Earwitness: A Tale of Cities
Lecture and workshop
a Sound Adventure Project
Seattle Art Museum and Goethe Institut, Seattle
March 8-10, 1996
This combination of workshop and lectures was meant as an introduction to the world of soundscapes and listening with the specific purpose to connect this to the learning of foreign languages and the exposure to new cultures. It was a way to introduce language students both to the acoustic environment and to a new language through readings and exercises which combine scientific and creative inquiry into the nature of sound. "Regarding the foreign language classroom, this project will foster cross-curriculum instruction and communicative approach in foreign language teaching. The additional goals include the development of listening skills, extension of vocabulary, creative writing, cultural exchange and mutual understanding, and the applicaiton of email technology." (from Goethe Institut Seattle project proposal)
The workshop included soundwalks, listening exercises, discussions and reflections on acoustic ecology and the meanings of sounds/soundscapes, as well as the writing of sound journals. The second part of the workshop consisted of a brain storming session of how to apply soundscape awareness and listening to foreign language instruction and the development of concrete lesson plans. In the months following, a curriculum was developed for classroom use.
The two lectures functioned as a general introduction to the world of sound and specifically dealt with urban soundscapes. Although environmental sounds can give us a sense of place and belonging, urban noise has the power to obscure this sense. Two lecture-performances suggested ways of listening beyond the noise, to uncover by ear a city's acoustic indentity, its inner voice, that which makes Seattle sound different than New Delhi, Tokyo different than Brasilia.
Unfortunately the Seattle Goethe Institut (among several other Goethe Instituts in other countries) was closed in 1999 as part of major financial cuts by the German Government.