CNMN > Projects > Taking It Outside: Making Music Inspired By Nature

Louise Campbell

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  • Open (def: scores for unspecified instrumentation)
  • Found objects or art supplies
  • Early childhood
  • 5 to 12 years of age
  • 13 to 18 years of age
  • Adults
  • Seniors
  • Intergenerational

One one-hour workshop or one month residency

  • Education
  • Community associations
  • Health
  • Ecology
  • Mental health

Taking It Outside: Making Music Inspired By Nature


Whether your school or com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion is in an urban, rur­al or remote area, the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment is full of inspi­ra­tion for cre­ativ­i­ty and learn­ing. Louise Camp­bell leads par­tic­i­pants in explor­ing and con­nect­ing with their nat­ur­al sur­round­ings through sense walks on school grounds, pub­lic parks, and your own front stoop, bal­cony or back­yard, and activ­i­ties inspired by music.

Tak­ing it Out­side: Mak­ing Music Inspired by Nature 
Cul­tur­al medi­a­tion activ­i­ty for Sources, an album and instal­la­tion fea­tur­ing music inspired by the St. Lawrence Seaway

PART ONE: Sense walks 

Sense walks are a vari­a­tion of sound walks, or walks in which par­tic­i­pants bring their atten­tion to the sounds around you. For the pur­pos­es of this project, par­tic­i­pants are asked to tap into three sens­es: sound, sight and touch (See down­load­able pdf for a print-able worksheet).


  • Pen
  • Hand­out (see down­load­able pdf)
  • Weath­er-appro­pri­ate clothes and shoes

Start with where you are: 

  1. Ask par­tic­i­pants pay atten­tion to their sur­round­ings and to write down: 
    • one sound that they hear (e.g. a sneeze, a car honk­ing, a bird chirp­ing etc.)
    • one item they see (e.g. a pen, a friend, a car, a tree)
    • a sen­sa­tion they feel (e.g. a breeze on their skin, warm, cold etc.) (n.b. par­tic­i­pants often take this as an emo­tion, which is fine)
  2. Ask vol­un­teers to share one of their observations.
  3. Note the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences between vol­un­teers’ obser­va­tions. Rein­force observ­ing sound and sen­sa­tions — oth­er­wise, most obser­va­tions will be sight-based. Encour­age obser­va­tion with greater detail (e.g. I heard the car honk­ing too — how far away do you think it was? I missed the bird — can you describe its call to me? What colour was the car you saw? Can you describe the sound it made?)
  4. Explain the con­cept of a sense walk — a walk done with­out speak­ing in which each per­son makes obser­va­tions of what they hear, see and feel. Ask par­tic­i­pants to name places that look, sound and feel dif­fer­ent than where they are right now.
  5. Brain­storm pos­si­ble routes and des­ti­na­tions for a sense walk. For example: 
    • School: through school hall­ways, past gym, and out front doors; des­ti­na­tion: school yard;
    • Neigh­bour­hood: out front door, down street to alley, des­ti­na­tion: halfway down alley as far from city traf­fic as possible
    • Park: on or off paths, close and far from water, trees and traffic
  6. When the route and des­ti­na­tion has been decided: 
    • Give a hand­out and pen or pen­cil to each participant
    • For out­door sense walks, pre­pare weath­er-appro­pri­ate cloth­ing and footwear

Sense walk:

Remind par­tic­i­pants that the goal is to make obser­va­tions with­out speak­ing. Shar­ing will hap­pen at the end of the sense walk.

  1. Par­tic­i­pants write their obser­va­tions through­out the walk, stop­ping as nec­es­sary. Stop for a few min­utes along the route in 2–3 par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing places. These can be pre­de­ter­mined or spon­ta­neous, fol­low­ing any unex­pect­ed events that hap­pen en route. At the des­ti­na­tion, stop and con­tin­ue observ­ing for 4–5 minutes.
  2. Ask vol­un­teers to share one of two obser­va­tions of what they heard, saw and felt over the course of the sense walk.
  3. Go on mul­ti­ple sense walks! Exper­i­ment with: 
    • dif­fer­ent routes and destinations,
    • indoor and out­door spaces,
    • times of day, and
    • sea­son.


