On Thursday evening I found myself driving through the countryside of the Scottish Borders, travelling between high schools for my job. I look forward to these times. Alone with my thoughts (and the car radio) I have the space to think about ideas for work and study. It would be accurate to describe this is as one of my more productive learning spaces. On this particular occasion I was trying to turn some half ideas for my MSc dissertation into a single good idea. Somewhere along the A6089 between Kelso and Earlston a radio interview interrupted my line of thought.
Chris Watson is one of the world's leading recorders of wildlife and natural phenomena and, also of significance to our project, was a founding member of experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire. He records audio of our natural world and edits the field recordings into ‘filmic narrative’. His interview on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune was accompanied by a track entitled ‘Deadwater Fell water running off into the river North Tyne’. As well as capturing what might be described as the aural beauty of the natural environment, Watson described how his project to capture the sound of the River Tyne, also necessarily captures industrial machinery at work alongside quaysides and riverbanks.
Although our own project has a different purpose – to explore how music influences and inspires our learning spaces – each of the submitted soundtracks offers an insight into the creator’s learning environment, even if what we have shared has been more considered than ‘captured’. Perhaps our soundtracks - where we consciously put forward significant tracks - might be described as ‘constructed soundscapes’ rather than recordings of the natural environment.
A more accurate field recording on my own natural learning environment would include music, accompanied by the sound of coffee being consumed, radio interruptions as I check the score in the cricket, my fingers tapping off the panel of my Macbook as I think through an idea (I’ve just being done this) and vague feedback on my ideas from my six-month old son.
Even then, this recording is incomplete as it disregards the electronic chatter that often punctuates my environment: the alert that announces a new message on Twitter; notification that a Vimeo file has uploaded; software update notifications and so on. On other occasions it might be the sound of Skype text, or maybe the wind blowing through Second Life. An audio composite capturing sound from either side of my screen could be seen as a field recording of my merging natural and virtual learning landscapes.
Maybe there’s a dissertation idea in all this?
James Lamb is a participant on the MSc in E-Learning