trs: Brainstorming soundscapes in the Pioneer Valley

Submitted by Thomas R. Sibley on Monday, 9/14/2009, at 7:55 AM
  1. Amherst Coffee — "Every Thursday evening Amherst Coffee plays host to local jazz group the Liberated Territory Collective."  What makes this venue interesting is the very small size of the space and the volume of the music.  It is not your normal, in-the-background coffee shop jazz performance.  It dominates the space, forcing patrons who wish to talk to lean in closer to one another.
  2. Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School — Found by searching Google for musical education in the Pioneer Valley, this Hadley high school focuses not just on academics but also heavily in the performing arts.  I was surprised (and impressed) that it's helped produce an "international award-winning a cappella group" called 5Alone.  A project could easily be done on the young musicians of the Valley.
  3. Cory (aka skyman2002) — I found this kid on YouTube a couple years ago during a late night search for local Amherst videos and users.  He records tons of trains blowing by him on level-crossings in the Amherst area and tags each video with detailed information about the train, often including notes about the horn like "very sour Leslie S3L horn".  He also has 527 subscribers, so clearly lots of people are interested in his train recordings.  While his interest is in the train itself and the experience of watching the train pass, he's built up an archive of audio recordings of keynotes of the area.  I'm drawn to the shear amount of recordings he's made and the incredible detail of each.
  4. The Fretted Instrument Workshop is in downtown Amherst tucked away on a second story space.  According to a friend, they have a fantastic selection of instruments (often ones used in traditional folk music) and a wealth of knowledge about them and the local scenes.  Investigating the soundscapes of music stores themselves and their sonic connections to the community through the instruments they sell could reveal hidden connections.
  5. The EarthSpirit Community — One of the things you learn after living in the Pioneer Valley for a while is the size of the wiccan community.  EarthSpirit is one of these communities and many of their annual celebrations feature or include collective singing and dancing.  (They even have two CDs available for purchase.)  How do the songs of the pagan community compare to those of other religious singing?  How do they differ?
  6. The drum circle in the South Amherst commons (map) on the first Friday of every month attracts 50+ people from around the Valley to dance and drum and chant.  I've never been personally but a few of my friends went and really enjoyed it.  According to one, anyone is welcome and people participate in varying levels from sitting and listening to dancing and chanting to beating on the drums.  The drum circle interests me because of the communal and collective nature of the music making and the beat-oriented, back to basics music they produce.
  7. Although it's at Amherst, the Merrill main stairwell is an amazing acoustic space.  Standing on the half-landings between flights of stairs, you can easily find the low resonant frequency of the stairwell.  Once you find it, the entire stairwell reverberates drowning you out and sounding at every half-landing in the stairwell.  While the stairwell itself wouldn't necessarily make much of a project on soundscapes, investigating the resonate properties of places around the Valley might be interesting.  What does a structure or building sound like?  How do sound and architecture interact?
  8. Pioneer Valley Folklore Society — This group is interested in preserving and promoting folk music and storytelling in the Valley.  Besides posting announcements, they also are involved in community events such as RUSH (Rise Up Singing in Harmony; and a NY Times piece on RUSH), which are monthly combination potluck dinner and folk singing shindigs across the nation.  I found the PVFS when searching the web for more information on the South Amherst drum circle, and it caught my eye because of the interweaving interests in both storytelling and music.  The Society would likely be a great jumping off point for a soundscapes project.
  9. Among many other ideas, the kitchen is one soundscape that intrigues me.  How do commercial kitchens in restaurants sound different from community kitchens sound different from home kitchens?  Do the keynotes of kitchens, regardless of who's running them, stay relatively the same?  Are they a universal, familiar soundscape?  Another way to direct this idea is towards the activity of cooking rather than the space in which cooking happens.  While kitchens and cooking don't directly in most cases have links to the Valley, this soundscapes project could certainly be done here with local ties.
 

Taking Notes