CNMN > Projects > Sound Waves: An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making

Shifra Cooper

  • Found objects or art supplies
  • Voice
  • Intergenerational

A flexible process that can take one workshop, or many.

  • Community associations

Sound Waves: An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making


Sound Waves shares an approach to lay­ered sound­scape-mak­ing that responds to research themes through mul­ti­ple art forms, in order to cre­ate inclu­sive and acces­si­ble sound­scapes, for groups of inter­gen­er­a­tional mixed-abil­i­ty singers, that can be lay­ered into musi­cal com­po­si­tions. These sound­scapes can be pre­cise, impro­vi­sa­tion­al and infused with par­tic­i­pant per­spec­tives and experiences.


This inter­dis­ci­pli­nary work­shop demon­strates an approach to com­mu­ni­ty-engaged music mak­ing that comes out of prac­tices and approached devel­oped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies The­atre + Arts.


The process was devel­oped by Shifra Coop­er, through com­po­si­tions by Binaeshee-Quae Nabigon Couch­ie,   informed by prac­tices devel­oped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies The­atre + Arts. It is part of the pro­duc­tion of What Was My Back­yard? a musial show co-pro­duced by Jum­blies, The Com­mu­ni­ty Arts Guild and The­atre Direct. includ­ing over 100 singers through The Gath­er Round Singers and UTSC Con­cert Choir, and key con­tri­bu­tions from asso­ciate artists Tijana Spa­sic, Natal­ie Fasheh and Patrick Murray.


We invite you to fol­low, enjoy and adapt these steps for sound­scape-cre­ation, to suit your own inter­ests and con­texts. If you are inter­est­ed in the themes or pro­duc­tion of What Was My Back­yard?,  please don’t hes­i­tate to be in touch for infor­ma­tion about licens­ing the music or show.


Sound Waves: An Approach to Lay­ered Sound Making


1. Build Rela­tion­ships and Do Research

This flex­i­ble sound-cre­ation process can be as brief as one work­shop, or take many ses­sions, enriched by deep­er explo­rations and grow­ing rela­tion­ships. Our col­lab­o­ra­tive work­shops grew out of many rich, long-term fac­tors, including:

  • Learn­ing from expert, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary com­mu­ni­ty-engaged artists at Jum­blies The­atre + Arts

  • Col­lab­o­ra­tions with Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous artists through the What Was My Back­yard? Project

  • And invest­ing in The Gath­er Round Singers Choir as an inclu­sive, wel­com­ing, all ages choral space for singers of all expe­ri­ence levels.

2. Share Research
In our case, this was a pre­sen­ta­tion by Com­pos­er Binaeshee-Quae to the choir about the role and impor­tance of Water with­in the musi­cal piece

But this could be any source con­tent shared by an expert of any kind!


3. Choose an Image

Choose an image from what was shared. Our image was a wave, but you could choose any image that con­nects to your con­text. Exam­ples could include: leaves, music notes, foot­prints, fish etc). Cre­ate enough copies so that each singer can have one; card­board and pas­tels are rec­om­mend. (See project score or video for examples).

4. Gen­er­ate Text
Come up with sim­ple ques­tions that will invite com­mu­ni­ty respons­es to the research shared. Use these to gen­er­ate text and write them on your card­board images. our ques­tions were:

  • Think of an out­door space that you spend time in, either cur­rent­ly, or in your own memory/personal history.

  • What is some­thing you know or won­der about the Indige­nous and ancient his­to­ry of this place?

5. Play with Move­ment and Sound
Lead par­tic­i­pants through impro­vi­sa­tions to respond to key images and ideas. Our impro­vi­sa­tions start­ed with move­ment, led by Tijana Spa­sic, slow­ly adding com­mu­ni­ty-gen­er­at­ed move­ments and sounds to acti­vate our waves.

6. Select a Sound Vocabulary
Out of your impro­vi­sa­tions and explo­rations, decide on a sound vocab­u­lary of 2–4 dis­tinct prompts. Our sound prompts for mov­ing water were devel­oped by Com­pos­er Binaeshee-Quae out of com­mu­ni­ty explo­rations: Drip, Swish, Ahh. Take time to build sound­scapes using this vocab­u­lary and build famil­iar­i­ty with the impro­vi­sa­tion­al form.

7. Infuse the Sound Vocab­u­lary with Text

Invite com­mu­ni­ty singers to choose one word they have writ­ten down. For exam­ple, if some­one wrote: “I know this was once full of grass,” they might choose the word grass.

Prac­tice per­form­ing this word in a vari­ety of ways (ex: whis­per, sing, stretch) to build con­fi­dence and famil­iar­i­ty with it.


Then, map this word against the sound vocab­u­lary to build a new sound­scape, infused with par­tic­i­pant stories/perspectives. For exam­ple, in our sound­scape, this would mean per­form­ing the word grass in the style of a Drip, Swish, and Ahh.


See project video for an exam­ple of this in action!


8. Lay­er in Oth­er Music/Movement

Once your sound­scape is estab­lished, you can lay­er in oth­er forms, includ­ing the move­ment gen­er­at­ed in ear­li­er steps.


Your sound­scape may accom­pa­ny a move­ment piece, or anoth­er melody. In our case, the water sound­scape accom­pa­nied a solo melody as part of the What Was My Back­yard? per­for­mance. See our project video to expe­ri­ence these lay­ers com­ing together.



For more infor­ma­tion about The Gath­er Round Singers or What Was My Back­yard? visit


For more infor­ma­tion about Binaeshee-Quae’s music, vis­it

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