Yesterday a visited Acorn Farm. The farm runs a brilliant day service for people with learning disabilities, some of whom will be taking part in my forthcoming sound based workshop. This workshop is part of the research for my Heart of Glass residency.
Working alongside technologist Kris Gjerstad, we will be focusing on different ways of communication and challenging perceptions about who who is allowed to speak. We will also be exploring the work I have been doing with Gareth Cutter, i.e. the voice in fairytales and future ways of talking.
Whilst I was at the farm I recorded some sound using my newly purchased Zoom H5 Recorder. Here is a short sound mix from the field recordings I made during my visit!
Last week I delivered a presentation about my arts practice for Heart of Glass. Heart of Glass are an arts organisation based in St Helens with a focus on collaborative and social arts practice. They recently commissioned me to work on a research residency which will take place from February to April 2019.
Working alongside Emily Gee (Heart of Glass Producer) and local disabled people, I will be investigating new possibilities of articulations beyond traditional art world paradigms.
I will also be exploring issues of power, voices and intersectionality through collaborative workshops, studio time and research visits.
Watch this space for more blogs about this exciting action research.
BBC article from 14 years ago (gulp) about my ‘Old Skool’ club night Virtual Itch and the club’s resident disabled DJs.
“He lifts the needle onto the record, throws the record down and up to mix it into the next record using his chin, and then manipulates the controls using his mouth – it’s gobsmacking. The women just love him!”
A while ago I was interviewed by the very talented Irish composer Ailís Ní Ríain for the British Music Collection – a collaborative project between Sound and Music and Huddersfield University.
Today I stumbled across this interview on the BMC website …
The focus of this interview is the Manchester based digital story-teller and sound-artist, Gemma Nash. I became aware of Gemma when she interviewed for a place on Sound and Music’s Pathways Programme. I was on the interviewing panel and was intrigued by the strong political and social narrative in her sound work….
There were lots of interesting speakers at the celebration talking about a wide range of empowering projects. I was particularly impressed by the young women from Manchester’s Women Making History project talking passionately about international and domestic ‘period poverty’. This was a subject I briefly touched upon in my sound piece about disabled women’s health.
Disabled women’s healthcare is also a topic that BreakthroughUK is addressing through their health screening workshops. Running at the same time as D3 these initiatives will support, encourage and empower local disabled women to take action and become more politically active.
D3:Democracy Disability & Devolution
Supporting disabled women to get involved in the political process is so important because we are particularly underrepresented.
According to the Fawcett Society only TWO women MPs identify as being disabled people – under half a percent of the House of Commons! Yet the ONS estimates that approximately 8% of the working age population are disabled women.
Our lack of representation can be partly attributed to a global culture of misogynism within the political process. But I also think we face a hybrid form of misogynism, as illustrated by the awful sexism and ableism Freyja Haraldsdóttir recently experienced from other Icelandic MPs.
This intersection of misogyny and ableism is apparent within all aspects of the political process – from voting to standing in elected office.
In the UK there has even been issues at AWS (All Women Shortlists), such as the lack of step free speaking platforms and ableist attitudes. For example, one AWS candidate kept emphasising her ‘physical prowess’ during Hustings. A debating tactic which would be questioned, at the very least, if she was emphasising being white or heterosexual etc .
We have a political culture of macho-ableism which favours the loudest, rather than the most suitable, candidate. Alongside the lack of basic adjustments, this sends the message that disabled women are not expected to be part of the political process.
Recently this problem has been highlighted by shadow minister Marsha de Cordova after House of Commons authorities provided an inaccessible meeting room for an event being held to celebrate the UN’s international day of disabled people!
Hopefully initiatives like D3 and VoiceBox Cafes will go some way in changing this status quo.
For more information about D3 please see the Breakthrough website: https://www.breakthrough-uk.co.uk/democracy-disability-devolution.
Really so pleased that @gareth.c.cutter and myself have been shortlisted for an Unlimited Emerging Artist Award. Quite the list to be alongside!
It’s been an amazing journey so far with the kind support of Metal Culture, Sound and Music, Arts Council England.
“The statistics don’t really do the breadth of ideas justice … there is more music and sound work to be found in the combined arts – with Encounter Productions’ Deaf Choir, Cutter and Nash’s exploration of myths and future possibilities of the (non-normative) voice through sound art and music.”
To mark UKDHM I talk with Ben Lunn on his composition ‘T-4’, commissioned by Drake Music and set to be performed at DaDaFest. The work explores the history of Aktion T4 and how it parallels today’s austerity.
Step into a world of sound with Sonic Pixels. Wander through the stunning Victorian shopping mall, trigger speakers in real-time and experience what it feels like to be right at the heart of sonic compositions.
Working alongside Cornbrook Creative, my latest sound piece is a feminist interpretation of Barton Arcade.
