A game of telephone: Professor Altadonna and students create over social distances
By Anna-Maria Goossens | Monday, May 4, 2020
By Anna-Maria Goossens
Monday, May 4, 2020
Theater faculty are continually innovating their way around the separation between themselves and their students — and students are rising to the challenge.
Professor Amy Altadonna teaches sound design and draws students from both within the department as well as those looking to use these skills for music, podcasting, etc. Last week she devised a new twist on what is usually an in-class assignment and in the process, the group created a captivating song snippet she shared with us.
Have a listen by clicking below, and then read on to learn how Altadonna and her students got there.
Which class created this piece?
Altadonna: A collection of folx from my Studio Recording and Music Production class came together on the April day off that we had from school and collaborated on a totally original piece.
Can you explain, briefly, how this project worked?
Altadonna: This was adapted from an in-class project, and we made it work in SoundTrap online during quarantine! Everyone who participates can add material (sound effects, music loops, original music using recording or sampler instruments), can change material, can add processing, loop things, rearrange elements, use automation and panning...but you can only make one change per hour for 24 hours. That leaves room for everyone to pop in to the session and respond to whatever has taken shape!
How is this version of the project different than what you’d usually do if you were meeting with your students in person?
Altadonna: In person, we would literally be moving around the computer lab, sitting at each other's workstations, rotating in and out on a bunch of spontaneous projects. I call it the Telephone Game. I set a timer and make people shift around the room every few minutes.
This project seems designed to appeal to folks looking to learn how to use sound design tools for projects that aren’t necessarily theater — can you talk a little about that?
Altadonna: You are absolutely right...by prompting participants with different ideas about what to do to manipulate the ingredients in the sonic piece, I challenge everyone to try a variety of tools in the sound editing software, and force two often underutilized sources of inspiration: thinking on your feet, and making quick decisions. The timer means you can't agonize or overthink!
Although obviously we all like to be in real space and time doing our work, was there anything new or unusual, or any unexpected upside, to working this out digitally?
Yes, actually. This is all from my perspective, not from student feedback, but I think it's worth pointing out.
We all really want to go back to being together and collaborating in-person. But at the same time, I think we've unlocked a different and valuable ingredient during this quarantine... letting people participate from a place of strength in their unique needs and preferences. Having the in-person Telephone Game with its challenges is useful, and balancing that with a version where people can work without eyes on them, on their own preferred timeline, in an environment of their choosing... This is another option we should be offering our community so that everyone gets to come at the work from their preferred methods.
So actually, I think this radical change of life has let us see things differently, and that will only strengthen education if we observe and learn from it.