Weaving in sounds as part of the L’Arche Music Session

Early 17th Century Woodcut

Hello again! It’s about time that I explained a bit more about what I have been doing on the  theme of rural/work life past.

Connecting with the Autumn theme I begin sessions by creating a group soundscape of  travel – train and time travel. Tibetan Chimes and other instruments such as tone chimes are useful to set the scene for going back in time. You can also add in appropriate rhythm rhymes and words. Have a google for some poems if you want something to get you started 🙂

We follow the soundscape by singing our ‘We’re All Walking’ song (courtesy of Emmie Ward) – this time singing that each person is ‘ walking back in time’. Playing the chime again signifies this. We have continued to use the turn taking activities that I described previously. Activities have included having a bowl of water and a measuring jug – scooping and pouring water  into the bowl, or ladling the water. Everyone gets a turn with the activity after we sing their name. I’ve also used popcorn instead of the water. Last week I used a short cardboard tube and everyone posted a small round piece of wood through it. (It could have been anything though – e.g. a conker or bead). Whereas the popcorn had been like grains of rural life/time, I said that posting the object through the cardboard tube was an indication of the industrial machinery that was to come. I know – I’m pushing it a bit!!!

I realised last week that soundscapes have started to take over the first half of the session. Following the turn taking activity we have moved into a second soundscape. At the moment this is a knitting/weaving soundscape. I start this section through playing a track by the band Capercaillie called M’loam. I find it creates a gentle contemplative atmosphere. To symbolise spinning wheels we roll and spin everyday objects on the floor – such as empty food containers, lids, cotton reels, wooden objects. You can roll the objects to someone or just randomly roll them, experiment and encourage others to do the same. I found a wool ball winder (from the Craft Workshop’s weaving days) and we took turns spinning that around. It is a good visual object and makes a bit of a creak too.

tapestry-forkThis activity then led into a more active sound making soundscape, where we clicked knitting needles together, tapped wooden sticks and played thumb pianos. Last week my colleague and I found some tapestry forks with metal prongs and some metal loom winders. Together they make a good guiro style sound.

The soundscape led into singing ‘Yan Tan Tethera’. It is a song I learned from Aimee Leonard that she developed as part of the Yan Tan Tethera project with the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Listen to Aimee singing it here on Soundcloud. There are more songs and information about the project at the Yan Tan Tethera project link above. Yan Tan Tethera is a sheep counting system traditionally used by shepherds in the north of England. Read more about it on wikipedia. I think it is also used for counting stitches.



I started the activity by singing the low part of Yan Tan Tethera and unwinding the wool from a ball of wool so that gradually everyone was holding onto it around in a circle. I added different voice parts gradually (taking turns with the parts myself) and people joined in with whichever part they wanted. I didn’t ask anyone to sing anything in particular and it seemed to happen naturally that people took different parts. It was also really helpful that the support staff present joined in with different parts too.

It would be interesting to experiment with colours and weaving movements and sounds as with the Yan Tan Tethera project. There is no Weaving Workshop anymore, however there are still looms in the Craft Project , which are used occasionally.

I think that is probably enough for now! More about the other songs we have sung in a future post!