Monday, June 7, 2010

how to write a soundscape

Soundscapes are an effective way of entering into read text such as bible reading, prayers and reflections.

Choosing a text

Choose a reading that suggests concrete sounds people will readily identify with. Epistles are not going to work, but many of the parables and action stories will remain in people's memories after an effective soundscape. 

Getting started 

Type the text out for yourself.
If I am working on a bible reading, I like to allocate a separate line to each verse. This can be time consuming, but it helps me focus on parts of the text I didn't notice in my reading. It also helps to ensure sounds are spread well throughout.  

List the sounds you 'hear'.
This is not about dialogue, but other background sounds such as wind, water, footsteps, chains, crowd, animals, building etc..)  

Identify one unifying sound.
This sound may not be present the whole time, but may begin and end the soundscape. This sound is your starting point.  

Choose several other sounds from your list.  

Find a way to represent each sound.
Please don't resort to musical instruments - very few sounds will be effectively represented in this way. For example, claves (rhythm sticks) sound nothing like footsteps, but wearing shoes on your hands and 'walking' in a sandbox does. Raid your cutlery drawer, the shed, the toy box and see what you can come up with. Once a group of children I was working with used a couple of teapot coasters which, when clapped together, sounded just like wet sails on the Sea of Gallilee! Be ruthless. If it doesn't sound like the real thing, it will be a distraction.

Get rid of half your sounds
At this stage you will probably find there are some unsuccessful sounds. Lose half of them so that you have about four in total. Less definately IS more. Remember soundscapes are about leading people into the reading, not distracting them from it.

The Players
Work out how many players you will need. The reader should not play anything but should rehearse with the players, so that mutually agreed timing is decided.

Work out how you will amplify the sounds  

Rehearse with amplification.  

Modify your plans as required.

    Questions to ask
    • Is the soundscape balanced?
    • Do any sounds overpowering the reading.?(Remember this is not about making "sound effects".)
    • Do any of the sounds detract from the reading? If so, they have to go! Be ruthless.
    • How will you introduce the soundscape in the worship context?
    • Where will he players be situated? My view is that soundscapes work best when the sounds are kept out-of-sight. This avoids the problem of people looking for the source of the sounds instead of engaging in the experience.

    You may also be interested in Sounds Outside the Square

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