Questions for Discussion – July 27th

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  • #366 Reply

    Can listening deeper to the world around us and each other make music lessons, performances, ensembles, and classrooms more inclusive, less dominant, less power imbalanced, more inductive, creative, personal, and connected to our daily lives?

    Can my position actually bring about productive disruption or am I always in danger of perpetuating the power and control that leads to systemic heteronormativity, sexism, and racism?

    Or feel free to post about whatever come up for you while listening to this week’s podcast.

    #378 Reply

    Good morning all! I have been following along with the podcasts and discussions, but have yet to post, so here is something a little more long-winded to help me get my foot in the wonderful conversations happening here.

    While listening to podcast #3, I was thinking a lot on Doug’s comments about sounds having diverse meanings and connotations to different people with varied experiences. I want to share my own experience in this regard. This summer, my work is focused on natural soundscape research and production, with the goal to produce a “soundscape script” for a picture book app set in the 1600s northern boreal forest amongst the Rocky Cree people. In composing and structuring these soundscapes, terms I have grown fond of and found useful are geophony, biophony, and anthropophony, as I am for the most part only considering a proto-contact setting. In an early draft of the soundscape script, I prescribed the biophonic sounds of birds and insects to indicate daytime and nighttime respectively. The other week, an associate from UBC opened my eyes to my unconscious act of “biophonic privileging” while assigning these audio associations, and I am now considering why I prioritized the sounds as I did, a consideration I feel is relevant to some of the comments in this weeks podcast. Perhaps my assumption of birds and insects as respective audio indicators of day and night was based on years of reading phrases such as “I awoke that morning to the sound of birdsong,” “The crickets chirped softly in the moonlight,” or even the common imagery of roosters perched on red barns acting as alarm clocks. Another possibility for my privileging is that I felt words like night/stillness/silence informed traits more relevant to insects (which seems absurd as I type this, given how loud and mobile insects can be, especially in these mosquito-infested prairie summers) and day/busyness/noise informed bird-like qualities.

    Taking this step back and trying to better understand why I hear and feel as I do has deepened my own listening immensely. To tie in ideas of inclusion, diversity, and the perpetuation of systemic racism in Canada, I am hoping to meet with Rocky Cree knowledge keepers in August so I can better understand their thoughts on what sounds they would believe as being indicators of day and night. The phrases I have read or definitions I have assigned which fuelled my biophonic privileging process are likely entirely informed by Western literature and colonial understandings of the ecological sphere. However, hearing the experiences and understandings of the people at the centre of a particular soundscape should provide one with a more empathetic ear to create an experience that is both educational and authentic.

    Anyways, sorry for the long and somewhat off-topic post! I’m eager to see what else others have to share!

    #388 Reply

    Ben — Sounds like a really interesting project! I’ve never thought about biophonic privileging before. I do often use the word “singing” when I think about birds, cicadas, crickets… I have to say that I think of singing as a deeply organic way of experiencing music–with one’s body as one’s instrument–so I wonder if this idea of organic music links to the idea of biophonic privileging.

    Re: Deep listening and transforming music education… I think it can move us towards those things, if done with intention and while creating opportunities for kids to build their own musical toolkits and capacity to create. I am learning that making a space more inclusive, less dominant, less power imbalanced, etc. often begins with relationship and community. Deep listening and how it broadens the definition of the word “music” creates opportunities for us to use sound to build relationship. Sharing our individual, personal experiences through sound helps us build relationship.

    Re: the position of a teacher… I think that teachers (and maybe everyone?) are always in danger of perpetuating the power and control that leads to systemic heteronormativity, sexism, and racism. I also think that we can still try to bring about productive disruption, while acknowledging that we are sure to have blind spots. I don’t think that it is an either/or question.

    #389 Reply

    EDIT: I realize I probably sound super pessimistic with that last comment! I think that the fact that a person can do both–live in and therefore risk perpetuating these systems while also actively trying to disrupt them–is actually a really beautiful challenge!

    #391 Reply

    I’m imagining myself leading a rehearsal with Gr. 3s playing Orff mallet instruments. We have chosen a piece together and, after I’ve written out the melody, harmony, and bass lines, have experimented with parts/musical ideas and eventually arranged the tune for an upcoming performance.
    It’s not coming together. We record ourselves, and stop to listen.
    A few students hear problem areas and offer suggestions for us to improve. We try them.
    Did every student listen? No. Is every voice heard? No. Does every student care? No.
    If they were working on solo choice projects would they be more invested? Would we share them in performances? How can students decide how they feel about large ensemble performances if they don’t try one? If teachers listen deeply to student reflections can power be rebalanced?

    #395 Reply

    About deep listening and this week’s podcast, I had to look back on my university life when I was trying to make it as a flutist. Was I listening back then? I listened to many different symphonies and my repertoire pieces so I could be a better flutist. But I’m going to ask again, was I listening? It is a great feeling that these days I can listen to anything and find something interesting. It might not be as complexed or glorified as a symphony but it is interesting and always changing.

    Maybe this is why I didn’t make it as a flutist but once I tried to listen to 3 different flute excerpts from different recordings and realized that it really did sound the same and wondered why are we doing this?

    When I listen to podcasts or recordings from The SMP, we bring so many different sounds to the table and again, it’s all different! Our uploaded sounds are never the same. I think that itself can teach us something and maybe we can teach our students about it.

    #405 Reply

    Ben, thank you for sharing these reflections and your work. So interesting. You have given me some of my own critical reflection on some exercises I often to in relation to a lesson I got to write alongside folks at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto ( and OISE/U of T.
    I often ask folks -think the idea comes from a book of Murray’s- to think about soundscapes of their neighbourhoods 50 years ago or even 100 years ago. Sometimes we google pictures to try images of sound sources. This seems to lead to very interesting work but I am not sure I have ensured that folks know that are using our current individually and structurally patterned listening to imagine these sounds…and that because of this we cannot truly imagine them the way they would have been heard then.
    Edmee, thank you so much for saying this “Deep listening and how it broadens the definition of the word “music” creates opportunities for us to use sound to build relationship. Sharing our individual, personal experiences through sound helps us build relationship.” It seems like you have truly described what I have been trying to, not as successfully, for ten or fifteen years!

    Katherine, thank you for sharing these reflections and questions. To me, these questions dig right into the complex in-betweenness of teaching/educating creative and unique individuals within an institutional structure. How do we try to reach/engage each person while shifting between leading, facilitating, encouraging and caring?

    Jaekwan, thank you for describing the pretty stark contrast between how classical training programs can often direct us towards sameness whereas we each hear so differently. Classical training tends to follow a “learn the rules before you break them” approach. Musicians are asked to deeply delve into a tradition and if they can get to a certain height of ability/recognition they may be allowed to bring back their own individuality into the music. I do not want to suggest I don’t love music and musicians of the Western Canon (and am even thankful for some of the compositions and recordings that continue to effect my life) but I am not sure public music education, music classrooms for all, should follow this same pattern.
    “For the 5-year-old, art is life and life is art. For the 6-year-old, life is life and art is art. The first year in school is a watershed in the child’s history: a trauma.” R. Murray Schafer

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by soundmarker.
    #430 Reply
    Martin van de Ven

    One aspect of listening is that it changes our relation to each other. Listening is done in silence, a class room is often noisy with talk or instruments in the case of a music class. Listening would slow things down, taking a slower more meditate approach to learning about music. Listening has the side effect of understanding, if done carefully. I’m wondering if a music class could be more about understanding each other than understanding music as a construct. Is it possible to bring students into this aspect of being in the world since the music class is really the only place in education that specifically addresses listening?

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