Working with children:
Lately, some of my work has focused on young children and how they interact with the world. This has included soundscape workshops, investigating sound and creating immersive environments. My latest involvement has been creative play and theatre and this work with children has really highlighted how important sound and interactivity is in the experience of an environment; their unguarded reactions being very telling.
Tea Dance For Little People – ‘Spring Into Summer’ and my soundscapes:
Last week, I wrote about my involvement in Tea Dance For Little People’s production ‘Spring Into Summer’, for 0 – 8 year-olds. For this production I created three soundscapes to enhance three separate areas of the performance.
Firstly, I created a ‘time hole’ – a place where there is no present, future or past… the area was a small enclosed space covered in various dark as well as silvery fabrics with netting materials bringing depth to the visual experience. LED lights were draped inside the space and speakers were hidden. For this space, I created the noise of the door opening which was triggered upon opening the door. A themed welcome message then played to orient the children and a part of it warned not to “…touch the red button”. This was played over the main soundscape which was displayed as surround sound. With this soundscape I wanted to create a sense of wonder and peace. I took my influences from the peaceful timelessness of being underwater and of deep space (or my interpretation of it!). Stars, represented as twinkly noises randomly pricked the atmosphere from various directions while the whooshes of shooting stars and presence of colourful gas clouds also made up the soundscape. This section also featured some simple interactivity by using a giant red dome button to trigger audio: when pressed the time hole giggled and exclaimed “that tickles”.
The children loved this space and enjoyed pressing the button, their sense of wonder and adventure had been stoked and the sound was very important in introducing this new environment. Click play below to have a listen…
Secondly, I created the soundscape for Professor Waitaminute’s time laboratory. This included various clocks ticking in different time with alarms, chimes and cuckoos going off at random intervals. This space was experienced directly after the time hole, which they were passing through. The ticking and it’s more enclosed sense of space brought the children forward into a contrasting environment ready for further discovery. Here, the Professor sung songs with the children and conducted an experiment to help her return back to the past…” which is currently the future and will be the present when it arrives…”. The feel I was going for here was something similar to the doc’s house at the beginning of the film ’Back to the Future’… except a little more crazy and eccentric.
The final soundscape I created was for the time machine, which the children helped to fix. This soundscape included some traditional cartoon ‘sciency’ sounds such as bubbles, whirrs and fart noises (of course). Accompanying these noises were various digital computer noises that I created using various sources and processes. Before this was played the time machine exploded into action with a pop and a bang. Press play below to hear the main time machine soundscape:
The experience really stimulated the children’s curiosity and all had a great time. The use of sound in this way rounded off the experience nicely and I could see how much the children were intrigued by their environments.
The Future and soundscapes for children:
Over time I will be developing my use of interactivity within such environments. There are plans to create the sounds of faeries playing in a magical wood, with motion sensors triggering their voices and sounds to add to the realism. Also, I am currently developing a musical instrument using an Xbox Kinect sensor. This effectively acts like a Theremin, with movement of the arms influencing pitch, volume and echo. Such an instrument really makes the musician think about their immediate environment and the subtle movements needed to make interesting changes in sound. From this, it is hoped that children will learn about spatial awareness and be given the confidence to create music of their own; music isn’t scary or elite, it is a collection of sounds. I am also developing ideas of creating a sensory room for children with special needs as well as mainstream children. Such environments serve to teach children control over their environment as well as the stimulation of creative play.