March 22, 2012

Sound and Light Studio

During the darker afternoons of this school year, I have been holding a workshop with the preschoolers of the Burlington Children's Space, working with light and sound in a dimly lit room. We have been exploring threads of narrative generated by the children in response to the invitation to experiment with projectors, homemade instruments, paper, black markers, and basic recording equipment. They decided early on that we were 'making a movie'. From phonemes, amplified vibrations and light particles, we are indeed doing just that.

We use a drawing projector with moving strips of paper, a slide projector with transparent slides and black makers, various rubber band sound-boxes and recycled percussion implements, a cassette tape recorder, and a digital video recorder. Some afternoons we focus on sound, taking turns being the "conductor" of the rubber band orchestra. Sometimes we listen to quiet music and tape many feet of paper strips together, drawing stories to pull across the projector ( and hence, the wall).

One method sequence we are now concluding began with a session of "naming instruments", where we closed our eyes and listened to the homemade instruments, generating stream-of-consciousness images in an oversized notebook. The next week I'd put pieces of paper bearing the kids' mental images (in words) into a basket and gave them markers rather than instruments, to draw the words. Now we are uniting the associated instruments with the drawn paper-strip stories, filming the projected 'movies' with homemade instrument soundtracks.

The end product of this collaborative studio exploration deserves to be shared with our community. The children have made a beautiful 'movie' over months of continuous work. I am looking forward to sharing the children's work with the larger community, hopefully in the form of a gallery exhibit, as well as a showing of the "film".

This project has been instructive to me as a working artist, in that the 4 and 5 year-old minds are so supple in their ability to envision big ideas and immediately pull focus to the work at hand, keeping the creative process fluid. Artists, I heartily recommend finding children with whom to work. They will infuse your process with enormous energy and vision.

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