SCHOOL of NOISE – the beginning

School of Noise

The SCHOOL of NOISE ran its first workshop in January 2015. The aim of the project is to run interesting and exciting activities exploring different approaches to experiencing and experimenting with sound. Importantly, we also want to make it accessible to people who may not have had the opportunity to engage in these types of activities before.

The idea takes inspiration from a variety of places; the writings of Brian Dennis, George Self and the 30 minute film Music in School: A New Sound (also referred to as the Shoreditch Experimental Music School) form a big part of our thinking and approach.

Both Dennis and Self published books in the late 1960s intended to introduce the teaching experimental music into Primary schools. While writings on experimental music are plentiful in the realms of academia, the language and concepts often can be difficult to follow without additional knowledge. Dennis and Self wanted to be able to engage a novice, and although some of the technologies have changed their approach still holds true.

It is difficult to know what legacy their concepts left on mainstream music education. However in my experience, by the 1980s recorder groups were commonplace playing Yankee Doodle en masse accompanied by a trolley of (broken) percussion instruments and the teacher on the (unlocked) upright piano. Music in the classroom never veered off course and into new terrain. Anything remotely avant-garde had certainly not reached my school in rural Lincolnshire.

Thankfully I was also brought up on folk music and continue playing fiddle for Morris dancing sides to this day. My family and other folk musicians encouraged participation over prowess. Expertise can come with time, while time only comes through enjoyment. Our aim is to create a space that encourages the latter.

It wasn’t until I was 20 that I was introduced to experimental music. Whilst studying sound engineering the tutor played 4:33” by John Cage. In these few minutes, a whole new world opened up of thinking about sound and music. It led on to creating a variety of different sound related activities and workshops over the years, culminating in setting up the SCHOOL of NOISE. Our ambition is to help ignite just a small spark of intrigue in sound, similar to the one that I didn’t experience until I was an adult. Experimental music can allow anyone participating in it an immediate and accessible route into creating, sculpting and arranging sounds in interesting ways. For me this is what makes it so fascinating.

On experimental music George Self wrote “It is not intended to provide an alternative to existing methods of musical training, but to be complementary to it.” This is also true we hope for the SCHOOL of NOISE.

By Dan Mayfield – Founder of SCHOOL of NOISE

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