Sound Art Workshops by Dan Senn

Workshop Formats.

Introduction and Venue: The structure of workshops will vary along with the age and mix of the participants. Every situation can be made to work. What is important, however, is that a single room is used to stage most of the workshop. This is not only for logistical reasons, but also because the setup room is an art installation and often the final performance space. This may be a large class room, procscenium stage area, library room, gallery space, etc. Just about any secure space can be used.

Format and Duration: Workshops usually occur over a 2-5 day period and from 2-5 hours a day. In one instance, at museum in Tacoma, Washington, workshops were held on the weekend over a one month period, each with new participants. The structure of a workshop has never been the same and is best left as a collaboration with the organizers. Click here to view the rigorous but effective schedule from an Idaho grade school workshop.

Participants: Workshop members have been K-12 and college students, gallery friends and patron of all ages, and, of course, those who have participated in the International Space Band initiative. A mix of age categories has little effect on the quality of the workshops.

The Setup and Equipment: This will precede the workshop by 2-3 hours and require work assistance. It is advisable to enlist the help of workshop members for this as a way of introducing them to the instruments and installation setup. I will arrive self-contained, but it is useful to have available a stereo sound system to plug into, a white board, and some card stock paper to draw scores. The setup is itself an ad hoc workshop of sorts.

Final Performance: A final, public presentation has the effect of sharpening the focus of the workshop and is advisable, though not necessary. It does not alway fit every format situation. Final performances are often recorded or video taped and later released to participants and patrons.

Introductory Performance: At a recent workshop at a public art school in Idaho, the 3 day workshop began with a performance by the faculty under my direction. This was simple to arrange as many of staff had been part of a state sponsored clinic the previous summer before.

Space Band Performance: This may be an adjunct to the overall workshop, part of the final performance, or the main focus of the entire workshop. The title for these, "Space Band," is used for several reasons. First, the name is silly and fun. Second, the instruments used are my Lydes which are adapted well to performance on the move. Third, the pulsating and sine-like tones possibilites of these instrument are often considered other-worldly, as if from outer space. Herein lies real strength of these wonderful found instruments is that they have the effect of bringing out the unique acoustics of any enclosed or partially enclosed space, and this is the fourth explanatin for the Space Band title. One often has the impression that the sound environment is an active partner in every performance. They are loud, beautiful, mobile, and cause performers and observers to hear their environment in a new way. City streets are especially captivating and since the parade movement does not require a permit (the pedestrian walkway does just fine), it is simple to arrange. As a Space Band moves through a city scape, or the hallways of a school or museum, its shimmering tone clusters pulse and shift under the ever changing acoustical conditions as onlookers are transported to another existence.

Optional Preparations: In some instances, I have arrived at a venue to find that many Lydes, Too Lips and other instruments have already been constructed based on examples from my website. This only serves to intensify the quality of the workshop. Seeing as the metal resonators can be purchased inexpensively from thrift stores, garage sales, or gathered from the students themselves, this will prepare the students for a more meaningful workshop while leaving in place instruments for future use.