CNMN > Projects > Sound & Song : Collaborative Songwriting With Seniors & Elders

Leah Abramson

  • Voix
  • Instruments acoustiques
  • Appareils numériques
  • Adultes
  • Ainés

10-12 2hr sessions

  • Éducation
  • Associations communautaires
  • Santé

Sound & Song : Collaborative Songwriting With Seniors & Elders


Since the start of the COVID-19 pan­de­mic, Sound & Song pro­gram par­ti­ci­pants have deve­lo­ped an online col­la­bo­ra­tive song­wri­ting prac­tice groun­ded in indi­vi­dual sound­walks. Par­ti­ci­pants use sound­wal­king to gather lyri­cal mate­rial for an ori­gi­nal song, and write the song toge­ther through week­ly online sessions.

Based at the Round­house Com­mu­ni­ty Arts & Recrea­tion Centre, Sound & Song is part of Arts & Health : Heal­thy Aging through the Arts, which brings toge­ther pro­fes­sio­nal artists with groups of seniors and Elders for col­la­bo­ra­tive art making pro­jects. Our work takes place on the unce­ded, ances­tral ter­ri­to­ries of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Mus­queam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squa­mish) and səlilwə­taɬ (Tsleil Wau­tuth) Nations.


1. Par­ti­ci­pants meet week­ly for 2 hour work­shops to learn sin­ging tech­nique through sin­ging popu­lar music, as well as dis­cuss and write about week­ly indi­vi­dual sound­walks. Hil­de­gard Westerkamp’s wri­ting on sound­wal­king is the star­ting point for these discussions.

2. A web-based hub is crea­ted where par­ti­ci­pants can upload images and short videos they’ve cap­tu­red with smart­phones on their sound­walks for others to see. (We use the free, online-based soft­ware, “Pad­let,” for this.)

3. These images and videos are wat­ched and dis­cus­sed toge­ther, and a com­mu­nal word docu­ment is star­ted, where the lead artist writes down par­ti­ci­pants’ expe­riences of sound­wal­king. If they have not had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go out­side, par­ti­ci­pants can also des­cribe the scene out­side their win­dow, or respond to the media that others have pos­ted. (See Brains­torm Draft in « Scores. »)

4. Par­ti­ci­pants conti­nue to take week­ly walks on their own, and a com­mon theme usual­ly emerges by the third week. After a theme is cho­sen, par­ti­ci­pants keep this theme in mind during their walks to build upon it in the col­la­bo­ra­tive wri­ting sessions.

5. Once theme has been esta­bli­shed, par­ti­ci­pants work toge­ther to build a four-line cho­rus on the theme, dis­cus­sing rhyme, rhythm, and content of the lines.

6. Once the cho­rus lyrics are com­plete, the lead artist asks the group what style and mood of music they think would com­pli­ment the lyrics, and will say or sing them back rhyth­mi­cal­ly to the group accom­pa­nied by an instrument.

7. The lead artist takes the cho­rus lyrics home and sets them to music. The cho­rus is sung for par­ti­ci­pants and edits to the lyrics or music are sug­ges­ted by the group.

8. The pro­cess of sound­wal­king, post­ing to the Pad­let, and wri­ting conti­nues until ano­ther song sec­tion has been deve­lo­ped. Dis­cus­sions and ins­truc­tion around song struc­ture occurs as par­ti­ci­pants decide what they want the song to sound like and accom­plish lyri­cal­ly. Par­ti­ci­pants prac­tice sin­ging the song sec­tions with the lead artist as they go.

9. The lead artist takes new sec­tions home to set to music, and the pro­cess conti­nues until par­ti­ci­pants feel the song is com­plete, and final lyric and music edits are done to satis­fac­tion. Vocal har­mo­nies may be deve­lo­ped and taught.

10. The lead artist does a home recor­ding of the whole song so par­ti­ci­pants may prac­tice on their own and sing it along with the group in their week­ly session.

11. Using head­phones to iso­late their voice, par­ti­ci­pants use a phone or com­pu­ter to record them­selves sin­ging along with the lead artist’s track. Using audio soft­ware such as Band­camp or Auda­ci­ty, par­ti­ci­pants voice recor­dings are then edi­ted toge­ther to form a choir.

12. (Optio­nal): Song tracks are given to a remix artist for added beats and sound pro­ces­sing. The group can then edit a video toge­ther online using their media from the Pad­let, or give this mate­rial to a video artist for edi­ting. This pro­cess can be hands-on for par­ti­ci­pants if desi­red, as they work on edits with the remix and video artists.

From a par­ti­ci­pant : « Sound & Song has given me a way to express myself in sin­ging, using my brain to col­la­bo­rate with other in wri­ting lyrics and given me a sense of com­mu­ni­ty even though we were in our own homes. The pan­de­mic is very stress­ful and Sound & Song gave us a way of wor­king through our anxie­ties. Our song and video tur­ned out fan­tas­tic and it gave us a sense of accom­plish­ment and happiness. »

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