- 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
One one-hour workshop or one month residency
- Community associations
- 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).
- Handout (see downloadable pdf)
- Weather-appropriate clothes and shoes
Start with where you are:
- 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)
- Ask volunteers to share one of their observations.
- 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?)
- 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.
- 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
- 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
Remind participants that the goal is to make observations without speaking. Sharing will happen at the end of the sense walk.
- 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.
- Ask volunteers to share one of two observations of what they heard, saw and felt over the course of the sense walk.
- Go on multiple sense walks! Experiment with:
- different routes and destinations,
- indoor and outdoor spaces,
- times of day, and
- 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)gmail.com 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.Read More +