Tuesday, November 2, 2010

today's difficulty (teaching)

we read the introduction to Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History today for class and i will have them respond to some possible sounds they would have heard on the ship. i don't want to talk today, largely because there isn't much i could say. i will be layering and looping the following sounds:

the plan is to play - in order - each clip for 30 seconds, then introduce a new sound until they are all playing at the same time. after 15 minutes, i will end each clip in declining order until we are, again, listening to nothing. i will collect what they write, but i think there will be no talking.

the major concern I have is with the sensationalist edge behind this sort of listening. how can we take seriously the idea that these are, undoubtedly, sounds that would have been heard during Middle Passage? i am not interested in "protecting" my students from these sounds or even in assigning to them meaning that I think they "should" have when hearing them. some may feel numb, others may feel it humorous (which would suck, but i want to honor their ideas as well).

so I'm trying to figure out a way to honor the lives of the folks who experienced Middle Passage while understanding and emphasizing the fact that listening to these sounds cannot nearly approach the experience. is there a way to guard against this as a recreationalist activity? as some "fun pedagogical activity"? i don't want this to be that. at all.

if you'd like to participate, feel free to do so. and i'd love thoughts about this.

1 comment:

  1. I went through the clips, adding them one by one until they all filled my ears. It's kind of like when you need your music to portray a certain anxiety and then you find that the only people who recognize that angst are other musicians, that is, until you facilitate understanding by including lyrics. To me? It was beautiful. (And I hope that I can borrow your combination for an upcoming masterclass I'm giving) But I remember sitting in a music class that had both music and non-music majors. With the same tune by max roach and abbey lincoln playing, many in the room found it impossible to sit through, listening. Used as an auditory illustration for a documentary on the civil rights movement, however, many of the untrained ears allowed the tension of abbey's voice to penetrate their understanding of the images--images that they had seen hundreds of times--with an acute internalization of the pain they were witnessing.

    Anyway I'm sure you already went through the lesson. I'd be happy to hear how it went as I enjoyed the conglomeration of these chosen sounds in conjunction with the Freedom Now Suite. (I'm getting caught up on your entries so my responses may be random/late)