Whose Voice? A Soundscape Ecology

A tweet crossed my feed this morning with the following message:

When a person dominates an event, the group shows less intelligence. #ADE13

Just those few characters in a tweet already had me thinking about voices…those that get heard and those that don’t.

And then I came across this TED talk by Bernie Krause talking about his study of wild soundscapes.  He introduced me to three new terms to understand his research:

1.  Geophony–the non biologic sounds in an environment like wind and water

2.  Biophony–sounds that living organisms make (not focused on the individual, but the sounds you hear all at the same time)

3.  Anthrophony–human sounds like airplanes, cars (things we think of as noise) or even music that is soothing or aesthetically pleasing

Bernie goes on to explain that the soundscape ecology can give us a great deal of information about the health of a habitat.  His point is that our eyes don’t give us all the information we need to assess the world.  Sometimes our ears can tell us things that our eyes cannot see.

Careful listening is also important in the classroom.  And I think, like Bernie, we need to listen to what sounds we hear…and what sounds are missing from our classroom soundscape.  The classroom soundscape includes the obvious sources: teachers and students.  We need to listen to not only who speaks, but also to what kind of speaking is going on.  Does the teacher dominate the talk time?  (Yes, instructional speech counts!)  What about the students?  Who talks?  Is the speech competitive or collaborative?  What role does silence play?  And what can we as adults do to shift the soundscape ecology?

What does it say about the group’s intelligence when some voices dominate?

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Whose Voice? A Soundscape Ecology

  1. Janis

    Great post. Lots to think about. I am in training this week observing demos in a migrant summer school program. I will pay more attention to the sounds of the classroom tomorrow. Thanks!

  2. Terry Elliott (@tellio)

    The sound ecology is part of a larger ecology isn’t it? Can we change the one while living inside the other? I think that the answer is a guarded yes. Teachers have been doing this for years. Shut the door and remake the environment inside, but we need to find a way to expand the niche farther and farther out into the school and the community. Love the ideas here, love even more their potential application. Short article that fits into what you are noticing here:http://www.voiceoverxtra.com/article.htm?id=4m6olysg

    1. Matt Jewell

      Thanks for sharing this Kim! This post, and the article Terry shared a link to, help put the finger on why two teachers can plan a lesson together, say the same things, and engage students in the same tasks–yet have very different learning outcomes.

      You’ve got me thinking about how much the soundscape varies at my school site, from classroom to classroom, in the lounge, at staff meetings . . .

  3. Vanessa Vaile

    Immediately expressions like ‘speaking for’ (ourselves or s/o speaking for ourselves) and personal and group or individual and collective voices come to mind. Polyphony is richer than monotone or monologue. All voices count – this goes to values/credo too – fairness, equity, listening, being open.

    I’m involved with an higher education / academic labor advocacy group and am increasingly concerned with restricting who can “speak for the organization” without inviting more voices into the process. The phrase, “When a person dominates an event, the group shows less intelligence,” crystallizes (and focuses) my concerns.

    Not all voices are audible…”listening” (like “reading”) includes observing, paying attention… being mindful

  4. Pingback: Bernie Krause: The voice of the natural world – [TED Talks] | mostly music

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