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The Resonance of #Phonar

It all began at the HEA conference in July 2014. Jonathan Worth and I were both presenting on behalf of the Association of National Teaching Fellows, and blamo. I am a very confident person and I love (did I say love? – just checking, I meant to say LOVE) being on the stage, but ask me to talk to someone, and boy does that take courage. So, I plucked up the courage and said, (taking a deep breath, and trying to look normal) “I’d like to work with you on a project one day.”

and Jonathan said, “Drop me an email…”

The door opened. and I walked through.

That was the beginning of a great collaboration, and now I need to tell the backstory –

Last April, a very inspiring composer friend and colleague of mine – Jill Jarman – began to write a piece for me. She finished the first movement and gave it to me as a gift. as. a. gift. wow. (that is British understatement, the American in me says OH MY GOSH THAT IS SO COOL!) There are (or will be) two more movements, but I need to raise the funds or some sponsorship for those, but that is for another story… The piece of music is called Resonance and it is all about all the different sounds the cello can make – and it is meant to be visualised – you know, like with cymatics. Uber cool.

I got to talking with Jonathan about it, and played it to him one day at my house and then he had the idea that it would be great if his students could visualise it and create a sort of post-photographic portrait of the music as their final project for #Phonar. We both share a common ideology about collaborating and freedom of information – and on the back of that Jill (the composer) agreed that I could record the piece and release it under a Creative Commons license that allowed remixing – and that way the students could dream and make, and it would all be legit.

I made a trip to Coventry last December to see Jonathan’s students present their final work. It was a blast. I decided that something that would make my visit more meaningful was to give the students the chance to really experience the music, so I brought a van full of instruments and we played… It was supremely fun. At the time I mentioned that I had a concert at Chichester in February and that I would like to show some of the work while I played the piece live. -That event is happening this Thursday and today in preparation I was printing high quality photos from the students. The image in the poster is from one of the #Phonar students. There will be poster-sized photographic prints around the Chapel while I play and the audience will be able to access links and read about what the students were thinking. It is a chance for me to celebrate their work, and to reinforce the connection that we have had in sound, image, face to face, and now indirectly through an audience. As an effort to reach out and connect further, I recruited a couple of the university IT people to help me to set up live streaming for the concert. I use Panopto a lot (it is the system we have)- not really to record my lectures as it was intended, but for other things – reflection, student work, and I guess lectures too… but this time it will be to stream the concert.

So if you are free Thursday Feb 26th at 7:30 pm GMT, tune in on this link for an hour of music! Resonance is second on the programme, and will start about 5 minutes in, after a short vocalise for voice, cello, and piano. I can’t promise the sound or picture quality will be perfect, but that’s because it’s a first for me – gotta start somewhere!

Cello and voice poster

#Muisquality update

I was interviewed yesterday about the project – you know – this whole co-learning California recording music adventure that my students and I are going on – and I asked the people (who were from the International Office at my Uni) to please film a bit on my phone… The interview is going to be made into a 5 min description of the project – interspersed with photos from our fundraising efforts to date, and some of the things that have crossed the pond between learners.

This is what was on my phone:

We are going to launch a big fundraising campaign – a crowd sourced one, but in the meantime my students are writing to companies faster than I can type myself. It is hard work, but SO inspiring.

And just to report, so far they have repaid £593.68 of the bill for the airplane tickets. That is money received – there is more pledged. -Long way to go yet, but definitely not bad going!

Walking and talking and singing that song

This morning I did something and I’m not sure if I am crazy or stupid, or maybe a bit of both. What I am sure of is that I believe in this. I booked the 5 airplane tickets for a project, that might actually be a way of life that is beginning to spill out into other pursuits. It’s all about that self-actualisation and doing something that really has essence and meaning, and connecting. Don’t get me wrong, there is incredible meaning in the simplicity of a cup of tea, but sometimes there is also meaning when you (or me or a student or anyone) allows themselves to go beyond what they expected, what they thought they could do. (Photo CC licensed: http://bit.ly/1KT1eSb)

Laura Gibbs posted an article by Carole Dweck about the perspective on intelligence and it goes back to the concept of ability vs. capability that Frank Pajares put so well when contextualising how we look at self-efficacy. I love that. This whole project is about capability. I can. I dream, but also I can. I want to do, and very fortunately for me – in May I will be on a do-ing journey with 5 of my students. We will be working with dozens of other students and teachers too, to create, learn, teach, and make some music.

