The naming of the thing

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog from last week, and I have to confess that I may need to go back to that ‘I make music for a living’ statement. It’s not that it’s inaccurate, more that it doesn’t actually cover the most important aspect of  how I make music for a living.

I’ve already discussed in previous blogs what I do, and to some extent what I don’t do. This came up in conversation when speaking to a new client a couple of weeks ago, who asked if I did Music Therapy. In the strictest sense, what I do isn’t music therapy although it shares many of its goals and methods. But to be a qualified music therapist requires years of theoretical study, and a musical proficiency on conventional instruments that remains a barrier to me.

What I do instead doesn’t really have a name yet, and that’s part of the problem. What I’m very good at is taking my 30-odd years of knowledge and love of electronic music and bringing it to bear on the core belief I have that literally everyone has the potential for artistic expression through music – if given the right instrument.

So whilst part of what I do is make music for a living, increasingly, and I feel perhaps more importantly, my job is also to research different ways of making music, and then modify, tweak, hack or build them to the specific needs of those that I work with.

There was a perfect example of this work over the last week. I had done a one to one session with a new client – let’s call her Cee – who has Multiple Sclerosis. She has limited movement, which renders most musical instruments impossible for her to hold, let alone play. In the first session, where I had experimented with some movement based instruments like SoundBeam, I noticed that she had a strong grip in both hands. In between the first and second sessions, I built a music controller that was based on pressure.

What followed was almost unbelievable. Cee was controlling the pitch of a sound through pressure whilst I joined in on keyboard and guitar, playing call and response phrases and pitching notes. She then went on to add movement with her head to play the SoundBeam at the same time, effectively acting as a one-person band.

I’m not the only one doing this sort of work or realising this need – aside from the outstanding work that Drake Music, BPM and similar organisations are doing, there are several inventors and musicians creating exciting projects that have the potential to re-shape music performance. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Firstly, Imogen Heap and her MiMu gloves:

More info here.

And secondly, a Kickstarter for Dato Duo – a synthesiser designed for two younger people to play together:

More info and Kickstarter here.

Part of my goal is to make myself obsolete, which might sound like a strange endgame, but hear me out… What I would ideally like to do is to work with people who want to make music and help to break down any and all of the barriers they face, be they physical, emotional or behavioural, but then to give them the tools to make music as independently as possible rather than relying on me and my boxes of tricks. What I’d like to move towards with everyone I work with is to find inexpensive and simple ways that everyone can make music so that they can do so whenever the muse takes them, not just for the hour or so when I’m in the room. Music can change lives, but I believe that to unlock its full potential, people need to have access to music making all the time, not just in workshop sessions.

So, what do I do for a living? I’m still not sure what to put on the next lot of business cards. My friend Rodney Orpheus defines himself as a ‘Technology Evangelist’ and I am very fond of that title. So with his permission I might have to borrow that until I can think of something better myself.

Forthcoming events:

Saturday 18th June, 6pm – 10pm
‘PRESERVATION’ – The Wilson Art Gallery Takeover
temp0rary performing ‘Suggestion Box’ – a long-form silent disco performance with audience interaction
Wilson Art Gallery, Cheltenham
Free Entry

Saturday 9th July (Time TBC)
The Great Gamelan Experiment
Performing with a gamelan orchestra and live electronics
Imperial Gardens, Cheltenham, as part of Cheltenham Music Festival
Free Entry

Sunday 10th July (Time TBC)
Live Electronic Music show & tell
Imperial Gardens, Cheltenham, as part of Cheltenham Music Festival
Free Entry

Saturday 16th July, 7.30 – 10.30pm
Sunset Lumiere
temp0rary performing a full A/V set with very special guests TBC
Skillicorne Gardens (next to Imperial Gardens), Cheltenham, as part of Cheltenham Music Festival
Free Entry

Sunday July 31st, 6pm
Dali Males
Performing improvised electronics as part of Vinestock Festival 2016
The Vine, Cheltenham
Free Entry

Monday August 8th – Friday August 12th
Mix & Mash summer school
Friendship Café, Gloucester
£55 for 5 days
See The Music Works website for details