As we were getting the most recent podcast ready to post, I emailed producer (and third grade teacher) David Green. I asked him about how the audio he posted was originally used, and what that project was like.
Regarding the project, I was inspired to do the School Scenes project by a site-specific audio tour I listened to at a performance art festival in Chicago about four years ago. The artist had a table set up in the lobby of the theater and was passing out portable CD players to people. You had to go to specific locations – the theater lobby, the mailbox at the corner of the street outside – while listening to certain tracks. The audio consisted of personal stories, reflections and questions to the listener. I loved the tour. It was simultaneously private and public, both a shared and individual experience: Standing in a crowded theater lobby, listening to a story which nobody else could hear, and then noticing somebody across the lobby with headphones on, listening too, but at a different point in the story than me. Or, sitting in the café listening to the recorded ambient sound of a café, while also hearing the actual noise of the café too.
Anyway, I often take experiences like this and think about how I might translate them to the world of eight and nine-year olds.
Over the course of the school year, the third graders wrote and recorded their school memory stories, each tied to a specific, physical location on campus.
For the premier, we had about seventy third-graders and parents gather at school, all with portable CD players or iPods. The program told them where to go and which track to listen to in a given location. After my introduction, everybody scattered to the seventeen different locations, spending about an hour taking their own route through the tour.
What I absolutely loved was that I could wander into the first grade classroom where there might be ten people, all silent, lost in their own headphone world, but all listening to exactly the same story, but not quite at the same time.