Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Adopt a Composer Project with Making Music 

The launch of Adopt a Composer saw a beautiful crisp autumnal day. As I hurtled towards St Martin’s through the familiar tunnels bisecting London’s rich clay, I felt nervous and excited about this new challenge. On more than one occasion it has dawned on me that I have said yes to something about which I have no details. Who? What? Where? When? How? All are blank. It’s like I’m travelling blindfolded, through these dark tunnels. I blearily alight into the crisp autumn sun and after a few moments of steeling myself, descend into the crypt.

Scary things happen in crypts, but this was not one of them. A lovely bunch of people who, in all honesty, only have one thing in common, and it’s the one thing we are not allowed to talk about! Discussion quickly descends to puppies and the buffet.

Making music provide a warm welcome and a broad introduction to the project through videos, talks and Q&A sessions, all the time we are waiting excitedly and nervously to see who we will be matched with. I have an inkling, as earlier on I had broken the coat rack (oops) within eavesdropping distance of a warm Welsh accent. True to my guess, these tones belonged to Charlotte from Ty Cerdd.

Ty Cerdd are a really interesting organisation, spanning the whole of Wales, with an emphasis on community and education music. Charlotte was really keen to involve some form of intergenerational aspect to the project. I had been considering a walking based composition, based on the landscapes. Some of my previous works are based on 24 hours in a given location. I fold in research about the social history, my impressions of the landscape and found sounds which I record and electronically manipulate into the music.

I had to have pity for my wonderful new mentor David Horne, sandwiched between two enthusiastic Welsh women trying to get a word in edgeways! Sometimes you meet people and ideas just flow, this was one of those. 45 minutes since we had met, Charlotte and I had started to sculpt something which incorporated our two ideas, looked practical, and exciting.

Our project blurb was drawn up to cement the ideas.

Cerdd/ed - (working title)

Cerdd/ed is the collaboration of Ty Cerdd with composer Amble Skuse. 

Cerdd/ed links local primary schools with community ensembles to explore local history and create a tailor made composition, drawing from the stories of the local environment, inspiration from walking and found sounds generated by the children. The piece will be available to the 'audience' as a site specific piece as part of a local history walk. 

Amble Skuse will work with the community music group to explore their memories of their town, using their photographs, stories, memories and old newspaper reports, we will create a locally generated memory map, based on the locations. In collaboration with the group, Amble will develop a walk around sites of interest, mapping memory, and retaking old photographs where possible. This walk, along with the source material will form the basis for Amble's composition.

Ty Cerdd will create a teachers pack for the partner primary school to explore ways in which sound and stories can generate musical material. It is envisaged that the community group will perform a short assembly to the children to introduce the partnership, and then the teachers will work through the education pack, exploring found sound, and making poetry from landscape and stories. 

The children will then set out on the walk trail, with hand held recorders to bring back snap shots of exciting sounds they find along with way. The children will also be encouraged to take photographs, and write down any phrases which strike them from the landscape. The teachers’ pack will support classroom teachers in creating 'contemporary' compositions in the classroom from the inspiration found on the walk. 

The material generated by the children, will feed in to Amble's composition, using the found sound, and processing it into electronically generated location specific noise. Amble will write a piece which allows the community group and the school to perform together, along with the electronics. 

The performance of the piece will be recorded by Ty Cerdd and turned into an mp3. 

Amble will create a website, detailing the route of the walk, along with interesting social and oral history relevant to the town. Alongside this will be photos, old and new. The route will be downloadable as a PDF map and directions, with 'treasure hunt clues' which will lead the walkers/audience to a series of geocaches. At the geocaches, walkers/audience will find the links to the mp3, along with snippets of oral history. This will allow the walkers / audience to listen to the recording in a site specific way through a G3 enabled phone.“

We retreated to our geographical locations to begin working on the project, Charlotte to find groups to work with, and me, to design the website, prepare the group materials and do some serious Welsh research. It’s such a blessing, this project as it enables me to rediscover the landscape and history of the country I call home. I’ve been gorging on history books, Gwynfor Evans, walking books and old photographs of the Rhondda, a friend even sent me a dragon cookie cutter (although I’m not sure how we can work this into the project yet!). My Tonypandy Mam is most excited and can’t wait to get on the phone to the relatives about it all.

We’ve sketched out a few dates for a visit, and my next job is to design myself a programme of activities, interviews, visits, extracts, questionnaires, and walks to do while I’m there. Now I just have to see how many more Welsh language lessons I can squeeze in before my trip! Gyffrous iawn!