The first time I went to St Ignatius College, Tal-Ħandaq Secondary School, Qormi I got lost. The school, a brand new complex, is tucked away in a largely industrial and dare I add shabby area. It did not look particularly encouraging when embarking on a project where architecture is such a key factor. And there wasn’t much by way of music around either.
If the area is far from welcoming, the school itself is a completely different story. The school is spacious and well lit; a stark contrast to its environs. Perhaps all this might seem irrelevant to the project, but now that we are in the third year of KantaKantun, I realise more and more how important the learning environment is in a child’s education.
The students all came from the surrounding areas, predominantly Siġġiewi and Qormi. This meant that some were used to a very rural environment, whereas others were more familiar with the heavily populated central areas. It was thus rather difficult for the latter to conceive architecture as space, when so much of it seemed to be lacking in their environment.
The opening session revolved a lot around Iannis Xenakis, and his Phillips Pavilion and his piece Metastaseis. I admit this was a bit of a gamble. Throwing a wildly atonal piece at a group of 12 year olds was risky, but they listened to it without complaint. We discussed the piece at some length, and I was amazed at how they embraced the piece, even though it struck them as being dissonant.
The trip around Qormi was also very enlightening. Once again we were faced with stark contrasts; the historic centre which is mainly within the parish of St George, and the newer areas within the parish of St Sebastian. Yet even here we found the old and the new intermingling with each other, and not always happily so. Unfortunately the rain disrupted a part of the tour, but we managed to find shelter at the Police Station and had the opportunity to admire the interior of this beautiful 18th century edifice.
The following day we worked on the tour around Qormi and chose the most striking sights to turn into a soundscape. The imposing churches of St George and St Sebastian featured prominently, as did the Police Station and Pinto’s Loggia. With the use of simple vocal sounds and percussion they created a soundscape which included fireworks, bells, and a full blown police raid!
The final stage involved the students listening to a soundscape created by another school and creating their own imaginary landscapes which could have inspired those sounds. These designs were then blown up onto large cardboard sheets which the students then painted in bright colours. This year we decided to change the installation, and instead of working on boxes (inspired by the idea of building blocks and blocks of houses), we worked on screens and the idea of manipulating a space by rearranging screens.
KantaKantun has now reached its halfway point, and looking back the starting point already seems far away. The project has grown from a simple idea, that of combining music and space, into an intricate web of ideas and connections. The journey ahead of us is exciting, and it will continue well beyond 2018.