Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Alone and Together

As a writer I spend most of my time working alone. In spite of this, or maybe because os this, I love the process of collaboration. Working with another person on words, images, or sounds is a deep pleasure for me.

One of my favorite collaborations was with the American composer Libby Larsen, The Science Museum of Minnesota, The Minnesota Orchestra, and students from four different public schools. We worked with students to identify how they heard sound and came up with three categories for our piece: quiet, beauty, and din.

We gave students tape recorders and asked them to record sounds in each of these categories. Quiet and din were easy, but beauty was trickier. What is the sound of beauty? Libby and I listened to all of these tapes and I recall the beauty ones the strongest: a baby sister talking, the wind whispering gently in trees, pages of a book turning.

With these ideas, I wrote text and Libby wrote music and then we revised and revised until the piece was premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra with students participating with their sounds.
Here's a link for sounds and pictures:

Working with Libby was exciting and engaging and I became much more aware of sound. I wrote the sound picture book, Vroomaloom Zoom, because of this and include more sounds in all of my work now. Thanks to Libby and thanks to collaboration.


Lauren said...

John, what a wonderful collaboration-- and one that touched many people! Thank you for sharing this.

Christy said...

What a fabulous way to engage in life together and also prepare for writing. I imagine all who participated or even just listened as audience were transformed by the experience. Great division of categories and variety of sounds that evoke beauty! Some of the performance and conversations links didn't work for me, but I was able to hear all the sound cards. What a wealth of activity ideas on this site. Teachers must love this!

My daughter once enjoyed a summer camp where kids collected sounds, learned to layer them in a software program, and worked collaboratively to make music. Your post reminds me how rich that experience was for them.

Mark said...

Sounds like an exciting project, John. A great take on collaboration beyond the usual written-word variety. Thanks for sharing.

Edie Hemingway said...

What a great idea, John, and an exciting collaboration. For a workshop series I'm currently teaching, I assigned everyone to bring a "smell" to class this week. I think my next assignment will be to bring a "sound" to class. Thanks!

David LaRochelle said...

What a very unique project, John. I love the idea of "collecting sounds"!