Mediated Symphony


Kid doing symphony activity

Song of Winter

Getting students out of the classroom and into the natural world, community and world around them is an amazing way to teach new concepts experientially and helps reinforce the importance of integrated and relevant learning in our school system. Growing up, I was involved in numerous environmental programs run by The Adventure Earth Centre in Halifax, NS, which uses an educational philosophy of Earth Education as prescribed by The Institute for Earth Education based in Greenville, West Virginia.

A staple activity of Earth Education is the Earth Walk. Earth Walks are comprised of a series of hands on actives meant to "provide exciting and engaging ways to involve people of all ages in exploring the natural world" (Earth Education UK, 2012, para 1). For some time I have been interested in expanding upon one Earth Walk activity in particular in order to make it more accessible and creative.

The activity is called Song of Winter. It can be summarized using these simply steps:

Song of Winter Step by Step

  1. Take you're group out into a natural spot.
  2. Give participants a pad of musical staff paper.
  3. Ask participants to find a spot nearby, within eye sight of the group.
  4. Sit quietly for 5 minutes, listening to the sound-scape around them.
  5. Using the notepad, write or draw a musical representation of what participants hear.
  6. After 5 minutes, the leader calls the participants back to the group.
  7. Sitting in a circle, participants are given the opportunity to share their compositions with peers and reflect on their experience.
shot of app running on iPhone

A Mediated Experience

This is a great activity for encouraging people to open their ears and listen to the world around them. However I believe that there is a way for participants to take more ownership of their creations in order to expand on their learning while also using technology. What if students, regardless of musical experience, could record and remix their uniquely individual musical scores? Using a few common and inexpensive tools, they can!

We call it the "Mediated Symphony". While in their natural spot, students listen to the sounds around them. They are then asked to creatively interpret them into sounds that they can reproduce (ie. Whistling, humming, singing...) These sounds are record into an iPhone or iPad using an app called "Scorenote Cleaner". Score note cleaner is a $0.99 app on the iOS App store that converts the sound into musical notation and provides a digital representation of the sound as a midi file for download. This midi file can be easily imported into a midi application such as Garageband or others. Garageband has dozens of "software instruments" which can be used to play back the score. At this stage, students can adjust elements within their recording and/or combine multiple recording to create a song, composition or sound-scape that is uniquely their own.

The end result is something that has been experienced in a local environment, interpreted individually by a student, converted into a digital format and creatively manipulated into a finished composition. This mediated experience is both rooted in the real world while at the same time encourages the limitless creativity that the virtual world provides.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and make something! Download the detailed lesson plan here.

App Compatibility Price
SoundCleaner Notes iOS $0.99
Garageband OSX Free! **with new macs
Anvil Studio Windows Free
Aria Maestosa OSX, Windows & Linux Free