What does my world sound like? What can I hear?

So often sounds wash over us. Listening is a strange thing compared to sight. With sight, we can close our eyes and ‘make it go away’, but not so with sound. Bathed in sound from dawn to dusk and in between, the world never stops. Sitting in my office now, lights off, sun coming through the window, through the quiet I can hear the tappity tap of my keys and I wonder what else can be heard. I know there are programmes that can identify what you type by listening to the sounds of the patterns of typing, and the loudness of the different key strokes. What does the world around me reveal?

There are so many things that I am unaware of.

I recorded myself typing the text above. See if you can hear the patterns of my typing. Can you hear when I made mistakes and went back to correct them?

On this week’s page there are several activities you can explore. I have chosen this as an ice breaker, because it’s fun, and everyone can participate- whether you consider yourself to be specifically musical or not. I have recorded a ‘soundscape’ of something that I encounter every day. Your job is to listen and guess what it is. Please leave your guesses in the comments below 🙂 and in a few days I will post the answer in the form of both words and a picture. Don’t spoil the answer by reading all the comments first!

As a musician, listening is crucial; it is distinguishing between the smallest nuance. It is a skill that we continue to develop, and we can choose to open our ears to the world around us and to hear it with new vibrancy. What can you notice? What is around you? What sounds do you like and can you pinpoint why? So many questions…

Have a go recording your own soundscape, and do look at the other resources and activities on the page. Whether you are in #MUS654 for the long haul (all 10 weeks!) or just happened by the page, welcome and let’s explore the world of sound together. I am always open to questions or comments, and would be delighted if you shared your comments and creations so others could join in, widening the conversation.

Featured Image CC BY-NC-ND by Images by John ‘K’

Applied imagination: Are the walls real?

Last week I had the privilege of teaching on the Applied Imagination module at the University of Warwick. Imagine, a two-hour session in a studio that was a copy of where performers stand in a play, with lighting rig all around, a catwalk above, black brick walls and everything that makes a stage – except the audience. What a setting. This was our stage.

The class consisted of 18 from across the different disciplines offered at the university, and our session began with a recap from them (for me) of their understanding of working within a discipline and branching out to cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and even trans-disciplinary. They used the analogy of boxes. (I thought of shoe boxes) One discipline stays within the box, cross jumps from one box to another, inter uses the boxes to make a linked fort-type structure, and trans- that’s when I piped up and joined the discussion with the analogy that you just tip all the boxes out and make a pile in the middle.

This class was like that – we were a mix and were all together. I didn’t even introduce myself beyond: Hi, I’m Laura. They had all read the chapter ‘Whole Students’ from my book, and so they did know something of me. I didn’t need to be put into any other boxes. I began with telling them that when thinking of all these boxes – oh there are so many boxes, in life, in education, in people’s expectations of us, the list could go on – when thinking of these boxes, the walls aren’t real. Are they?

(gosh that was heavy. Did I really say that?!?)

(I did)

Of course the walls are real, but very often they are built by people and sometimes even built by us. That was something to keep in mind, in the background as we went through various activities and discussions. The overall themes were:  Read more

Sounds around: #MUS654 Day 3

Today I turn to one of the tasks from #MUS654 Task 1.2 about the sounds around me. For this, I went somewhere or did something (can’t really say or it spoils the game) and recorded the audio. It wasn’t hard to do and did not take a long time. I simply held out my phone and started the voice memo recording. My recording is 30 seconds long and there are some subtle clues in it. My curiosity is how much you can gather about what I was doing, where I was, and anything else descriptive about the setting.
Any guesses are welcome – comment below… or tweet and tag it #MUS654 (I’ll post a photo taken at the soundscape in tomorrow’s post.)

We can think about the sounds around us in different ways. In an abstract way, the sounds around us are like metadata, leaving details and clues about us and our lives as we move through the world. For me, after doing this exercise my ears were more open to really listening for details, and it reminded me of swimming and being aware of the way water surrounds us from all angles. (Image CC BY-SA by Jade Alexandra Allen)11903213484_f473ba6ef5_zThat awareness is vastly different to our attention to everyday movement where we are surrounded by air. Unless there’s a breeze, perhaps we don’t even notice it or give it a thought. Actively becoming aware of what is around us can open up new worlds within sound, experience, and appreciation of what is around us.

Featured image CC BY-NC by Eknath Gomphotherium


#MUS654 Our first Hangout!

Announcing the first Google Hangout for #MUS654!

Happening today, 16 September at 6:00 pm BST. If you would like to join us, please contact me and I’ll send you the link to participate in the hangout. Feel free to watch and contribute via Twitter using the hashtag #MUS654

We’ll be talking about the first week – thinking about sound, setting up blogs, and how it is to be a musician and think and communicate about different musical processes and topics.
Join us!