Built in 1871, you might think of Barton Arcade as typifying the luxury culture of the nineteenth century, with a carriage entrance and raw iron gates. It is certainly not considered a particularly radical space. However, like many other similar arcades it was once one of the few places women could move freely without being chaperoned by a man.
Historian Erika Diane Rappaport explains that it was during this period that ‘a family’s respectability and social position depended upon the idea that the middle-class wife and daughter remain apart from the market, politics, and public space’. Shopping itself may have been fetishized into women’s greatest pleasure, but for many middle-class housewives in Victorian Britain, shopping was their first taste of real freedom and therefore marked the starting point for their push into public life. Barton Arcade was a place in which, for the first time, women were able to share ideas and meet in public without being accompanied by a man.
Whether it was the Women’s Emergency Corps meetings, Pankhurst’s shopping trips, or women pick-pockets, my piece will explore the secret history of radical women shoppers. Using archived materials, and “found” sounds, I will re-imagine the groups who met here; the conversations that may have taken place and bring to life the stories of the women that occupied this space.
Gareth Cutter and myself have been exploring voice in all its many guises: in classic literature (the Tower of Babel, Echo the nymph, The Little Mermaid), contemporary science and technology (for instance, Voice Banks where you can ‘donate’ your voice to someone without speech), and sociology (‘huh?’ as the only universal word shared across all cultures; dysfluency power). And we’ve been imagining what the voice might be like in the future, as above.
Back in 2015 Drake Music launched their DM Lab project in Manchester. The aim was to nuture a community of hackers/makers/coders interested in developing new musical instruments, ideas and technology to remove barriers experienced by disabled musicians.
As a sound artist, I was intrigued by the proposition of meeting like-minded people, so I went along to the first few sessions at Madlab and enjoyed meeting the group. The sessions continued on a monthly basis, and over time we all got to know each other a bit better.
Two years later, DM scored some funding to develop the project further. They launched a commission opportunity, dubbed the DM Lab North West Challenge, designed to stimulate further cross-pollination of disabled musicians and the hacking/making community.
4 commissions of £700 were up for grabs. These would be awarded to 4 new teams to create a new accessible instruments or tech. Each team had to be made up of at least one disabled musician and one hacker/coder/maker. The teams were tasked with coming up with an idea, and then a proposal to submit to the team at Drake Music. 4 winning teams would be commissioned.
Following on from conversations I’d had in the group DM Lab sessions, a team grew around me (Lewis Sykes – technologist/musician, Mike Cook – electronics expert, James Medd – musician/educator and technical coordinator at Eagle Labs and Craig Howlett – sound engineer) and the idea for the Nashesizer emerged.
For a while I had been frustrated by the digital audio workstations I had been using due to their inaccessibility. I have cerebral palsy, and this means fiddly mouse movements, swipes, taps and other commons gestural control actions can be a barrier for me.
For normal computer use, I use a trackball instead of a mouse and was hoping that for the DM Lab Challenge we could develop a MIDI controller/ DAW interface that may, for example, feature a trackball, as well as other more accessible controllers, so I can move freely, and quickly around the screen. No one wants their creativity hampered by clunky equipment.
This marked the beginning of a fascinating journey for myself and the team. In the first instance, we put the proposal into Drake Music and won one of the 4 commissions of £700. The only catch was we only had 4 weeks to make it!
An early version of the Nashesizer was showcased at a public launch for the DM Lab Challenge at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.
The response we got at this event was fantastic. We garnered a number of questions from audience members that gave us pause for thought, and helped us to understand the potential the Nashesizer might have for other producers with similar barriers. Not long after this, I put an application in to Sound and Music, and successfully scored a further £5k to develop our idea.
Prior to my involvement in the Nashesizer project, I had favoured Studio One as a DAW, but for a while I’d been wanting to explore Ableton Live, and so it is primarily Ableton that the Nashesizer has been designed to interface with.
Our first proof of concept, therefore, featured a joystick that could be moved to select tracks in Ableton and move around the screen easily. There is also a rotary encoder (chunky dial) that can be used, for example, to increase/decrease volume, pan left to right and increase/decrease signals to sends when using effects such as reverb.
Both these ‘knobs’ have been designed using the 3D printers that were kindly made available to us by the DM Lab group’s current home Eagle Labs, Salford.
Eagle Labs have been an important part of this story. They are an organisation, sponsored by Barclays Bank, with a commitment to ‘fostering innovation and facilitating inclusive, shared growth for all across our communities’.
James Medd, who is on the Nashesizer team, runs the community space at Eagle Labs used by DM Lab, and has been a very positive influence on the project so far.
In addition to the joystick and rotary, we are also aiming to give the Nashesizer some form of gestural controller i.e. a sensor that would respond to hovering hand gestures, rather than touch. We have also talked about a touch screen, although this would have to be large to work for me.
The grant from Sound and Music has allowed us to purchase much needed materials to test, and the process is very much one of trial and error. Each iteration will take time for me to experiment with and report back on.