I’m going to use my website more to serve as a brain dump for my PhD musings on ‘composing in a hyperlocal environment’.

I’ve entered my second year of research and I’m currently thinking about the first year of fieldwork that has taken place. My project for-Wards is the main body of work, where 10 Brummie composers work in 10 Birmingham constituencies to co-create new music inspired by the locality. You can learn more here.

I will examine how a composer can create music that is ‘hyperlocal’ – a journalistic term relating to work that is specific to the matters concerning a small community or geographical area, through practice-led research.

I will examine the following sub-questions:

– How does a composer develop co-compositional methods via an examination and inclusion of socially engaged art methodologies to create hyperlocal art music?
– How does a composer of hyperlocal art music formulate suitable evaluation criteria to assess the efficacy of works of art created in this context?


Mission to the Land of Misplaced Words: “Shebeen Sounds”
Shebeen Sounds research period will collect, via audio and photographs, folk songs, music and the associated memories that accompany them. The audio will form the basis of a soundscape that is played throughout the public residency and the images will form part of the visual projections culminating in May 2016.

For Birmingham Heritage Week, as a Data Thief, I curated the launch of Shebeen Sounds, an experimental research project exploring the memories which reside in self-proclaimed cultural spaces, or “shebeens”, around Birmingham. We are going to work with Afro-Caribbean, Polish, Bangladeshi and Congolese communities to research and learn about their shebeen spaces. In May next year we will turn our findings into a piece of immersive sound and art.

At the launch event,  Shebeen Kings and Queens Caroline, Ken and Ian, told our guests about the project over Congolese tea, curry goat and rice and Polish cake.  I created pink noise for the memory collection room which was interspersed with cosmic themed DJ sets played by Gary and I. The aim was to immerse our guests into a chilled vibe to ease their memories being collected by Mission//Misplaced captain Gaylene Gould.

Here are some pictures from our launch event at Vivid Projects, taken by Marcin Szymczak.

the politics of friendship

many hands make light work is a piece about sharing the load.

props to all musicians involved; loz, anton and james.
thanks to cheryl at grand union and the grubby mitts for asking me to be the support act.

for its first incarnation we did well in such a short space of time and yay we didn’t burn down minerva works!

thanks to photographer david rowan for some top photos!


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Respek Vanley: Music Workshops 2 and 3 plus updates

Today’s workshop was great! 4 sessions to go before the big day!
There is no shortage of energy with this group, loads of personalities and ideas. I’d definitely describe this group as like an over-excited puppy, wanting to greet every passer-by with a nuzzle.

Continue reading “Respek Vanley: Music Workshops 2 and 3 plus updates”

Arts in a Cold Climate

This came through my inbox. If I wasn’t working in the capital I’d be all over this.

Arts in a cold climate: Should we all jump into bed together?
Date: 29th November, Time: 12-2pm, Location: Birmingham Hippodrome, Thorp Street, Pinsent
Masons Suite. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Funding bodies are signalling that
collaborative working across the arts will be a key to all our futures. This event will explore the
possibilities for closer working to improve efficiency and enhance creativity. Is collaboration the
answer? Please join us to discuss current initiatives and future possibilities.
Please RSVP to carolinedavis@birminghamhippodrome.com by 21 November.

Soulful Summer

Just completed a week of workshops for THSH and UFA, project was called Soulful summer.
I helped facilitate sessions based mainly on developing young people’s composition skills. I was blown away by the young people’s ideas and good vibes. Some of the feedback I got was great, and was nice to see some of the younger participants’ confidence really grow!

Here’s some audio:

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Safari Life: written in a day, based on a drum ostinato played in an improvised ostinato exercise I always use.

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Our version of Summer Time, I led the rhythm section, or they led me lol! Huw lead horns, Shereece led the singers.

Thanks to Katy G and Jan P for their assistance and support!

………….Only a few more days to go before I get some time off to develop my own creativity, yay!

Paganel Home Week Project

Today was the first of our “home week” sessions at Paganel school, and it was the first time I worked with Chris Bishop from BXL, who is a drama practitioner. This morning we worked with year 3, a lovely bunch of young people, with great ideas. We started with some icebreakers, bonding exercises, trying to learn names, although both Chris and I have confessed we are awful at this so name badges next week are a must!

As part of a reflection for the project we have to blog about our experiences, I normally reflect during certain milestones of a project,; (beginning, middle, end) so this process is new, but should be fine.

In retrospect, both Chris and I felt the session went well, we were able to create a buzz about the ‘home’ themed project, demonstrating the theme by bringing in realia; my items from home were; a Sainsbury’s shopping bag, photo of my family, and headphones. It was cool to get the young people guessing their significance, especially the shopping bag. We were concerned about the year 3s ability to think in more abstract terms about what ‘home’ signified, but some were able to do this, rather than just getting geographical and literal interpretations, some delved into the emotional side, and some the plain weird; dinosaurs!?! Chris brought in some of his late grandfather’s war medals which was really great for the participants to see, they had lots of curious questions.

