Ashley Elsdon is a producer at the SoundLab in the UK. He helps people with learning disabilities create music using amongst other tools littleBits. We caught him for a quick Q&A and got inspired by his incredible work!
Tell us about your current teaching experience.
SoundLab isn’t really a teaching project, it’s a learning and research project which aims to help people with learning disabilities create music using readily available and affordable technology. SoundLab is a digital R&D project from Heart n Soul and is funded by NESTA, Arts Council England, and the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The project is made up of a number of organizations: Heart n Soul, Goldsmiths University, and Public Domain Corporation.
We’ve been carrying out a series of workshops and events where users, developers, educators and members of the project team will experiment with different combinations of technologies in various environments with different groups of users. Through these sessions we will evaluate what works and what doesn’t as a group.
Each of the these sessions is written up as a series of experiments and posted online at the SoundLab site with audio, video and photos of the session. We evaluate how it went and what the conclusion or outcome was, so that they can be useful to other arts organizations and individuals, and over time build into a valuable resource.
We’ve also been at a number of large public events this year. For example:
– Liberty, London’s biggest disability Arts Festival
– Beautiful Octopus Club, London’s biggest multi-media club night that celebrates learning disability culture at the Southbank Centre
– Allsorts, Heart n Soul’s innovative creative arts project for adults with learning disabilities
How did you discover littleBits? What drew you to our product/company?
I’ve personally been a user of littleBits since the Synth Kit was released. I was really drawn to the kit and the possibilities it offered. When I started working with SoundLab, I knew that the littleBits Synth Kit would offer some real opportunities for our users to experiment with different ways of creating sound.
Which product did you use and what made you decide to choose this?
The Synth Kit has allowed us to get users to experiment with sound making in a very personal way. In the film we’ve just made (above), we were in a workshop for users to create creature sounds. The Synth Kit was ideal for this and gave us a way for users to not only create sounds but to use the kit to physically make their sounds and understand how the different modules worked together. The product is great because it helps you find weird organic sounds through experimentation.
If you could challenge your students to make anything with any amount of littleBits, what would you have them create?
Our users’ experience of using the kit in the creature workshop has opened up other ideas for using littleBits in our next series of workshops on creating tracks and composing.
What advice can you offer teachers who are new to littleBits?
I think that anyone who is thinking about using littleBits in whatever context should seriously consider the Synth Kit. Allowing people to create sounds and music is a brilliant experience, but giving them the ability to understand how sounds are created and changed is a very powerful experience.