From music composition to community music
Community music is gradually gaining ground in Britain. Among the most famous examples are More Music Morecombe (www.moremusic.org.uk) and Sistema Scotland (http://makeabignoise.org.uk). As a music composition and drawing student with the OCA, my interest in conceptual and socially engaged art has inspired me to develop my own interpretation of community music.
My professional background is in community development and I’ve always been interested in how communities function. For communities to take initiative themselves, residents need to know each other and share a strong sense-of-community. Carefully thought-out community music initiatives can contribute to this.
With this in mind I started a community music project (Music for Communities) in my own community, together with community artist Norma Hunter and the local heritage centre. Realising that we were approaching the 30th anniversary of the closure of our local paper mill we set out to capture the memories of former employees through memory-sharing workshops, after which my task was to turn these into three songs (click here) for a come-and-sing event with the former employees and the wider community. Long-term residents and people who moved to the village more recently met each other face-to-face in the come-and-sing event, sharing the memories of the mill and in turn creating a new memory.
This interpretation of community music is different from that of More Music Morecombe and Sistema Scotland as the aim is not so much to provide classes or increase people’s musical ability, but to use music as a trigger to bring people together to create a dialogue, a story people can relate to and that reinforces their sense-of-community.
My approach to community music is inspired by socially engaged arts that stressed that dialogue itself can be seen as a form of art. Music can contribute to community development as it can trigger dialogue among community members. Yet, I find that I need words to complement the moods and atmospheres that music expresses. This is the reason why I often turn to writing songs, but in the future I may well combine music and poetry or storytelling. For a community music project to enhance people’s sense-of-community, the dialogue should be between the musician and the participants, but most of all between the participants themselves. Community music should be music for and with communities, a shared experience in which people participate actively.
To read more about my work, please visit www.musicforcommunities.blogspot.com.