Thursday, 14 March 2013

Connect & Collaborate Across London Event at Shape Arts

In association with Drake Music and Shape Arts, visual / sound artist, producer, and filmmaker Ivan Riches presents Connect & Collaborate Across London, an event that brings music and technology together.

Assistive Music Technology (AMT), provides an industry that’s already competitive as it is, with endless opportunities for disabled musicians.

Together with Drake Music, disabled musicians can step into the spotlight while the skeptics witness and experience a brand new perspective on disability.

 Mik Scarlett, a disabled musician and the chair for this meeting has definitely passed his aspiration date, joining his first band ‘Outer Limits’ at 14 playing the keyboard. With years of musical experience proudly behind him, his passion for music is still alive, just as determined.

 There were a fair few bands in the mid 80s / early 90s that had disabled members. Bands like ‘Astrid, Freak UK, and Wild Style’ and Ian Dury and The Blockheads had disabled musicians who didn’t want to be known for their disability but for their music. It was a movement, it was mainstream, but, as Mik pointed out, just when you’re doing great and playing gig after gig, the marketing department of record companies were quick to reject bands with amazing talent. What was their excuse?  “How are we going to sell a wheelchair?”

Ladies and gentlemen, once again we have faced another barrier. This was and still is, one of the most disturbing reoccurrences that disabled people have to face on a daily basis.

Connect & Collaborate London reinforced what musicians can do with today’s amazing technology. The event included three in depth presentations on Assistive Music Technology (AMT). These were as follows; Apolo, iPad and Makey Makey.

Drake Music really opens a blind eye, proving that you can break down disabling barriers to music. With the use of iPads and its multi touch functionality, a sound is easily generated with one tap mechanism. The extraordinary Makey Makey, demonstrated by Associate musician / Associate national manager in research and development Gawain Hewitt. Using the human body as an instrument) and Apolo’s just as impressive one touch switch system that makes music.

On a personal level, I saw music with such a big horizon it amazed me! It’s such a breath of fresh air to know that people with disabilities no longer have to feel like the odd one out / isolated from their passion. Associate musician Gary Day’s demo of music apps for iOS really emphasized that there is something for everyone in all shapes and sizes. Garageband, Thumb Jam, Borderlandz, and other apps suggested it was only the beginning of a beautiful and bright musical future. These technologies could really pave the way for up and coming ideas.  I really do think this could open a whole new genre of performance arts in itself. Uniting as one - disabled artists with non-disabled ones.

The day concluded with an open discussion dealing with overcoming the day-to-day barriers disabled musicians come across. You could sense a change is going to take place. Expanding on the Connect & Collaborate London section of the Drake Music website. Possible developments include artist profiles, which will allow musicians to showcase their material and individual skills. This means artists may be able to collaborate and skill-swap on new and exciting projects in the future. With a view to monthly or bimonthly basis, meetings / drop in sessions taking place, in order to facilitate artists with problems that may occur. Furthermore, suggesting ideas that will benefit one another. In addition, users can participate and communicate with each other using forums / discussion panel. Here, users can express their views / opinions on difficulties in embracing their ultimate career goal. It will of course be heavily music oriented, and focus on specific areas within music such as genre, e.g. how we combine AMT with folk / jazz etc. without it sounding the same. Communication is the ultimate key. Aside from genre, the group also suggested combining AMT with other performing arts like dance, theatre and film using ‘Makey Makey’. Something as inspiring as this could start a brand new genre within performing arts. An idea such as this really stands out, and leaves a strong impression.

Throughout this event there was one statement that remained overpowering.  “Creativity over disability!” Creative minds always push through, no matter how big the barrier is. Disability will always take a back seat while creativity embraces the spotlight!

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