SoundHoppers is a sound exploration and deep-listening programme developed for children between 5 and 11 years old.
The sessions aim to encourage attentive deep listening by way of a series of gamified listening exercises that explore various aspects of sound – whether that’s proximity (i.e., how far or close a sound is), timbre (i.e., the tonality and type of sound), or volume (i.e., how loud or quiet a sound is). Children are also given access to specially constructed soundboxes, transducers and other sound-generating devices and materials to explore how sound travels through various materials and objects.
Music is rightly considered a language in itself; it involves rhythm, pitch, dynamics, and complex performance modes. We feel that steering away from this language allows children to be much more uninhibited in their explorations of and with sound and allows for a more free and playful engagement with it as a medium.
Our intention at SoundHoppers, then, is to instil within children a sense of careful listening and sonic curiosity without the formalities of traditional musical discourse.”
What We Do
At the heart of the project lies the conviction that developing attentive listening skills and allowing an uninhibited approach to exploring sounds provides significant benefits including:
● Enhancing concentration and attention skills, providing benefits to broader education and learning.
● Cultivating a heightened awareness of the external and internal sonic environment and promoting experimentation, improvisation, collaboration, playfulness, and other creative skills vital to personal and community growth.
● Creating the confidence to explore pre-musical learning and ‘proto-music’ using non-traditional musical instruments.
They are developed through delivering a high-quality arts-based learning programme via public-facing workshops that aim to explore and question the fundamental nature of sound and the act of listening. To do this, a modular series of gamified exercises have been designed to allow children to carefully advance from passive listening to complex and advanced active-listening practice. Closely tied to these exercises are a series of open sound-generation techniques using specially constructed soundboxes and other ‘proto-music’ sound-generating devices and technologies.
How We Do It
The SoundHoppers approach emphasises learning through hands-on discovery, allowing workshop participants to use all their senses to express their thoughts, understandings, and creativity. The programme was developed to challenge the primacy of visual culture, especially within the so-called ‘digital native’ context, in which parents are rightly concerned about the impact of children’s excessive smartphone and mobile device use. Whilst, at the same time, counterbalancing the side-lining and disregard of sound and listening culture within broader primary education. We believe that instilling deep-listening acts can be included as a strategy for countering visual hyper-stimulation in the digital age. The exercises developed as part of the SoundHoppers programme provide parents, carers, and children with the tools and techniques to embolden a deeper appreciation of their environment. Notably, the project is categorically not ‘anti-technology’ and incorporates digital devices developed to specifically explore sound-based/sound-oriented learning.
The SoundHoppers software and physical interfaces were developed to enable children to play sounds and ‘proto-musical’ phrases through movement and gestures, allowing them to explore sounds ranging from pitches to noises rather than learning set pieces. This open approach encourages anyone to explore and express a range of effects, both by themselves and in response to or in conversation with others. Additionally, it opens up the possibility of learning more about the relations between ability, the body, creativity, and improvisation. Of course, this is also beneficial to caregivers, so whilst the program is tailored for children, the project attempts to make improvisation and collaboration accessible to the broadest possible range of individuals.