How I Like to Teach

Categories: sound art, teaching

My current teaching is centered around my role as Senior Lecturer in Digital Music and Sound Art at the University of Brighton. I lead a range of modules and each suggests differing styles of learning for students. While there are many areas of crossover (learning to listen, technology), there are also nuances specific to each, that suggest specific and diverse teaching strategies.

My over-all methodology is informed by the pedagogic writings of Roy Ascott – cyberneticist, artist and educator. Ascott’s interests reside in the profound relationships between research, art production and teaching. He asks a number of provoking questions which continue to inspire my work.

• How can learning environments in art schools be shaped as art-works themselves? Notions of relational aesthetics, behavioural art and participatory practices suggest themselves in this regard.

• How may art production and effectively disseminated research be shaped as didactic experiences for students and the public at large.

• How may research inform both creative production and pedagogy? Involving my students in my current research seems to be the way forward here – examples of this are discussed below.

Case Study 1: Z’EV Archive
We are lucky enough to have access to the Z’EV archive of Abstract Music – a collection of CD’s, vinyl, cassettes, posters, magazines and associated ephemera. This collection, created by one of the most original and innovative experimental percussionists, documents a lifetime of sonic voyaging that dates from 1968 to the present day. Much of the material is obscure and highly challenging in many regards. Selecting, sharing and discussing what is found has been found to be very productive in creating situations where theory can be tested, listening skills enhanced and contextual areas broadened and deepened. It is an archive like not other, and also serves to frame our contemporary output from a critical and progressive stance framed by notions of the monad, the underground and alterity.

Case Study 2: Sound and The Urban Environment
The ability to hear and listen accurately and analytically is a key skill – one that lends itself to a consideration of a lifetime of sonic experience. How may we capture these transient moments? What is the relationship of sound to memory? Whether the sounds of the street, a loved one’s voice or an unknown piece of music, such sonic encounters provide the attentive listener with an excess of useful information. Searching for silence, or enjoying noise are both exercises we explore throughout the three years of study. During one module, for example we develop a lexicon of terms for describing the urban soundscape – such terms and metaphors are found to be directly applicable in student’s creative and critical work.
I also involve students in my own creative practice. A recent sound installation and symposium instigated by the UoB and hosted by the Onca Gallery dealt with notions of sound, urbanism and conservation. Field-work was undertaken where an acoustic mapping of St Peter’s church was made with students. These recordings formed part of my sound design for a 6-channel piece called “Perpendicular”. I approach such opportunities as authentic collaborations, where students and myself work as equals in the co-production of contemporary sound art.

Case Study 3: Open Source / Maker Culture
As technology has become ubiquitous, so its miniaturisation and monetisation obscures the processes that both enable and limit creative practice. The opportunities and limitations of various auditory technologies can be productively unpacked by practical demonstrations and students’ experimentation in open-source software and hardware. Coding skills, electronic circuit design and the implementation of algorithmic and generative techniques all serve to critically approach the assumptions of particular digital norms of practice.
In short my teaching constantly revolves around:
Listening and Sound-Making
Technology: Limitations and Opportunities
Society and Sound: Cybernetics and Sensory Methodologies.