Audio Montage as Reflective Tool
Dr Jim Donaghey creates audio montages by layering and editing sounds captured during fieldwork with Musicians without Borders
This audio montage created by Dr Jim Donaghey features the layering and editing of sounds captured during five days of the Musicians without Borders (MwB) training programme which was analysed with Prof. Fiona Magowan in Derry/Londonderry in April 2017. In condensed form, it gives a ‘feel’ of the training programme and some key points of the training curriculum are audible in the montage, including improvisation games, the ‘trash orchestra’ and guiding comments from trainers and participants.
The process of audio editing and production is a subjective one. Condensing dozens of hours of material into a three-minute piece involves a great deal of selection. However, this montage effectively expresses an essence of the experience of that particular training programme, however subjective. It was this quality of the audio montage that was explored and used it as part of our research methodologies.
Jim and Fiona played the montage to the participants of the subsequent MwB training programme in Derry in May 2017. The group included several people who had been recorded as part of the audio montage in April 2017 and several who had not been present at the previous training, as well as the MwB trainers. It was heard twice. First, without any particular guidance. Then, a second time, after a range of key questions and themes had been discussed. The participants and trainers were subsequently invited to discuss their reflections on it in sub-divided focus groups, which were recorded and transcribed.
This methodology has been useful in encouraging research participants to think critically and reflectively about sound. It does so in a way which complements Musicians without Borders’ own training programmes. In conjunction with in-depth interviews and participant observation, this approach embeds creative practice and sound into the research process.