August. A month of relaxing. A month of sitting by the river, walking on the beach, enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside. Except the countryside is SO CHUFFING NOISY. I’m on board with the birdsong, don’t mind the wind whistling across the fields, and can just about tolerate the exceptionally vocal sheep outside my bedroom window. My nemesis is the lone mosquito.
More nights than not, one of the little tosspots sneaks in. They aren’t even brave enough to try and bite: they just stay high up, circling the room and whining. The whining! Last night, woken up by an incessant drone and suddenly fearful of contracting the Zika virus, I tried to put a positive spin on the moment by considering it as a musical experience. Obviously John Cage got there first (check out Living Room Music if you aren’t already familiar with it), but I started thinking about how such a sound could be captured on a phone, then manipulated using apps.
I’ve come across a few schools recently who set a ‘make an instrument’ homework in KS2. Whilst I think this is a great activity, particularly if opportunities are taken to explore the relationship between music and physics, I wonder whether the children were encouraged to explore the musical potential of mobile devices available to them at home. If children think about devices as musical instruments at a young age, how does that affect music technology learning at secondary school?
Using music technology often blurs the division between composing and performing. Would some teachers and SLTs view music technology differently if its implementation could be more easily categorised? Alternatively, how would we teach using ‘traditional’ instruments and sound sources if we applied some of the boundary-blurring that is common when using technology? And why are we quick to comment on the resource being used by a child who excels in technology-based music, but less likely to attribute Grade Eight success to playing a particular violin?
My goodwill only lasted for a few minutes. Brainstorming over, the next focus was how to pursue silence. It didn’t take long. If anybody knows how to remove mosquito remains from the ceiling, please get in touch.