  • Assign a leader and a sweep. The leader leads rel­a­tive­ly slow­ly so par­tic­i­pants have a change to write, and so the group stays fair­ly close togeth­er. The sweep keeps an eye on the route and the rest of the group so that the par­tic­i­pants who have the most to write don’t get left behind. Both the leader and the sweep should know the route and destination.
  • Make sure all par­tic­i­pants know where you are going and about how long the activ­i­ty will take in advance. This helps par­tic­i­pants under­stand how long they are being asked to observe for and not chat with each other.
  • Con­sid­er how far the walk is. With the aid of the hand­out and a var­ied walk, I find par­tic­i­pants be atten­tive for up to 20 min­utes with­out speak­ing, depend­ing on age. If chat­ting starts (which usu­al­ly hap­pens around curios­i­ty about each other’s obser­va­tions), give a few min­utes to par­tic­i­pants to share with a friend, or with exchange as a group. Adapt the length of time to your group. I pre­fer start­ing with sev­er­al obser­va­tion peri­ods of short­er time frames, and giv­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty for par­tic­i­pants to share their obser­va­tions, so they under­stand quick­ly how var­ied obser­va­tions can be from per­son to per­son. As the activ­i­ty con­tin­ues, I usu­al­ly length­en obser­va­tion time frames for the places par­tic­i­pants have named as par­tic­u­lar­ly interesting.
  • When at a stop along the sense walk, name how long you are going to observe your sur­round­ings for (e.g. 3 min­utes). Use a visu­al aid to show where you are in the time peri­od to avoid the inevitable ques­tion ‘how much longer?’

PART TWO: Imag­in­ing place from music 

While lis­ten­ing to a piece of pre-com­posed music such as Louise’s work Song­bird for inspi­ra­tion, ask par­tic­i­pants to cre­ate an imag­i­nary place, describ­ing this place through obser­va­tions of what they see, hear and feel.

Obser­va­tions from the sense walks can be used as nec­es­sary. Some par­tic­i­pants mix and match obser­va­tions from mul­ti­ple sense walks to cre­ate a new imag­i­nary place; oth­ers alter or make vari­a­tions of obser­va­tions, still oth­ers launch into sto­ry­telling about an event or a place from their past, while oth­ers invent an entire­ly new world with fresh obser­va­tions. All of these ways are good. Once par­tic­i­pants are ready, ask vol­un­teers to describe their imag­i­nary place to each other.

This activ­i­ty is part of the cul­tur­al medi­a­tion activ­i­ties for Sources, Louise’s solo album and out­door instal­la­tion fea­tur­ing music inspired by the St. Lawrence Sea­way. Co-cre­ation process­es based on sense walks have led to impro­vised sound­scapes, radio dra­mas and pod­casts, as well as Sources.

“Close your eyes and imag­ine this scene. You walk along the bright orange and red sandy shores of the Mag­dalen Islands… pay atten­tion to the sounds, to the wind, observe and then gath­er some of those sounds and craft those into a sto­ry. That’s part of what’s been hap­pen­ing at the Grosse Ile School with Teach­ing Artist Louise Camp­bell…” Ali­son Brunette, CBC Break­away (2019)

For exam­ples of cre­ative process­es fol­lowed by var­i­ous dif­fer­ent groups, see media below for:

  • Novem­ber Storm, a radio dra­ma cre­at­ed by Gr. 7 stu­dents at Grosse-Île School, Mag­dalen Islands
  • Tak­ing It Out­side, a music video cre­at­ed by Que­bec Home­school­ers of imag­i­nary places inspired by sense walks and Louise’s Songbird
  • Images cap­tured dur­ing sense walks

Inter­est­ed schools and orga­ni­za­tions are invit­ed to con­tact Louise at mlouisecampbell(at) for details. Facil­i­ta­tion is avail­able in-per­son and vir­tu­al­ly via zoom. Lis­ten to the album HERE.

This project are sup­port­ed by Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts | Con­seil des arts du Cana­da, Ville de Mon­tréal, and the pro­gram Mon­tréal cul­turelle, verte et résiliente, Inno­va­tions en con­cert, Audiotopie, Brady­works / Instru­ments of Hap­pi­ness, Ville en vert, La TOHU.

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