A group of Brock University students have learned to engage with their sonic environments in new and unexpected ways, and are sharing their discoveries through creative sound art.
This past spring, 72 students in Brock’s “The Culture of Noise” course had the opportunity to gain hands-on sound experience in sound production, execute their own soundwalk recording and learn how to use digital editing software.
Their work is now being featured on the course’s web page for listeners to take in.
Offered annually as a Spring/Summer course through the Centre for Studies in Arts and Culture (STAC) at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), STAC 1P99 The Culture of Noise explores the role of noise in music, art and social spaces.
The course delves into the history of sound studies from the influences of the Dada art movement to the groundbreaking theories of late Canadian composer, writer and influential sound theorist R. Murray Schafer.
Taught by Ryan Bruce, MIWSFPA instructor, ethnomusicologist, jazz historian and saxophonist, the course had students conduct a soundwalk and create a finished recording that could be included in exhibitions to help build student portfolios for future opportunities.
Bruce wanted students to really start listening and opening their ears to sound, whether it was music or noise.
“Composers of the 20th century were very interested in this concept, starting from the early 1900s when noise was used as way to make music,” he said. “Early sound theorists turned music on its head and shed light on the value of listening and our ears.”
Students worked in teams of three, with one recording a 25-minute soundwalk using a sound recording device; one editing the recording on Audacity (sound-editing software) to produce a final three-minute soundscape; and one reflecting on the process and writing a description to accompany the work.
Bruce said that soundwalks “are a very interesting exercise, especially these days, as it forces us to be quiet while actively listening.”
As a result, students learned about how sound impacts environment and gained experience with production tools to express their creative findings.
David Vivian, Director of STAC and Associate Professor of Scenography in Dramatic Arts, reflected on the timing of this exercise in relation to the pandemic.
“The last many months of the pandemic have given us indelible experiences that are rich material for creative exploration in sound,” he said. “This past spring’s offering of STAC 1P99 was an excellent opportunity for students from across the University to explore the possibility of sound design to make sense of these troubled times.
“We look forward to even more provocative and revealing expressions in sound when we offer this online course in spring 2022,” Vivian said.
To listen to the final soundscapes created by STAC 1P99 students, visit the Culture of Noise web page.