Pram were delighted to be able to work at Chad Vale Primary School in Harborne as part of the For-wards project. We wanted to identify four different social groups, one for each of the four wards we would be working in, and we were keen that one of these should be children, in order to reflect the ideas of this effervescent section of the community. Chad Vale was the perfect fit.
Our first session took place with 15 children in ‘The Shed’, which is, er, a shed in the playground. We briefed the children on the project, played a couple of games to get them onside, then showed them the tech we would be using.
Next we split them into four groups, organised randomly, and gave them all a brief to record sounds in the school that were important to them and represented part of their daily life at school. We used the word ‘sample’ to make the connection between them making personal choices and Pram editing the recordings down to shorter events for use in the final production. We also talked in terms of creating a sound world to give an impression of the school. They were were very interested in this and extremely knowledgeable about the concept of sampling. They then had time to get their thoughts together and to decide what sounds they wanted to record.
After this they went off in their groups to make the recordings they had decided on. These were varied, interesting, funny, intelligent and ingenious. To conclude this session we played a few back to them to their general amusement.
Having listened back to the recordings, Pram then had to decide how to go about giving the children a chance to refine the material in such a way that would be both interesting to them and useful to us. In light of the children’s conceptual interest in sound and how it can be manipulated, we decided to replicate the technique used by Alvin Lucier I Am Sitting In A Room. In this he records himself talking into a microphone in a room. He then plays this recording back into the room through speakers and re-records it. He then repeats this process. The audio quality of the recordings progressively changes as the resonant harmonic frequencies of the room become more pronounced, until all that is left is the rhythmic texture of the original speech imprinted onto the discreet resonant frequencies.
We made a quick edit of the pick of the recordings the children had made and returned to Chad Vale to recreate this piece, to give the children a glimpse of the way sound can be creatively treated.
The process of re-recording the samples to highlight the acoustic properties of the room required that the amplified sounds were the only sounds recorded. Unfortunately when we returned there was a team of workmen just outside The Shed, angle-grinding a metal fence into oblivion. After hurried consultations with the school they found us a classroom to work in for 50 minutes while the resident class were having P.E.
We explained the plan to the children and played them the edited samples, asking them to guess what each sound was (there were nearly forty in all). Then they collectively devised a short text to introduce the sounds. They then read this text with each child saying one word, while we recorded it. We then played their text back followed by the sound samples and started the process of re-recording.
At this point we ran out of time. We had planned the session to last an hour and a half but due to the restrictions on space we had to try and make it fit into a shorter time and unfortunately we weren’t able to do this. This was frustrating for everyone involved but the process will be completed and Pram will send the final series of recordings to the school. The children will also be invited to the final performance where there contributions will form a part of the final piece.