Surroundings is an audio-active project, supported and funded by The National Concert Hall and St. Declan's School, that aims to awaken the child's artistic sensibilities, with a specific focus on S O U N D .

Children are invited into a permanent sound installation, where they are encouraged to improvise together in small groups, using a range of instruments and sound-making objects. A pre-recorded sound-track (including dense environmental sounds, etc) accompanies the playing during these sessions, allowing the children to 'feel' the sounds they are playing, whilst simultaneously developing an awareness of their surroundings.

The children's cognitive response to their sound-environment is irrelevant during these artistic explorations; rather the process focuses primarily on heightening the children's artistic sensitivity, both to their immediate surroundings and to others, enabling them to give a creative response through music/sound making. Segments of these sessions are recorded and played back to the children, bringing a conscious awareness to the process of playing, adding to each child's ability to listen, reflect, and consciously develop their playing ability through practice. In this way the children are encouraged to create their own unique aesthetics.

In Practice
Every child in the school is participating in the project, attending half-hour sessions rotated through the school timetable. Teacher participation is on a voluntary basis, and can take various forms: attending sessions with the children - where teachers are encouraged to follow the children, rather than actively suggest or create themselves - gathering recordings and pre-editing material with the children for the sound-bank and final installation piece, and experiencing and responding to the sound-installation as a class. Any further suggestions on teacher participation are welcome. Slavek is available to meet with teachers to give project updates, technical support, and discuss suggestions/feedback every Tuesday from 12:30pm to 1:30pm in the school library (until the end of June).

During the course of the project, the sound-installation will offer a dual-approach to the children's continuing development, both educational and artistic.

Educational: The library installation is accessible to whole classes during the week. Class interaction with the sound-installation can link in with a multi-disciplinary approach. For example, using sound recordings from the sound bank, teachers can demonstrate specific environments for biology, geography, etc. The sound-installation offers teachers a sensory approach to exploring a particular subject, theme, or environment, and can be transformed and developed using the sound bank as a resource. Those teachers who chose to participate in the project will acquire basic sound-editing and recording skills, which can be transferred into other areas of their teaching practice.

Artistic: The sound-sessions with Slavek will continue to develop the children's artistic sensibilities, creating an awareness and aesthetical response to their surroundings, as described above. The listening environments which will be part of the completed installation will offer starting points for the children's imaginative response, which can be expressed through art, sound/music-making, movement, dance, and drama, as lead by the particular artist or facilitator.

The final sound-installation/composition, comprising of various sound-recordings gathered during the process, including session fragments, recorded environments, and other sound-pieces, composed by Slavek Kwi., will provide a starting point for utilizing the possibilities and potential of the installation, and offer an artistic response to the Surroundings project.
The stereo mix will be released as a limited edition CD, celebrating 50 years of St. Declan's School. All project participants will receive a copy of the CD.

A sound bank containing recordings collected during the project will continue to be added to, providing the children of St. Declan's with a valuable resource for both educational and expressive/artistic development, a resource which can be utilized and developed by teachers and visiting artists alike.

It is therefore envisaged that the closure of the project will mark a starting point for further development within the school of the potential uses of the sound-installation as a creative resource of multi-disciplinary potential. Slavek will continue to provide technical and artistic support where needed.

Technical Notes
The sound-installation is based on 5.1 Dolby Surround System, which comprises of 2 front,
1 centre, 2 rear speakers, subwoofer (low frequency response speaker) and amplifier-decoder. Special multi-channel files AC3 are created with editing software Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum (Sony) installed in the attached computer. Sound-files can be played directly from the computer or burned on DVD and then played from a DVD-player. The sound-bank/archive can be stored on hard-disc and/or DVDs. The whole system can be equally used for viewing films and playing ordinary CDs.

For collecting sounds, the recording device Zoom H2 is available. The device is simple but very efficient and gives a high quality recording. Recorded files can be transferred easily by USB connection to any computer. Another simple editing program, Reaper, can be used to pre-edit recorded sounds. This software can be installed on every computer as required by teachers.

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