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.
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….
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.”
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 female pick-pockets, my piece will explore the secret history of the radical female shopper. 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.
After singing pop songs Amy Coombe’s interactive ‘Google classroom’ session at this year’s Music Learning Revolution conference, Shawn Mendes’ ‘Treat You Better’ has been on loop in my head. However ‘Treat you Better’ was certainly not the only memorable aspect of this years MLR.
Meet, make music and network …
MLR is a conference for anybody working in music education, and prides itself on being somewhat of an Unconference, providing a creative setting for practitioners to meet, make music and network.
From a keynote speech by Radio 1 DJ Hew Stephens to a flamboyant fast paced ‘Gareth Malone’ style ensemble by pianist Adam Saunders, inclusion was a common theme throughout the conference. However I’m not sure the needs of disabled children were always considered when presenters talked about ‘inclusion’ – which is ironic given that inclusion is a term championed by disability rights advocates.
Very few of the workshops I attended made reference to the needs of disabled children – for example, Adam Saunders’ ‘On Cue’ ensemble. This 7-step approach to learning musical content utilises body percussion, vocalising, singing and playing by ear. And whilst this session certainly addressed some inclusion problems, as it didn’t require either note reading abilities or instrumental skills, it involved robust physical and mental abilities. In it’s current format, this would present disabling barriers for many of the children Drake Music work with.
So, it was good to see Drake Music’s Open Space Session – Imagination and Rigour – which was about overcoming disabling barriers within music education. Led by Jocelyn Watkins and Jonathon Westrup, this session focused on how to assess and accredit music in Special Schools. Jocelyn and Jonathan spoke about the Compose and Perform music qualification developed by Drake Music.
Compose, perform and include …
An Open College Network qualification, Compose and Perform has three levels. The highest level, level two is equivalent to GCSE grade A-C. Students complete four units: Music Skills for performance; Creating Soundtracks for Films; Writing Music Down and Composing Music using Chance Methods.
The qualification is very much part of the Think2020 initiative which aims to increase musical opportunities for disabled children and young people through strategic and sustainable partnership work in the music education sector.
For me, the Drake Music Open Space Session almost felt like a bit of a fringe event, unintentionally isolated from the other sessions. This was a shame because the participants obviously enjoyed the session, and there were people there who hadn’t necessarily been to a Drake Music workshop before.
I wonder if maybe a way to attract a bigger audience to this session, would be for Drake Music to run a workshop in collaboration with another organisation with a more mainstream appeal?
Choose ‘the arts’ or ‘the sciences’ …
One of the presentations I found really interesting was David M Howar’s talk on music, creativity and engineering. Howard spoke about how children often have to choose between arts or science based subjects at A-level. He believes that this ‘choice’ exacerbates our dwindling number of engineers. He also spoke about the lack of female engineers, and how mixing up subjects like Music and Engineering, make Engineering more appealing to a wider number if students
The false dichotomy of choosing between ‘the arts’ or ‘the sciences’ is in many ways nonsensical, when in Howard’s own words ‘creativity underpins ingenuity which sparks invention…’
Although the talk wasn’t specifically referring to disability, I could relate to the limitations of having to choose between perceivably different subjects because of my physical impairment. When talking to other disabled artists, this is quite a common problem across a range of abilities, and continues to be the case.
Which is why initiatives like Drake Music’s ‘Compose and perform’ qualification are so important for achieving real inclusivity and ‘doing better’.
Blog commissioned by Drake Music, October 2016
Cause I know I can treat you better than he can And any girl like you deserves a gentleman Tell me why are we wasting time On all your wasted crying When you should be with me instead I know I can treat you better Better than he can Better than he can Better than he can