Sound design for six years’ old

M L showing a film exctact to the class

An animation extract, the basis of the whole workshop

Anatolia College in Thessaloniki invited me this autumn to work with their 5 and 6 year olds as well as with the teenagers involved in video productions for their I.B. course. The starting point had been last year’s teacher training in media literacy and the effort done by the school’s theater pedagogue to use and introduce media in everyday classroom.

For the young ones, I proposed to run our workshop about understanding how a film is composed by both images and sounds and how children can create their own sound score. The aim of the workshop covers some particular characteristics of the film language (how image and sound work together in a narrative), technical aspects (how sound recording is done) as well as collaborative, expressive and organizational aspects (sound recording requires silence, respect, working in turns, appreciation/ evaluation of the “actor’s” voice), all necessary to paedagogy and art.

This workshop was based on a short module made some years ago by my colleague Menis Theodoridis about the variety of sounds and how expressive whispering can be for children. However, the need to involve a whole classroom and to develop a wider relation to understanding sound and image, gradually lead me to a more constructed process which would develop upon a story line, so young participants could engage with.

An animation excerpt seemed to be a good start, to show character and non verbal development of a story. It also gave me the chance to display that a film needs not only images but also sounds to become a whole enjoyable experience. The narrative quality of sounds, was an important goal too, so I tried to find ways to show it to very young people. Respecting their natural need for movement and imitation I addressed theater. Using your body can be liberating with all humans but especially with nursery children! In a short time they are ready, to reproduce their own versions of the sound effects of the film, as they have well kept them in their body memory.

TTs kids mikes are simple and superb

TTS kids’ mikes are simple and superb

Finally, the kids become foley artists and sound recordists with the excellent TTS kids’ mikes. And there we go, making the sounds one by one, keeping the timeline of the film as a structure. The sequence of events becomes the backbone of our recording enhancing once again the understanding of the story.

preschoolsound3Finally, as mumtimodality is not just a theory but a practice, we share the class with a comfortable drawing session, where kids select and draw their three favorite sounds from the whole extract. Our prepared sheets of paper with a frame design, become their very first storyboards! I shouldn’t forget to mention that this last idea about drawing sounds, was originally introduced by a young nursery teacher who was being trained with us in Karpos.

A fairy tale invention

I started reading again about the development of photography in its’ early years. Not so much for historical purposes but to decipher analogies with today’s popular access and extreme fashion of digital still images.

I felt that the assumption that images of those last years are the new popular hobby and habit that we need to research upon, was just a one sided reading of the story. Obviously its extreme use by both amateur adults and children (which is my topic) is not coincidental, but neither is it unique. There have been several similar cycles of intense or occasional commercial burst related to the still image in the past. This tool, this technique, this way of expression, has offered several times in history amusement, entertainment, artistic expression and communication. Obviously the process was different and the access too. But it seems that each time, history supports its analogies. For example , from the 1860’s through the early decades of the 20th century, tens of millions of stereographs were manufactured and sold.

Stereographs: where reality met fiction

Stereographs: where reality met fiction

The predecessor of 3D was an extremely popular item and experience. Both for kids and adults (M. Heifemann, (ed) Photography changes everything, Smithsonian Institution, 2012) Lets not forget that Europe and North America, where mostly this would be happening, had only 400 million people inhabitants together. Companies were mass producing stereographs and shrewdly marketing them as both educational aids and home entertainment. Reminds you something?

The question is what could we learn from these life cycles of the image? What was the understanding of reality and representation? What was the relationship of children during those times with the act of visioning through a frame? Lets have a look at one of the few known children photographers of the beginning of the 20th c.: Jean Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) . A young bourgeois, of course, who offers us though a very young at heart point of view. Here is what he himself wrote:

My cousin, by Lartigue

My cousin, by Lartigue

“as a spectator I enjoy myself. But suddenly this morning an idea began to dance around in my head, a fairy tale invention thanks to which I will never again be bored or sad: I open my eyes, shut them, open them again, then open them wide and hey presto! I capture the image, everything: the colors! the right size! And what I keep is moving, smelling living life. This morning I took a lot of pictures with my eye-trap.”

This attitude sounds very familiar to me, reminding a few six year old kids I worked with at a park project 4 years ago. Our underlying theme were the 5 senses and we used small digital cameras (Karamella Nursery, Athens, 2011). It was still a period that kids wouldn’ t have access to smart phones but some would be allowed to hold their parents’ Cybershot or other small digital cameras. A day in a big park with their classmates and the encouragement to observe and take pictures of what they like most triggered the photographer inside them in a very passionate way. As if the tiny digital frame became a new way of seeing the park itself and the life inside it. A particular boy was very passionate about looking at things and clicking in a way that reminds both Lartigue and the way children treat sweats. I believe the question can be about the observation skills that children may develop and the connections they can make about the world around them through photography.

JH. Lartigue's photo of his room

In my room my collection of racing cars, 1905