Last week, I attended a workshop that asked me to listen and watch my surroundings carefully, to heighten my senses and notice how sound shapes my world. On top of our soundscape class activity, this workshop was the second opportunity I had last week to break from my everyday perspective and take a minute to focus on what I was hearing. Given my current packed schedule, I would be lying if I said this wasn’t initially frustrating; I couldn’t help but think that I had much better, more pressing things to attend to than walking around listening to everyday sounds.

Predictably, I emerged from both of these exercises feeling differently than how I started them. After paying closer attention to what I was hearing, I was more at ease and in tune with myself and my surroundings, more likely to find something interesting to listen to. Below is a picture of one of my favorite soundscapes on campus:



Bluegrass and Appalachia call for deeper connection with place-based soundscapes. The many sounds, voice, and instruments involved in a Bluegrass song or band parallel the rich tapestry of sound that characterizes the Appalachian region – sometimes dissonant, sometimes harmonious, sometimes telling a story and quite often evoking a specific memory or feeling. Bluegrass demands that its audience listens more actively than everyday passive hearing, drawing the listener closer to the music, to nature, and to themselves.


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One thought on “Soundscapes”

  1. Thank you for the honest feedback. Hopefully as you enter into one of the busiest weeks of the semester this exercise can serve as a reminder to broaden or refocus your work when needed, to recognize what is often not included and then ask “why?” leading you to perhaps different conclusions and findings. This type of exercise (or break) was also used at Black Mountain College when the semester got unbearably tense– students would be ordered to learn something completely new, abandoning all of their pressing projects for a weekend (or a week?). For instance, if you were a poet, you would take a painting class or dance class or study botany for the set amount of time. Unfailingly, the students would return to their projects with a new rigor– which is one of my goals with this exercise.

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