16 08 2012

TitlePolyrhythm by Callie Dean

Medium: audio storytelling

Topic Abstract:

Polyrhythm features three separate short stories, told from three different perspectives:

1.     “Hopscotch” is narrated by a young girl, who draws pictures with sidewalk chalk. Meanwhile, the children around her fill the pavement with profanity.

2.     “Polygons” is told from the perspective of an older teen, who mentors a young boy and uses art to teach him math.

3.     “Joy, All Day Long” describes a concert hosted by a Salvation Army choir.

All three stories are based on experiences from a middle school mission trip to Houston, Texas, which I led last month. In the final piece, the stories weave in and out among each other, creating a composite narrative that is quite different from any individual component.


Each story represents a different stage in the Arts in Redemptive Transformation model, as described by J. Nathan Corbitt and Vivian Nix-Early (2003) in their book Taking It To the Streets: critical awareness (“Hopscotch”), working out (“Polygons”), and celebration (“Joy, All Day Long”). The “working out” stage is where the most significant changes occur; the second story particularly focuses on relationships as an essential element in fostering holistic learning and development. Polyrhythm demonstrates how the arts can play a crucial role during all stages of transformation: the first two stories employ the visual arts, while the third centers around music.

If told linearly, the perspectives of the three stories demonstrate a progression of age, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. This sequence suggests that the process of transformation facilitates growth, from the “old state” to the “new state” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003). However, the intersections of the stories also show that it is possible for all three stages to occur simultaneously. For example, one might reach critical awareness about a particular issue while celebrating success in another.

One additional, overarching theme is the complex role that outsiders play in a community’s transformation process. Unintentionally, power dynamics between insiders and outsiders can come in direct conflict with stated goals of “pluralism, participation, and equity” (Goldbard, 2006, p. 82). In “Hopscotch,” the child is not bothered by the words on the pavement; it is the middle school students who are shocked by the profanity and seek to clean it up. Although the narrator in “Polygons” is a necessary catalyst for change in the boy’s life, it is unclear how long her impact will last. The concert in “Joy, All Day Long” is initiated and led by the community members; they choose to let outsiders participate and share in their celebration. This experience results in renewal for audience and choir alike.  


The idea for this piece took shape during the Salvation Army concert; inspired by the music, I captured audio recordings with my phone. When I returned home from trips to Houston and to Chicago, I began writing about our many experiences and eventually narrowed down my choices to three representative stories. I narrated one story and enlisted the help of neighbors in my home community to read the other two stories. Digital editing and mixing was completed using Garage Band.

Intended Audience:

Although all three stories are based on religious experiences, I crafted the narratives so that they would be accessible in a civic context, as well.


I struggled to write “Hopscotch” from the perspective of a young child. Because I intended for an actual child to narrate the story, I did not want to be too explicit in my word choices, although the character logically would have had no qualms about saying curse words. Recording with children was also difficult; I ending up recording this story six times, with two different children, and even the best take required a great deal of editing.

The other technical challenge was incorporating my documentary footage from the Salvation Army concert; the recording quality from my phone was very low, but I decided it was important to include the original songs in the piece.

Audio File:

Polyrhythm by Callie Dean


Corbitt, J. N., & Nix-Early, V. (2003). Taking it to the streets: Using the arts to transform your community. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks.

Goldbard, Arlene (2006). New creative community: The art of cultural development. Oakland, CA: New Village Press.  




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