Issue 112: More paper tearing

Last weekend I was involved in delivering a fireworks-themed workshop for young music-makers, aged about seven years old. One of the activities that I lead was creating a fireworks display using my favourite ad-hoc instrument of all – scrap paper!

I didn’t have a huge amount of scrap paper with me, so we only had a chance for one run-through before the performance at the end of the session. Here’s how it went;

We sat in a circle, about twenty of us, and I kept firm control of ALL the paper supplies to start with.

Once everyone was quiet, I took a sheet, and slowly tore a strip from the long side. We discussed the sound, and thought about what firework it might sound like. I tore off another couple of strips varying the speed, and we talked about the effect that had on the sound. Then I scrumpled all the strips together into a ball – more sound – and lobbed it into the centre to start building the bonfire.

paper tiger cub

I definitely had everyone’s attention! I gave them the usual warnings about paper cuts – Don’t run your fingers down the edge of the paper – and the fact that if they did get paper cuts then – well – they had been warned…

I handed out three sheets of paper each, and together we went through tearing, repeatedly scrumpling and unscrumpling (the paper becomes softer and makes gentler sounds), gripping a sheet by the short sides and making banging, snapping sounds by pulling sharply. The detritus was gently thrown into the middle to make a bonfire.

The children watched me with full concentration, following my every move, and ready to talk about the sounds before we started on the next piece of paper.

It was a great little activity, and when it came to the performance they repeated everything with just as much intent and care as before. Tidying up wasn’t too bad – we had less paper than last time, and it all went into the bin quite quickly

branch divider.


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