noun, plural ca·coph·o·nies.
1. harsh discordance of sound; dissonance: a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.
2. a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds: the cacophony produced by city traffic at midday.
3. Music. frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand.
“How do you handle it?” I have been asked more than once. “It would drive me crazy!”
My job is noisy, there is no doubt about it. To the untrained, the variety of activities all going on at once in the space of my room can truly sound like cacophony. At any one time 4 or more groups may be counting their own timing and practicing a different part of a song. There might be a group working with varied percussion instruments, another group struggling with a more difficult recorder passage of notes, guitarists working together to figure out chords and strums while other students are working out chords on the piano. And that is when we are all working on the same song.
Step into my room in the midst of a creative project and you would probably think of another C word: chaos. I would have to agree, to a point. There are many times that it feels a bit like barely controlled chaos. Sometimes I wonder at my teaching style. Wouldn’t life be easier if I just kept control of everything and ask my students to all play at the beat of my own drum?
I get a chuckle just saying that since one grade will be doing just that when we go to festival in a couple of weeks. We will be playing 3 aboriginal pieces and I will be using a drum as my conducting tool much as a drummer would lead a circle at a pow wow.
It is in those moments that we come together that the cacophony begins to make sense to the observer. Most of the students and I have learned to tune our ears to the sounds within a particular group so that others sounds become white noise. For those who find it difficult, I key in to where they are and help them focus their attention. It just isn’t possible to teach musique in a way that encourages independence and creativity without risking a bit of cacophony in the overall sound coming out of the room from time to time.
I have been told that the concerts my kids give are unlike any other parents and other guests see. Parents who move to other schools tell me how much the miss them. I think it is in letting go of the reins and risking the chaos of sound is a part of the reason for that.
You see, the teacher who controls all the pieces of a concert has only one voice to listen to in the planning. For me I have almost 300 voices and minds working together, each a thread in the overall design.
And my role? I choose the overall colour scheme in selecting the pieces or focus for each group. I also set the warp in place for each musical celebration. The wonder of each woven celebration is the cacophony of colours that merge and blend as the students contribute the weft weaving in and out of my set lines. Together, we create our masterpiece. Another teacher may have polished pieces with every part of the written music firmly in place. I will take our rainbow tapestries each as unique as the students who contributed in their making.
Collage: Cacophony by L.J.A.