We had limited time to get young people making drama and music performances, but in ten mins our 2 groups shared a performance based on their ideas of what home was. My group, explored the sounds of sisters, which included moaning, and chatting, fused with body percussion. I was impressed at how readily my group were to share their work and the feedback both groups gave was good; (initially one word answers), but I reckon once they get used to the process, we’ll get more specifics in their answers.

Chris’ group did freeze frames based on a story one of the young people shared about a dog that nearly got run over.

I think it was a successful start, the theme of the project and aims are known, although we had less time to work on devising performance work/ideas, we were able to produce something.

Year 4s session went really well too! Great answers, energy and was impressed with form tutor Dave leading the musical performance with some excellent conducting skills. He rose to the challenge, although nervous. Feedback was good, looking forward to next week!

Youth Inclusion Project – Respect Phase 3

I am working with young people in Shard End (labeled disaffected, disengaged, at risk of anti-social behaviour – negative or what!!)

Well, I think the young people are great, they make me smile loads!!

We are in the early stages of bonding and music making. The aim of the project is to raise aspirations for young people through the medium of music, in various capacities – discussion, mentoring etc.

Here is a track we messed around with yesterday, Mini-me on the mic. The vox is a bit low in the mix, but wanted to upload it anyways. It made me laugh hard!! Using MIDI I added some guitar heroesque solo – it is well cheesy!! Next step is to reduce the references to guns, violence, swear words and disrespect towards women. Aaron Yorke – fellow music mentor is crooning at the end!

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Celebrating Sanctuary

I went along to the Yardbird, Birmingham to DJ in between bands from all across the globe; celebrating in style the end of Refugee week. It was a wonderful opportunity for the breadth of talent residing (unfortunately in exile) in the second city to share music. There was Kurdish and Albanian folk, Afro fusion an Iranian Tar player and some local youth playing jazz and funk grooves.

I was particularly struck by the talent of percussionist Steve Yimga. He was wicked! Such energy, rhythmical prowess and commanding stage presence!!!

As my buddy Tone rightly pointed out, it was fascinating to be in a venue and witness grown men hold hands, dance, jump around and smile at one another. If folk music hadn’t disappeared from mainstream music culture, I wonder whether English men would be willing to dance together? Morris dancing anyone?

Birmingham Bloggers Meetup- 29.4.08

Last night I went along to the Birmingham Bloggers Meet-up as I heard lots of interesting things about the last one via twitter feeds and Brum blogs.

I wanted to rep the ladeez- since I heard few female bloggers had attended previous ones (for whatever valid reasons). I was also curious to meet other bloggers.

Demographics: mainly white, male, geek/tech-head; which as we all know isn’t representative of the multi-faceted, diverse world of blogging. I wonder what can be done to get different types of bloggers attend?

I arrived late (GCSE exams all day and after school commitments) and I didn’t really know where to put myself. No name badges? I was told that they had been used in previous meet-ups. I didn’t know very many people and it was hard to find an opening for networking.

I confess I didn’t stay too long- but my wisdom teeth were/are manic so went home for cocodamol!

What do the Brum Bloggers Meet-up organisers think about…

1. Bloggers speed dating? It could help bloggers who wouldn’t necessarily be paired together to share ideas. Have you done this already?

2. Lady bloggers meet-ups?

What is the overall aim for these gatherings? Is it just a social? Do they aim to do something groundbreaking? Hmmmmm.

Summer Beats- Hardly Any Sunshine

Been really busy of late delivering summer music workshops. It has been intense, and after a rockyish start, things have gone well. The outcomes have been produced and there have been some participants who have said complimentary things I wish were recorded. Speed garage is the genre of the day, from rock band compositions to young North Birmingham youth spitting on top of urban beats. The aim was to spend the first half of the week doing practical based workshops that explored black and urban styles and then later using the skills learnt to enhance musical compositions using music tech. The centre we are working with has a lovely studio setup with a recording booth. The problem is everyone wants to use the main G5 mac and not the other PCs becausd they did not have badass monitors.

It is funny how certain games that you think might not be fun for self conscious teenagers actually work- if you can sell it properly. The ‘Sun Shines On….’- proved to be a winner, as well as ‘Alien’- a truly silly game.

Enjoying what I am doing, but exhausted from having to continually motivate young people- I suppose that’s the job of any parent or teacher. My brain is drained.

I am thinking of bigger and better projects fusing together two musical industries that I am passionate about- classical and urban. I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve but will reveal them only when they take form. This sounds a lot more mysterious than it actually is.