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Charlie Bramley - Portfolio of Practice-Led Research

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Charlie Bramley

on 28 November 2016

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Transcript of Charlie Bramley - Portfolio of Practice-Led Research

un-Musical activism
un-Musical Project
PhD practice-led research. I recruited 4 core participants who identified themselves as 'non-musicians'. I then worked with them on what their objectives were, and we worked through a series of music-making workshops in which I introduced them to improvised music-making, including recording sessions and live performances. They were then encouraged to begin developing their own long-term engagement as part of the improvised music scene in Newcastle. One of the participants' feedback included the following summary:

"By the age of 30, I'd lost all nerve and given up on playing music. Even just being near an instrument in the company of a 'musician' dried my mouth and scared the hell out of me. I'd tried so hard and failed!
The first [unmusical] workshop was terrifying! A room full of instruments. Once I learned how to relax [however], and realised there was no wrong way to do this, I began to completely enjoy the experience. Each week we became more relaxed and attuned to the sounds we were making... The music, the music WE were making! Our first performance was immense! We all sat chewing our nails as the night grew closer to our set. As soon as we started playing, all doubt drained from my body... We were doing it... And it sounded amazing!! The applause was unbelievable, we were even applauding ourselves... and rightly so! I have never been so wired in my entire life as I was after that gig... The unMusical project has been one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. And for me, it's been a time of healing... I can now play music!"
See embedded video below for footage of this project:
(re)inventing Music Research Project
Research Project for the Being Human: National Festival of the Humanities. Funded by AHRC, hosted by the School of Advanced Study, London.

Project aim: To facilitate a series of drop-in sessions, music-making workshops, and socio-musical interventions, with a new range of participants, including children, in order to assess the potential for new modes of social interaction through social music-making. See promo video below for footage, and press release for more information:

Research Objectives and Methods
Research Questions:
To what extent can improvised models of music-making widen participation in music for those who consider music as 'out of reach'?
To what extent can these improvised models offer alternative pedagogical strategies for music educators?

Qualitative Co-Participatory Action Research.

Data Collection:
focus group transcriptions, participant observations, observational diaries, audio and video documentation.

Charlie Bramley - Portfolio of Practice-Led research
Feral Pop/Wild Pop/Anarcho Pop
An ongoing practice-led research strand in collaboration with Dr. William Edmondes, with implications for higher education pedagogy. This research was developed as an outcome of the previous practice-led research projects. It became clear from the many recorded outputs in particular that two radical observations had emerged from the research:

1. Music can be made up on the spot by a range of participants with little to no formal musical training.
2. This music can replicate existing popular music paradigms without resorting to formal music structure or pre-defined parameters for inclusion.

See video for footage and upcoming publication.
Improvisation Project at Burnside Primary School
Case-Study research project designed to introduce year 6 children and their music teacher to improvised music-making as a potential alternative pedagogical approach. The 6-week term-time sessions were delivered in consultation and collaboration with the primary music teacher and the pupils. We had frequent discussions, before during and after activities to reflect and reinvent the activities based on feedback. See below for pupil and teacher feedback:

“I enjoyed that we had the chance to play various instruments with no particular pattern. This was a good way to develop our musical knowledge and skills”.

“I enjoyed interacting with other people – with music. I liked that you didn’t have to do exactly the right thing at the right time…I also liked that each time you do this you keep getting better each time. I learnt that it does not need to be perfect. I have learnt to play and not to be scared…my confidence has grown loads”.

“It was very nice to have a laid back teacher who doesn’t get angry. I enjoyed that we were able to express ourselves and we could learn how to interact with each other through a fun way. I now know how to play with confidence and enjoyment…Before [this project] I was scared to join in… I will remember this for the rest of my life”.

Michelle Walker, class music teacher: “The improvisation project was a great success. Not only did the children find it extremely enjoyable and rewarding, but as a teacher, I found the methods very useful for future teaching. I would highly recommend this project to other schools”

See upcoming publication : • Bramley, C. (2016). ‘Feral Pop: The Participatory Power of an Improvised Popular Music’, Smith, G.D., Moir, Z. Brennan, M. Rambarran, S., & Kirkman, P. (in press). The Routledge research companion to popular music education. Farnham: Routledge.

Blue Rinse
Blue Rinse was a monthly performance event that I hosted and organised for five years at Bar Loco in Newcastle upon Tyne. I developed this event to test the consequences of placing improvised and experimental music in a setting alongside conventional and conservative musical forms. I devised the programming of each event to deliberately clash genres and styles as much as possible, and I selected the venue to maximise the amount of 'accidental' audience members.

Key Observations : more people experience improvised live music by ‘accident’ due to wandering into venue; it encourages a wider appreciation of music by having wide variation in style and genre; audiences and performers have unexpected music experiences; performers begin to appreciate each other’s differences more profoundly; conflicts do exist occasionally as some performers are confronted with unusual formats.
un-Musical project continued: Key Observations
• Dominant musical ideology actively produces fear of playing music in those considered ‘unmusical’ or ‘non-musicians’.
• Fear can be overcome through improvised routes to music-making, but needs to be gradual as well as regular and committed.
• Long-term outlets need to be developed if participation is to be ongoing. These outlets should take the form of regular performance opportunities, so as a networked support structure can emerge in local music scenes.
• Different strategies may need to be developed for participants who are not as creatively inclined as these participants were.

Improvisation Project at Burnside Primary School continued: Key Observations
• Children placed significant emphasis on interaction with each other and how ‘playing with other people’ was a novel idea they had ‘just’ been introduced to after 5 or 6 years of music education.
• This interaction with each other was directly linked to the ‘freeing’ of the activity – the improvisation.
• Because the activity didn’t need to be ‘perfect’ or the right thing at the right time, they were not ‘scared to join in’ but felt encouraged to. The pressure had been lifted.
• ‘Free-playing’ did not lead to a lack of care, or lack of meaning attributed to the activity. The same child who said she enjoyed not having to do the right thing at the right time, in the next breath said she also enjoyed how she would get better at it each time.
• At no point did we make any suggestion of a better or a worse. The children seemed to come to their own conclusions on this based on how much focus was given to each activity.
• The groups gradually began to listen more to each other and developed a sense that they were making ‘progress’ and as a result gained more enjoyment from their interactions. They felt this approach could explicitly develop their musical knowledge.
• It seemed to be the very pluralism of musical knowledge(s) that the children found so rewarding and captivating.

(re)inventing Music: Research Project continued: Key Observations
• Socially accessible spaces substantially diminish certain notions of professionalism, specialism and elitism associated with music and instead posit a communitarian, democratic approach.
• When producing new and alternative ideas in the community, it is important to be present in social space without dominating it. Allowing people to just wander in and either watch or join in invites them to consider an alternative understanding of music-making without forcing it upon them. People responded to this well and often stayed and participated.
• Open-access spaces need to have strategies in place to deal with abuse of that space. Open-access cannot mean open to abuse.
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