CNMN > Projects > Sound Waves : An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making

Shifra Cooper

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A flexible process that can take one workshop, or many.

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Sound Waves : An Approach to Layered Soundscape-Making


Sound Waves shares an approach to laye­red sound­scape-making that responds to research themes through mul­tiple art forms, in order to create inclu­sive and acces­sible sound­scapes, for groups of inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal mixed-abi­li­ty sin­gers, that can be laye­red into musi­cal com­po­si­tions. These sound­scapes can be pre­cise, impro­vi­sa­tio­nal and infu­sed with par­ti­ci­pant pers­pec­tives and experiences.


This inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry work­shop demons­trates an approach to com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged music making that comes out of prac­tices and approa­ched deve­lo­ped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies Theatre + Arts.


The pro­cess was deve­lo­ped by Shi­fra Cooper, through com­po­si­tions by Binae­shee-Quae Nabi­gon Cou­chie,   infor­med by prac­tices deve­lo­ped by Ruth Howard and Jum­blies Theatre + Arts. It is part of the pro­duc­tion of What Was My Backyard ? a musial show co-pro­du­ced by Jum­blies, The Com­mu­ni­ty Arts Guild and Theatre Direct. inclu­ding over 100 sin­gers through The Gather Round Sin­gers and UTSC Concert Choir, and key contri­bu­tions from asso­ciate artists Tija­na Spa­sic, Nata­lie Fasheh and Patrick Murray.


We invite you to fol­low, enjoy and adapt these steps for sound­scape-crea­tion, to suit your own inter­ests and contexts. If you are inter­es­ted in the themes or pro­duc­tion of What Was My Backyard ?,  please don’t hesi­tate to be in touch for infor­ma­tion about licen­sing the music or show.


Sound Waves : An Approach to Laye­red Sound Making


1. Build Rela­tion­ships and Do Research

This flexible sound-crea­tion pro­cess can be as brief as one work­shop, or take many ses­sions, enri­ched by dee­per explo­ra­tions and gro­wing rela­tion­ships. Our col­la­bo­ra­tive work­shops grew out of many rich, long-term fac­tors, including :

  • Lear­ning from expert, inter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mu­ni­ty-enga­ged artists at Jum­blies Theatre + Arts

  • Col­la­bo­ra­tions with Indi­ge­nous and non-Indi­ge­nous artists through the What Was My Backyard ? Project

  • And inves­ting in The Gather Round Sin­gers Choir as an inclu­sive, wel­co­ming, all ages cho­ral space for sin­gers of all expe­rience levels.

2. Share Research
In our case, this was a pre­sen­ta­tion by Com­po­ser Binae­shee-Quae to the choir about the role and impor­tance of Water within the musi­cal piece

But this could be any source content sha­red by an expert of any kind !


3. Choose an Image

Choose an image from what was sha­red. Our image was a wave, but you could choose any image that connects to your context. Examples could include : leaves, music notes, foot­prints, fish etc). Create enough copies so that each sin­ger can have one ; card­board and pas­tels are recom­mend. (See pro­ject score or video for examples).

4. Gene­rate Text
Come up with simple ques­tions that will invite com­mu­ni­ty res­ponses to the research sha­red. Use these to gene­rate text and write them on your card­board images. our ques­tions were :

  • Think of an out­door space that you spend time in, either cur­rent­ly, or in your own memory/personal history.

  • What is some­thing you know or won­der about the Indi­ge­nous and ancient his­to­ry of this place ?

5. Play with Move­ment and Sound
Lead par­ti­ci­pants through impro­vi­sa­tions to respond to key images and ideas. Our impro­vi­sa­tions star­ted with move­ment, led by Tija­na Spa­sic, slow­ly adding com­mu­ni­ty-gene­ra­ted move­ments and sounds to acti­vate our waves.

6. Select a Sound Vocabulary
Out of your impro­vi­sa­tions and explo­ra­tions, decide on a sound voca­bu­la­ry of 2–4 dis­tinct prompts. Our sound prompts for moving water were deve­lo­ped by Com­po­ser Binae­shee-Quae out of com­mu­ni­ty explo­ra­tions : Drip, Swish, Ahh. Take time to build sound­scapes using this voca­bu­la­ry and build fami­lia­ri­ty with the impro­vi­sa­tio­nal form.

7. Infuse the Sound Voca­bu­la­ry with Text

Invite com­mu­ni­ty sin­gers to choose one word they have writ­ten down. For example, if someone wrote : “I know this was once full of grass,” they might choose the word grass.

Prac­tice per­for­ming this word in a varie­ty of ways (ex : whis­per, sing, stretch) to build confi­dence and fami­lia­ri­ty with it.


Then, map this word against the sound voca­bu­la­ry to build a new sound­scape, infu­sed with par­ti­ci­pant stories/perspectives. For example, in our sound­scape, this would mean per­for­ming the word grass in the style of a Drip, Swish, and Ahh.


See pro­ject video for an example of this in action !


8. Layer in Other Music/Movement

Once your sound­scape is esta­bli­shed, you can layer in other forms, inclu­ding the move­ment gene­ra­ted in ear­lier steps.


Your sound­scape may accom­pa­ny a move­ment piece, or ano­ther melo­dy. In our case, the water sound­scape accom­pa­nied a solo melo­dy as part of the What Was My Backyard ? per­for­mance. See our pro­ject video to expe­rience these layers coming together.



For more infor­ma­tion about The Gather Round Sin­gers or What Was My Backyard ? visit


For more infor­ma­tion about Binaeshee-Quae’s music, visit

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