In the summer of 2017 I was invited by Pacitti Company to assist in the delivery of their fantastic new series of music Toddler Workshops titled Toddlers’ Orchestra.

Associate Producer Steve Goatman said “Early in the Toddlers’ Orchestra project development we employed the services of Ipswich based dance artist and highly experienced workshop facilitator Anna Rowe, whose guidance, leadership and arsenal of multicoloured clickers, clackers and whistles were invaluable. Sound artist Frazer Merrick soon joined us too bringing with him an array of expensive looking electronic musical gadgets and, importantly, the will to allow toddlers to use them.”

The aim was to encourage sonic exploration, giving the toddlers free reign over a variety of weird and wonderful (and safe) musical instrument and sound making devices. Young minds could be fully engaged and stimulated by new sonic experiences.

Now, put 12 toddlers in a room and the volume is going to rise regardless – just imagine what happens when you put instruments in there too. So careful consideration was given to both the type of instruments we would lay out and the order in which we presented them to the toddlers. We wanted to make sure we didn’t isolate individuals – so needed a diverse offer that allowed for all personality types to explore noise at their own pitch and tempo. This led to the development of a two-space approach, one room for noisy play and another for quiet crafting – an important distinction that was appreciated by grown-ups and toddlers alike.

We wanted toddlers to interact creatively with their grown-ups. This was key to the success of the workshops. They’d be a forum for intergenerational play – the grown-ups had to bring the noise (and the Sellotape) too.

Alongside providing alot of the resources, my task was to record cacophonous outcomes with the idea to present this to other sound artists as raw material, potentially for a commissioned project for SPILL 2018.

With a total of three workshops, we gave each a theme Metal and Skin, Wood and Wind, Belch and Twang. Over the three workshops we improved each time, better understanding how to engage our audience with new sounds and importantly how to control the volume levels to ensure we didn’t hit 11 and plateau straight away.

Special guest musicians were called in for demonstrations. We devised group exercises that celebrated listening, collaboration and focussed attention. But mostly, a lot of fun was had! It was a fascinating challenge to take my skill of sound design facilitation to a completely new demographic, and its created a library of fabulous sounds to experiment further with.

Photography – Copyright Pacitti Company