Soundscapes of Childhood
In the Fall 2012, students in a course taught by Dr. Elizabeth Goodenough, RC Core 334/English 407: Reading and Writing Landscapes of Childhood, studied fifteen books for children by Great Lakes authors such as Jim Harrison, Christopher Paul Curtis, and Holling C. Holling. Close reading and discussion opened questions of how stories of home and childhood play shape meanings of “nature” and personal interpretations of landscape. Examining site-driven plots, the class began to wonder, “What does memory preserve?” To explore their own responses to remembered settings, students wrote environmental autobiographies and recorded sound walks inspired by Nichols Arboretum. Led by Anja Bieri, a cultural geographer from Switzerland who lives in Ann Arbor, five workshops, including three at Nichols Arboretum, guided six students to investigate cultural dimensions of landscape. By creating audio-walks or soundscapes – sound and voice compositions that guide the walking listener--students opened the imaginations of both the makers and receivers of the audio-walks. The process combined embodied research, social science, aesthetic education, and new media, crossing the borders between art and theory.
The production of these “Soundscapes of Childhood” helped the class find paths back “home.” The University of Michigan Library is pleased to present, in collaboration with the University of Michigan Residential College, an exhibit of student work that contributes to the common good by collecting, preserving, communicating, and sharing these individual journeys. The exhibition of these compositions of voice, words, song, and environmental sounds combined with personal stories and images of Nichols Arboretum will inspire reflection on how outdoor experience and a sense of “place” influence personal meanings of home.