There are people asking how do we get out of the box. This is my out of the box – my striving to go beyond and do something else. To be quite honest, I don’t quite know where this will take us. We came up with a blurb, and have started raising the money to cover the costs, because let’s face it, students today don’t generally have the kind of money that just takes them 5,000 miles away to realise a collaborative dream. They are going to have to earn it, and I am going to work my socks off to make sure they are able to make the most of the opportunity.

We started with a vision that started as conversations between 5 teachers/professors working across 5 different disciplines and then over the months it has become more tangible and taken on a form of its own. Here’s the way my students and I decided to phrase our understanding of it:

This project is an educational initiative that is about open sourced learning (free and connected) where individuals pursue their goals with passion and the hope of being able to actualise their dreams. Working through music, we will teach, communicate, reaching out to making connections with people, learn new skills, and develop confidence. Working across cultures and outside the traditional educational learning environment.

We’re going to California! Oh My Goodness!!

The one thing we do know is that we are going to document the whole thing – and record – we’re going to make music – an album. That in itself is incredibly exciting. This all started as a project to connect and open learning. It is challenging me and my students to really use the skills we have, and go forward. We are really being like new children walking – we know there will be scabbed knees and we will trip up, but I am confident and inspired in what we have already done and I’m willing to dive in wholeheartedly to see where we can take this. We’ve turned our boxes into cars and planes and we’re off on one hell of a ride.

ps watch out for the hashtag #musiquality on future posts about this project including plans, connections, and our funding adventures/opportunities! I think I’m on bake sale duty again in 2 weeks time. My brownies and banana muffins were a hit 🙂

 

 

Connecting it up… testing, testing…

Tonight I had a visit from my sound guru, Richard Earnshaw, to advise me on sound equipment for the trip. What trip?? Well….

I’M TAKING 5 STUDENTS TO AMERICA IN MAY!

(I am afraid that is an all caps moment, and if you knew me you would hear it in my voice)

We have been working with a class outside of LA and it is all very exciting, and we are planning all sorts of things… For one, we are going to make an album as a result of our collaboration. The 6 from the UK will make a sort of string quartet (two cellos, a viola, and a violin), a guitar, and a vocalist. Besides being one of our chief cookie bakers for bake sales, I sorted out the audio equipment yesterday. In California, we will be recording on location in the fringes of Yosemite and are hoping to capture ambient sounds as well as interviews and music.

So back to Richard and audio equipment…

After talking about a few different mics and discussing how and where the recording would take place, we tested out this supremely cool little H4n zoom device. All by itself it sounds like this (well, Richard sounds like this when recorded on it, but you knew what I meant… and he is very silly -well worth a listen!)

and some talking…

and then we recorded a bit of cello using my very portable stereo mic to see how well it picked up the sounds and the ring (in my kitchen?? I am not quite sure how this compares to Yosemite, but it’s a start). It is going to be really important to be easy to set up- and we might well be hiking somewhere and need to record – and not having a tag-along crew, well you know. We thought this little setup might just do the trick.

Back to work for today. Meetings with students and planning and typing and practising 🙂 oh, and some baking. First bake sale is tomorrow!

Cello Weekend 2015 Join us!

Registration is open for this year’s Cello Weekend. Email me for details!

Connecting the dots

This year my students and I keep reaching out and opened doors, to see where it will take us. Before Christmas, as a creative exchange we sent various bits of recorded music to a class of art students. They listened to the music and they created. Nearly half a world away, receiving this 6 second video from the teacher made us feel like we were in the next room. Can’t wait to meet in person in May!