Arguably one of my all time top 10 pieces of music, Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 from the New World (New World Symphony) is a tongue in cheek reference to my current thoughts, feelings and ambitions for my own music. More of which I will discuss in this and subsequent posts.
Since the early 1980s and my time with My Pierrot Dolls and Scaramouche, the only involvement I have had in the music scene was a brief spell with a wonderful arts group – Action Space Mobile, that sadly, has recently disbanded (*) due to lack of core funding from the Arts Council. I worked on a freelance basis for the group developing business plans, submitting funding applications and developing marketing strategies however, it was one of those organisations where everyone mucked in. If there was work to be done, we joined in. Action Space Mobile worked in the community, in the main with vulnerable groups. They facilitated personal and community growth through combined arts many of such initiatives were music based.
One session during a residential workshop with adults who had learning difficulties really stood out as a life changing experience for me. I had gone along to help out and get a better feel for the work as this was important in my role when submitting funding proposals. One quiet Saturday afternoon, the 4 arts workers, about 20 adults with varying degrees of learning difficulties and myself gathered in the large function room for a music session. The idea was simple, led by Tim, who played the guitar, we would all pick instruments of our own choosing and we would have a free for all jam session. There were cymbals, drums, kazoos, glockenspiels, triangles, maracas and a whole host of exotic instruments and percussion. Tim started by playing a few simple chords, someone banged a drum, another a triangle, another clapped, someone sang out. Each of us tested out our instruments as and when we felt enough confidence to join in, at first, it was a racket, it was random, tuneless and without cohesion. As the minutes passed, the group became an ensemble, the random notes, noises and rhythms began to gel and what was at first chaos, transitioned into order. As each member found their voice, the music evolved into a symphony that grew and went from strength to strength, receded into tranquillity and mindfulness before yet again swelling to crescendos, highs and lows, light and dark, joy and sadness. Chills ran up and down my spine as I looked around and saw the joy and sense of achievement on each and every face. The symphony went on for over 45 minutes, ending in an unrehearsed, perfectly timed finale quickly followed by spontaneous cries of joy, laughter, tears and elation. An amazing experience that demonstrated the power of music on so many levels. It was cathartic for everyone there, each of us taken on a personal journey to our own destination in the company of friends and like minds. Several members of that group went on to form a band and play at various venues – great advocates for people with learning difficulties.
Without doubt the workshop renewed my interest in music and reminded me of the power that music can wield. How it can manipulate our emotions, how it can make our heart race or bring joy, calm, sadness. Music can invoke memories, it can make take you to another place and it is a common language that has no boundaries except those made by others who wish to impose them. Mostly, it reminded me of how much I missed making music.
For the next 10 years, work got in the way and it wasn’t until two years ago I had the opportunity to begin to dabble again. Time and technology had brought about massive changes in the range of equipment and the opportunities to record and distribute or share music. It was a new world. Feeling somewhat intimidated, I decided that research into what was available that would suit the abilities of a non-musician technically competent muso was too confusing so I plumped for a simple midi controller keyboard and some free software that came with it. Hooking it up to the PC, watching a few YouTube videos and hey presto, I was making music.
As I approached my new adventures in creating music I brought with me many lessons learnt along the way. Three of those lessons stand out and currently influence my approach:
- Enjoy what I do and don’t take it all too serious – the reality is I am not likely to make any money from my music, I ain’t going to be a star and most people will not encourage or even acknowledge what I do, so…
- Do what feels right and don’t be constrained by trying to fit a particular genre or trend, express myself within my own frame of reference and trust the belief that if I like something I create, if it sparks my imagination of touches my emotions then someone else might also experience positive or similar responses.
- Never cast a shadow on another person’s dream and where possible, light the way, you might be surprised.
Here is the very first track I produced two years ago after all those years not making music:
* Footnote: Action Space Mobile – https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/special/actionspace